Booze Buzz: Bulk Booze

Boxes, bags & growlers: the shape of things to come?

There’s an old saying in the wine business: the wine doesn’t know what bottle it’s in. Lately, it makes sense to say what bottle or box it’s in. Just when wine lovers were getting over involuntary flinching at the sight of screwtops, there’s a new shape in town.

Box—or, technically, bag-in-box—wine is a savvy wine enthusiast’s secret weapon. Not only are these three-liter, 3-D babies more economical than bottles, holding the equivalent of four regular bottles, they are also more “green” (the bulk packaging has a significantly lower carbon footprint). Further, the collapsing interior food-safe plastic bag allows you to serve individual glasses over an extended period of time without air sneaking in to spoil the rest of the wine; it stays fresh for weeks, not days. Stick a box in the pantry or the fridge and you are ready to pour a glass at the end of a rough day or throw a party for the whole ’hood.

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The goods found in boxes can hold their own in the quality department. Owner Gael Lorenzen and manager Gary King of Armonk Wines & Spirits (383 Main St, Armonk 914-273-3044) are recent converts to the box boom. In April, they began carrying multiple varieties of both the Bota Box and Black Box brands, all in the $19 to $22 range. King notes that the various offerings represent the right grapes grown in the right places, e.g., Sauvignon Blanc sourced from New Zealand and Shiraz from Australia. Lorenzen believes that price accounts for the initial attraction, but taste and extended-life convenience will keep customers coming back.

In my own experience, I’ve also enjoyed Killer Juice Cabernet and Boho Chardonnay from California; and Hardys “Stamp” Shiraz from Australia. At the ultra-premium end of the box spectrum (yes, ultra-premium), FOUR California Cabernet costs $40 but tastes like an $18 bottled Cab and comes in a handsome tube that resembles a single-malt Scotch package. If beer is your preferred tipple, Heineken’s five-liter “DraughtKeg” (widely available for about $20) is especially easy to use, thanks to an internal CO2 compressor that helps the beer flow without any pumping. And the beer stays fresh about a month.

Another fine bulk option is to get yourself a refillable “growler”—the 64-ounce vessel commonly found at microbreweries. It stays fresh for only a few days, but since it holds four pints, that is not usually an issue. Compared with standard bottled beer, a growler can make you feel greener (since once you own a growler, you reuse it) and save you some green. You can grab a logo-adorned growler at The Peekskill Brewery (55 Hudson Ave, Peekskill 914-734-2337) for $20 to $24, depending on your chosen brew; refills run $16 to $20. Growlers also can be purchased or replenished at Captain Lawrence Brewery on Fridays and Saturdays (99 Castleton St, Pleasantville 914-741-2337).

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