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Drink Outside the Box: Boxed Wine

Milk comes in a box and chicken stock, too – but wine? I was skeptical when I unfastened the plastic spout (I missed the cork already). And I won’t even tell you what my wine geek father said to me when I told him what I was pouring. But you’d be amazed at the tasty wine that is packaged in boxes these days.

There are two types of “boxes” these days: 1-liter Tetra Paks, similar to what some soups and juices are packaged in, and 3-liter boxes that contain an inner plastic pouch (a “bag in a box”). Europeans and Australians have been drinking boxed wine for years (In Australia they call it a cask) but only in the past five years have more premium wines been available in a box, and the Tetra-Pak is gaining favor as the better of the two, since the shelf life is longer (3 years for Tetra-Pak wines versus 1 year for bag-in-a-box).

Why choose the box? Besides the value (you get more wine for less than you’d pay for the same wine in 750mL bottles because the packaging costs are so much less than regular wine bottles, and wineries pass along the savings). They’re portable: the boxes are safe for outdoor venues like concerts. And they’re convenient: the 1-liter bottles are easy to bring along in a backpack for that camping trip or on a boat, no corkscrew required. But the green factor is even more compelling: in the case of the 1 liter Tetra Pak, it weighs about 4 percent of a standard wine bottle and more containers fit in a box, so shipping them requires less fuel and reduces the carbon footprint. According to the Yellow + Blue brand, if 80 percent of the wine sold at retail in the U.S. was packaged in Tetra Pak rather than glass, it would be the equivalent of taking almost 400,000 cars off the road. The 3-liter boxes are completely recyclable and requires 85 percent less packaging waste than a standard glass wine bottle. The 3-liters also reduce shipping costs: they hold the equivalent of four 750mL bottles but weigh almost the same as a half-gallon of milk.

Put down that corkscrew and give a box a chance. You’ll find them in most wine stores; the 1 liters sell for $10-12 and 3 liter boxes for $22-28. Here are a few of the best to get you started: French Rabbit and Le’Bordeaux from France, Yellow + Blue organic wines from Argentina, Hardys from Australia, and Black Box and Three Bandits from California.