Think inside the box for summer party wines

Jun. 9—Box wine can make your backyard get-together shine while keeping the party going.

The 3-liter wine boxes, more accurately a bag in a box, hold the equivalent of four bottles of wine. Finding a good one with mass appeal could be the key to summer entertaining.

Box wine is all about the packaging. Lighter and more convenient than a few glass bottles, box wine can go anywhere, even where glass may not be a good idea, i.e. patios and pools. Also, it's eco-friendly and recyclable.

Just like screw-cap wines, the box has its detriments. You won't find the equivalent of an outstanding quality bottled wine hidden inside the plastic bag in the box. But you can find a pleasant, very good wine.

When it comes to choosing a box wine, consider these tips:

Smaller is better:

* Focus on the 3-liter boxes, which tend to be of a higher quality than the monster 5-liter boxes of watered-down plonk.

Chill, baby, chill:

* This pertains to white wine and even red wine. Once you put it out for a party, the wine will warm up. Most boxed red wines will show well with a slight chill. Putting a wet, cool towel or glycol chiller wrap around it will help keep the temperature down.

Do not open until NOW:

* When you have a box wine, open it and drink it. A box wine will not improve with aging, and it ages in all the bad ways more quickly than bottled wine does. Look for vintage packaging or "best by" dates and stick to young wine.

Refrigerate after opening:

* After opening, box wine will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two (or a bit longer for white wines), and it can serve as your personal wine dispenser. Recently, someone asked about putting excess box wine into containers and freezing it for future use. That probably wouldn't hurt it, and it is better than putting it down the drain.

Riesling is an ideal porch and patio wine. House Wine Riesling Washington State offers a light, juicy, fresh wine with flavors of white grape and apple for a refreshing, lower-alcohol treat ready for guzzling. $22. HHH 1/2

The packaging and product in Radio Boka is party-ready. The 3-liter box is designed to look like an antique radio with "Broadcasting from Spain" on the front.

Radio Box Tempranillo Vino de la Tierra de Castillo smells of berries and tastes like cherry and red strawberry with a hint of vanilla. The wine is straightforward and fruity with low tannins and acidity. Enjoyable and inoffensive, this should be a crowd-pleaser. This wine quickly sold out at the start of the season, but you can find others under the brand and look for its return. $20. HHHH

Generally, boxed white wines are better than red ones, which have more components that can be disrupted by the alternative packaging, causing them to pale in comparison to their bottled counterparts.

From southern France where the weather is hot and grapes plentiful comes Three French Hens Pays d'Oc Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately, it tastes over-processed and cheap, like a jug wine. It's a prime example of the challenges in making a convincing box wine, and cabernet sauvignon is among the most challenging to pull off. I have to think the bottled version of this wine is better. $25. HH 1/2

Other brands to consider include Black Box, Bota Box and Bandit. If you want a red, stick with merlot, zinfandel and blends and avoid pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon.

GRADE: Exceptional HHHHH, Above average HHHH, Good HHH, Below average HH, Poor H

DAVID FALCHEK, executive director of the American Wine Society, reviews wines each week.

GRADE: Exceptional HHHHH, above average HHHH, Good HHH, Below average HH, Poor H

DAVID FALCHEK, executive director of the american Wine Society, reviews wines each week.