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A bladder in cardboard = blech?

So a pal of mine - a perfectly sophisticated, highly educated man with a seasoned palate who knows a thing or two - admits this: Every evening after work, he goes home to his refrigerator, turns the spigot on a box of rose wine to "on," and lets it slosh into a glass. "I love it," he says. "It's cold. It tastes good. It's refreshing."

Before I go judging any of this, allow me to add that my own daughter loves her cheap rosé boxed wine, as do many of my yurt-loving, back-pack lugging, day-hiking comrades. "It's brilliant, so light to carry," they tell me. "There's no hassle with a corkscrew. We can have our wine and hike and camp too."

Anyone who enjoys a glass now and again and who may have gone into a boutique or a warehouse-type spirits and wine shop knows this. Boxed wine is enjoying a boom. It's not about the great big gallon that's inside a plastic bag and then inside a cheap cardboard box any longer. It's now about vintage and aging and sophistication as well.

A New York Times article recently spoke of a snobby wine panel that did a blind box-wine tasting that included twelve reds and eight whites. Their guidelines were that the wine had to be high quality and stored in three-liter boxes. A highest-end sommelier, a Times wine writer and other snooty snoots joined the tasting. The results were that the panelists found a number they'd happily "serve as a house pour," particularly among the reds. (The tasting results are listed below.)

But really - who needs the Times list? Go to Argonaut on E. Colfax in Denver and head straight to the back of the store (does this indicate one might be embarrassed in this purchase, like a guy forced to purchase "ladies' products"?). Argonaut's shelves host an array of absolutely fine boxed wines. Check out Black Box Wines (all kinds, from Rieslings to pinot noirs) and Bota Box Wines. But there are dozens to choose from and their packaging is sophisticated, artful and cleverly crafted, all of which hints at contents done equally so.

I'll admit right here and now that I don't believe these lips have ever touched wine from a bladder or a box. I'll also admit that I, for one, love the whispery pop of a released wine bottle cork. I like a cabernet bottle that's been chilled just right and I even love the silky smooth feel of the glass bottle as I pour.

But that's not to say that there isn't something for plastic bladders and cardboard. And it's also not to say that, on a 98-degree afternoon, trudging in from work, that sloshing some cold sparkly from the fridge wouldn't give me a big, old Kool-aid smile.

It's just that I haven't made the leap. Yet.

But something tells me it's coming.

New York Times Boxed Wine Tasting Report

Domaine le Garrigon, $39, ***
Côtes-du-Rhône 2010, 3 liters
Aromas of red fruit and herbs, fresh and lightly tannic, lingering flavors of fruit and minerals. (Wineberry America, New York)

From the Tank Côtes-du-Rhône, $37, ** ½
Estézargues 2009, 3 liters
Fresh, bright and balanced, with tangy flavors of red fruit. (Jenny & François, New York)

Dominio IV Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, $90, ** ½
Love Lies Bleeding 2009, 3 liters
Rich cinnamon-scented fruit with clear pinot noir identity, but a touch too much oak flavor.

Cantina Valpantena Veronese, $27, ** ½
Torre del Falasco I.G.T. Garganega 2010, 3 liters
Lively with mellow flavors of nuts and minerals. (Omniwines, Flushing, N.Y.)

Château Moulin de la Roquille, $39, ** ½
Francs Côtes de Bordeaux 2009, 3 liters
Dark fruit flavors with a pleasant herbal edge and a light rasp of tannins. (Wineberry America)

Black Box New Zealand, $22, ** ½
Sauvignon Blanc 2010, 3 liters
With flavors of peaches and apricots, it doesn't quite taste like sauvignon blanc, but fresh, balanced and pleasing. (Black Box Wines, Madera, Calif.)

La Petite Frog Coteaux du Languedoc, $30, **
Picpoul de Pinet 2010, 3 liters
Dry and refreshing with flavors of nuts, citrus and herbs. (Kysèla Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.)

Baronne du Chatelard, $48, **
Bourgogne Blanc 2010, 3 liters
Low-key and somewhat neutral with simple flavors of apples and herbs. (Wineberry America)

Würtz Rheinhessen Riesling, $27, **2010, 3 liters
Light citrus, herbal and floral aromas; serve well chilled. (Domaine Select, New York)

Osborne Spain Seven Octavin NV, $20, **
3 liters
Straightforward and fruity red with a suggestion of sweetness. (Underdog Wine Merchants, Ripon, Calif.)  

One Winning Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting Benefit

Throw a Cat a Bone: Wine & Whiskers
Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue presents Wine and Whiskers on Friday, September 23, 2011, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Molly Brown Summer House, 2690 S. Wadsworth Boulevard in Denver.

The night features fine wine tasting and a silent auction, and Sebastiani Wines and the Painted Palate will provide wine and food. Cost is $40 in advance and $45 at the door. Auction items include gift certificates, spa services, indoor sky diving and more. Call Amanda Dutka at 303.317.0861 or email her at amanda_dutka@yahoo.com.

Weird Wine Trivia
• Italy, France, Spain and the U.S. - in that order - produce more wine than any other countries in the world.
• It is a fact that 90 percent of all wine produced should be consumed within one year.
• The top three imported wines sold in the U.S. are Yellowtail (Australia), Cavit (Italy), and Concha y Toro (Chile).
• Celebrity wine sales exceeded $50 million in 2008 (think Bob Dylan, ice skater Peggy Fleming).
• California (3.4 million tons of grapes crushed for wine), Washington (145,000 tons), New York (45,000 tons), Oregon (40,000 tons), and Pennsylvania (13,200 tons) are the top wine-producing states in the U.S.
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