Don’t block the box

Pub date October 31, 2006

In the Thousand Years’ War between beer and wine, beer has long enjoyed an advantage on the party battlefield, mostly because of the keg, the bunker buster of party drink delivery. Oh yes, kegs do run dry, they must, but has anyone actually seen it happen?
Wine, on the other hand, comes in bottles, and while some of these bottles are, in theory, party sized — the jeroboams and nebuchadnezzars that hold massive amounts of champagne spring to mind — they are unwieldy, lacking the keg’s convenient tap. Could wine’s secret weapon in the struggle for party preeminence be the box? “I drink boxed wine!” is not necessarily an announcement to be shouted from the rooftops in San Francisco, but lately I have had occasion to sample some boxed wines (from Black Box), a cab and a pinot grigio, and I am here to say they are not bad — are, in fact, quite quaffable, though not better than the better Two-Buck Chucks, while costing about twice as much. (A three-liter box of Black Box is the equivalent of four standard-size bottles of wine and retails for about $18, or about $4.50 per bottle.)
It is the box format, of all things, that aggravates. Making the boxes operational is slightly arduous, involving the punching out of stubbornly uncooperative paperboard tabs and the pulling forth of the fugitive spigot, but once all that is accomplished, you have a smart little keg — full of wine. The issue is that the spigot is almost at the bottom of the box, which is fine for flow but does make getting a glass under there a challenge. The solution with a keg is often to set it on some kind of a stool or low table, with plenty of open space under the tap, but the wine boxes aren’t as big and stable as kegs. Little fold-down legs might be helpful, as on Kramer’s coffee-table book about coffee tables.
Also, I did not like the spectacle of white wine gushing downward from the spigot. A little too reminiscent of wee-hours micturition for more delicate sensibilities. And I’m not sure about the recycling; wine bottles are easy, but the wine box would first need some postmortem surgery to get rid of the plastic bladder inside the paperboard shell, and who is going to do that when besotted with party wine and maybe even a blast or two from a competing keg?