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Boxes, Bottles, Pouches and Kegs

I have something to admit: I like boxed wine.

Please put down the rotten produce.

I realize there is still a pretty nasty stigma associated with wine-in-a-bag-in-a-box, and there’s nothing romantic about serving from a plastic spout. But I generally like to have a small glass with dinner, so a package that keeps that pesky oxygen from spoiling my wine is all kinds of practical. But it took me a while to get to this point of acceptance, and it required better wineries starting to box decent juice.

Though most of my wine still comes in glass, there are situations where a traditional 750mL bottle just isn’t the best option. If you’re comfortable giving alternative packaging concepts a shot, and if boxed wine seems like old hat, here are some to look out for:

Wine in a Pouch

Some wineries are starting to adopt plastic pouches to package their wines. With spouts similar to boxed wine but without the cardboard, they look like larger-scale versions of the sugary drinks I grew up with. I’ll admit, that’s a little weird for me. But as I am ever the optimist, I’ll offer that they’re unusually portable; they have handles and are relatively lightweight. Though these wines need to be consumed quite young, unlike many that bill themselves as being picnic-friendly, pouch wines are actually an easy choice for vino-on-the-go.

Wine in a (different kind of) Box

These cardboard cartons have been on the market for a few years now, but I’m surprised how many people still haven’t tried them. Yes, they look like juice boxes. Yes, they feel like milk cartons. And yes, they have twist-off tops. But no, you really shouldn’t dismiss them — they’re easy, effective and supremely eco-friendly. Tetra Pak, the company that manufactures these boxes used for things like wine, juice and chicken broth, is very good at keeping perishable goods fresh. There are some legitimately enjoyable wines that come in these packages, and the smaller boxes – yes, they come with a straw – mean no glasses required.

Wine in a Keg

At first blush, the recent emergence of wine kegs struck me as a weird attempt to market Beaujolais for frat parties. As much as I’m all for wine in less-than-formal situations, and I’ve certainly had it in red plastic party cups, the idea still felt really strange. Bros aside, though, these actually make a lot of sense. Many wines are already aged and matured in stainless steel specifically because it’s neutral, so the you know the container won’t change the taste. Also, kegs actually operate similarly to some wine preservation systems: The empty portion of the container is pumped full of gas — in this case carbon dioxide — rather than air. And in a keg, this also serves to force out the liquid. So for restaurants, bars, and, yes, sprawling house parties, this could be the perfect way to handle a large volume of non-beer.