Wine in a box never seemed like a great idea to me. Maybe it’s a generational thing. I spent most of my adult life trying to forget the nasty jug wines I drank for fiscal reasons back in college.
Times change. Even though I’m the first in a crowd to champion a good value, I was a holdout until I started tasting the new generation of box wines in blind tastings for Wine Spectator. Some are damn tasty for the price, the sort of no-nonsense wines you’ll find by the carafe at a neighborhood bistro in France.
Call me cheap, but I hesitate any time a single glass of wine costs more than $10 at a restaurant. Sure, I'll spend $15 or $20 for a glass, but not on a whim and not just because it's the latest love affair of the restaurant wine buyer. At that price, I need more certainty, or I'd rather just get a decent bottle and spend more.
Don't misunderstand: I think wine-by-the-glass programs are better than ever. But ordering by the glass is often a minefield. Here are some things to consider when ordering wine by the glass.
Quarreling over Pinot Noir styles is a favorite pastime for wine lovers who have more spare time than I do. It's basically an Old World versus New World argument, the classically graceful reds of Burgundy against the boldly flavored Pinots of California. For those of us who manage to love both, the whole thing seems like nonsense.
That may be why I like the Pinot Noirs (and most of the other wines) of Anderson Valley in northern California's Mendocino County. At their best, the wines balance elegance and a sense of place with rich and complex fruit, a satisfying reconciliation of the Old and New Worlds.
I've become well-versed on quality stemware at a fair price. Connoisseurs use such glasses for everyday wines, but more important, they're ideal for anyone ready to take wine more seriously, anyone who has realized that a good glass makes a difference in how a wine smells and tastes—and that therefore special occasions and distinctive wines deserve a better glass.
If you're ready to move up, a good, entry-level glass will cost between $6 and $10. The first thing to remember is to keep it simple. Start with two types of glasses: one for reds and one for whites, or more specifically, use "Bordeaux" and "Burgundy" glasses designed to bring out the best of the aromas and flavors of particular wine types.