Can boxed wines really be just as good as wine sold in bottles?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is wine sold in plastic-lined boxes as good as the same wine sold in corked glass bottles?

—Anonymous, Georgia (the country)

Dear Anonymous,

In the United States, “premium” boxed wine is one of the fastest-growing wine categories, probably because the wines are getting so much better. It’s hard to beat the value that they offer—typically, a box that holds the equivalent of four standard-size bottles works out to costing about $4 or $5 a bottle by volume.

Wine-box technology is designed to keep opened wines fresher longer, with the bladder of the bag collapsing on the remaining liquid as the wine is poured, helping to prevent oxygen from getting in. Once opened, though, a boxed wine would probably be best consumed within a few weeks (storing it in the refrigerator might give it a longer life). But keep in mind that boxed wines have a limited shelf life—about a year—since the cardboard and plastic will allow tiny amounts of oxygen to pass through, and eventually the wine won’t taste as fresh.

We include some boxed wines in our blind tastings. For those wondering how we conceal its identity in a traditional paper-bag-covered-bottle blind tasting, we transfer the boxed wine to a sterile bottle, and it’s tasted among its peers in a flight of similar varietals, vintages and appellations.

Generally, boxed wines are made in a straightforward, easy-drinking style—and considering their packaging, they’re not meant for aging. One of my friends is a huge wine-in-a-box fan, especially for parties, picnics and barbeques, and I’ve certainly enjoyed my share of boxed wines. If you’re interested in the environmental take, check out this survey of different types of wine packaging.

—Dr. Vinny

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