WINE snobs may look down their refined noses, but there's no doubt that boxed wines are on the rise in both quality and variety. Chenin Blanc is another rising star, rapidly converting Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay fans, and even lovers of sweeter wines.
With a Chenin coming top of the whites in 2012's Spit or Swallow Box Wine Awards, the opportunity was ripe for a box versus bottle challenge, and exploring whether Chenin really is "the new Chardonnay".
At Du Toitskloof in Rawsonville, the same wine goes into the bottle, priced at around R28, as into their winning three-litre box (R64.90 for the box, making it around R16 a bottle).
Summerstrand wine- lovers Neill and Bev Erickson were enlisted for a blind tasting of box wine against randomly-selected bottles: Arabella (R27.95 and a Michelangelo Gold winner), Zevenwacht (R46.90) and Mulder bosch's Steen op Hout (R49.95).
Perhaps unfairly, we had two unwooded and two wooded Chenins – barrel-fermented Zevenwacht and the Mulderbosch suggesting this in its name, which translates directly as Chenin on wood.
First up, a very pale candidate whose taste turned out to be as light and fleeting as its colour.
"Not floating my boat," Bev said, while Neill found it too sharp on the tongue.
We initially suspected this to be the box and agreed if this was the best SA could offer in cardboard, we were unimpressed. It was later revealed to be the Arabella and our panel was somewhat mystified as to how it had won its gold medal.
Second and third contenders were very clearly wooded, with Neill finding number two "gorgeous" and a definite for the shopping list, while Bev voted for the "much bigger" number three.
That said, Bev is a fan of big Chardonnays, and both wines came pretty close, with their toasty butteriness. Number two, Neill said, was more rounded and subtly elegant, but Bev voted for three with its lingering finish.
Predictably, these turned out to be our higher-priced contenders – Mulderbosch and Zevenwacht respectively – and our lively debate as to which was the better of the two was a good reminder that wine is very much a matter of personal taste, despite awards and Platter stars.
On to number four, which all agreed smelled and tasted like a Chenin should, and delivered in taste what the nose had promised – tropical fruit and guava, a "big, chewy" wine, with a citrusy finish. Complex in taste, this came out tops as the best typical Chenin, holding its own against its posher wooded cousins. On it being revealed as the boxed challenger, all agreed this was another definite buy.
The answer then is yes, you can risk box wine (tap it into a classy decanter and hide the box if you must); and yes, some Chenins can stand up to Chardonnay.