Virginia Wine: Hip to be square or Michael Shaps’s boutique boxed wines

Veteran Virginia winemaker Michael Shaps is challenging you to forget everything you know about boxed wines. OK, maybe not everything.

Just like the boxed wines you remember from your upper-classman, quasi-sophisticated “lets discuss Hegelian dialectics and suppress the urge to play beer pong” days, these wines are economical and stay fresh forever. Unlike those boxes of yore, they’re actually quite good!

“I spent a lot of time in France walk[ing] down the box wine aisle of the grocery stores and wondered why it hadn’t developed with quality wine in the US,” Shaps says of the inspiration behind his Wineworks “Bag in the Box” line. It’s that tireless creativity that has cemented his reputation as a gifted wine entrepreneur/TERRIBLE person to vacation with. “Great idea, MICHAEL–let’s spend our time in Paris LOITERING IN A GROCERY STORE!!!” said an angry girlfriend that I invented for the purposes of this article.

Michael Shaps has been making wine in Virginia since 1995. A graduate of the prestigious Lycée Viticole de Beaune (a winemaking university in France’s Burgundy region), his expertise helped establish two of VA’s most iconic wineries: King Family and Jefferson. Since then, Shaps has split his time between his two, high-quality wineries (Michael Shaps Wines in Virginia and Maison Shaps & Roucher-Sarrazin in Meursault, France) and a busy consulting schedule.

Immersed in the business of making serious wine, Michael soon found it hard to ignore a certain, boxed-sized hole in his heart. Feeling that “Virginia was lacking a fun value brand,” he launched Michael Shaps Wineworks in 2007. Now, with the Wineworks “Bag in the Box” series, Shaps’ has delivered this idea to its logical conclusion.

Each box retails at $40 (with a few $35 varieties available exclusively at the Wineworks facility) and houses the equivalent of four bottles of wine. In case you don’t think you can down four bottles of wine in one sitting…well, what are you a baby? And also, you don’t have to, because this vacuum-sealed wine will keep for at least a month and probably longer!

Plus this isn’t just ANY wine. These wines are made from 100% Virginia fruit and by one of Virginia’s top winemakers. The Chardonnay is a 50/50 blend of stainless steel and barrel-fermented juice, and combines crisp, green-apple notes with toasty, oak characteristics. The Cabernet Franc practically dares you to have a barbeque, with vibrant flavors of ripe red berries and an insane drinkability.

Don’t let the box fool you, these are real vintage wines1–honest-to-goodness products of agriculture that reflect the conditions of growing season and vary from year to year. How many other boxed wines can say that?…Except for on the rare occasion when a rat falls into the fermenter at the Franzia plant.

Michael Shaps’ Wineworks Bag-in-box wines can be found in Richmond at Barrel Thief, J. Emerson’s, Once Upon a Vine, Ellwood Thompson, Whole Foods and even a few Krogers.

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  1. Though the year is not mentioned on the label (printing boxes in bulk is one of factors that keep the price so low). 

Picture via @vawineworks

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Matt Brehony

When he’s not musing on food for his blog, or working as a server/Minister of Propaganda for Secco Wine Bar, or writing editorial pieces for various media outlets, or starring in sketches and commercials, Matt Brehony doesn’t do much of anything.

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  1. I’m a huge fan of his Viognier, & the boxes seem like an idea whose time has come again. Wine in boxes, beers in cans, it’s all good.

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