In the bad old days, drinking wine-in-a-box had about the same cachet as swilling Mad Dog from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag.
In the good new days, drinking box wine is one of the smartest decisions a thrifty wine lover can make. It still may not have a barrelful of cachet, but when you're drinking solid, well-made wine for dollars' off the individual bottle cost, who gives a flying fuckola?
And when you throw in the fact that box wines, with their vacuum-packed wine bag and on-and-off spigot, can keep wine fresh for days after it's been opened, the answer is, no-goddam-body.
Two of my favorite wines by the bottle have just gotten the bag-in-box treatment. They would be the 2009 Big House White and Big House Red. Once part of wine guru Randall Grahm's eclectic line, now the pair are part of the almost as eclectic Underdog Wine Merchants empire, which has given them a nifty-looking octagonal box that holds four 750ml bottles and is priced at $21.99. (Which, btw, works out to $5.50 a bottle, cheaper than a lot of plonk best suited to pickling your liver.)
Both wines are blends of more varietals than we have space to list here (for the record, eight grapes in the white, 14 in the red). But despite what could be a profusion of confusion, the flavors are clean, direct, fresh and appealing.
I'm a bit more partial to the white, with its fruity, floral, aromatic nose, soft acidity and creamy mouthfeel, and flavors that touch on tropical fruit, apricot, melon and apple. It's a very versatile wine, playing well with anything from grilled fish to roasted chicken.
The red is a good deal earthier, revealing the character of such grapes as Nero d'Avola, Tempranillo and Charbono. The fruit is a rustic-tasting mélange of plums, cherries and blackberries with undertones of olive and mushrooms. It's a burger-pasta-sausage-stew kind of wine and would also make a pretty potent sangria.