Ryan Chartrand

Step one: Poke a hole in the box. Step two: Pull the spout from the box. Step three: Now you drink from the box, and that’s the way you do it. It’s my wine in a box! Well, pardon my Justin Timberlake parody and allow me to introduce you to the fabulous world of high quality, affordable wine.

In the past, you might have been invited to a lower socio-economic Caucasian gathering, or “White Trash party,” if you will. The point was to wear wife-beaters and plastic molded “Billy Bob” teeth. And those who went above and beyond – overalls and mullet wigs. What else did they expect you to bring? Oh yes, of course, box wine! You went to Rite-Aid and grabbed this massive box for a bargain price of $5 for the 5 liters. That equates out to less than $1 per bottle of this sweet tasting, character- lacking wine.

So it is quite apparent that box wine has been given a bad name. But now there is a difference. New 3-liter quality wines are starting to pop up on grocery store shelves. These premium 3-liter boxes are called Bag-In-A-Box, Bota Box, Wine Cubes, Space Bags or my personal favorite, Cask Wine. All names are path divergent from those two little dirty words… “box wine.”

Why are Cask Wines so great? Oh, let me tell you the ways. First off, they are affordable. By taking advantage of economies of scale, you have stopped paying retail and landed in the bulk wine market. This is something cruise liners and hotels have been taking advantage of for years.

Next on the list is the convenience factor. What if I said you could enjoy 24 glasses – or four bottles – of great tasting wine for more than an entire month and not worry about spoilage? Would you be interested? Well, you should. And here’s another reason why: portability.

The cube or cask will easily fit in your refrigerator, in your trunk, in a backpack, even in a picnic basket. It should be noted that it fits perfectly under a chaise lounge chair and does not fit under the rule of “no glass by the pool.” Also, it becomes a beautifully efficient way of taking advantage of Nevada’s open container policy while vacationing on the strip.

Back at home, a Wine Cube can sit on your shelf at home for close to nine months before being cracked open. White wines need to be refrigerated, reds don’t. The pouch inside the box is anaerobic, which means no air can get in the wine to oxidize it. That’s why it’s possible to enjoy the last glass as much as you enjoyed your first. It is also a perk that you can easily grab a half cup or two to saut‚ some vegetables or to toss in a stew. Waste not, want not. Not a drop of your precious wine needs to be thrown out before you finish it.

The idea is fresh, new and innovative. In the age of smart cards, smart phones and smart cars, why not add smart wine to the list. Black Box, a Paso Robles winery, has recently made waves throughout the United States with a black Wine Cube. Their motto: “The more you know about wine, the less you have to pay.”

My parents have recently taken interest in becoming wine aficionados. They generally will have wine every evening but don’t necessarily finish a bottle. I brought home a wine cask for them and to their delight, it solved all of their wine problems. Now, they simply saunter over to the counter, pour to their satisfaction and continue on with conversation. They now swear by Cask Wine.

As mentioned earlier, the selection of wine-in-a-box is growing. Black Box sells a Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay nation-wide ($18 to $23). Target, in Paso Robless, sells a small “Wine Cube” in either a 1.5- liter, or the industry standard, a 3-liter. There, you will see a broad selection with good detailed descriptions of the different varietals of wine. Others I recommend are the 2005 Chardonnay and 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon from Camernet Vitner’s Collection ($15 to $18, Vons).

So the next time you have friends over for wine and the bottles go dry, pull out your cask and woo them with your wine in-a-box knowledge. And for the first time ever, you’ll be rewarded for thinking inside the box.

Lauren Jeter is a 2005 wine and viticulture graduate and is pursuing a master’s degree in agribusiness.

Feel free to submit any recommendations, favorite wines or recipes to laurenjeter@gmail.com

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