By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published May 05, 2005 at 5:34 AM

{image1}Once upon a headache, box wines fell into the same category as Ramen noodles and frozen burritos: something college students, starving artists, frugal penny-pinchers and the financially challenged purchased because they were on-the-cheap. However, box wine –- sometimes called “cask wine” -- has regrouped and returned, with a fresh image and much better product.

“Wine snobs may turn up their noses at box wine, but if the wine tastes great, who cares?” asks Cornelius Geary, managing director of Milwaukee's Wineblast.

The latest box wines -- named for the wine-filled plastic “bladder” that comes inside a cardboard box -- are hot trends around the world, primarily in the UK, California and Australia, where the box of wine was invented 30 years ago. Milwaukeeans -- as usual --are a few steps behind, but we're getting there.

“We’ve sold a ton of box wines lately,” says Tom Vaughn, owner of Downer Wine & Spirits.

Today, most boxed wines hold three liters of vino (as opposed to the five liters found in low-end brands like Franzia), are made with premium grape varieties and are vintage-dated.

“The wine industry is sitting on several billion gallons of really top-notch wine due to huge harvests the last few years, so they have a lot of good stuff sitting in barrels out there somewhere,” says Geary.

This surplus is sold off in large amounts at reasonable cost. Hence, the box wine is similar in quality to their bottled brothers, only cheaper. On average, a three-liter box offers four bottles for the price of three. Also, boxes are portable and have a longer fridge life -– reportedly 30 to 90 days.

Some purists claim they can taste plastic on their palate because of the wine-filled plastic bag inside the box, while other wine enthusiasts see the value in box wine, but aren't necessarily swapping cork for cardboard.

“You can’t really compare the two. It’s apples and oranges,” says Michael Ranson, a wine enthusiast for 20 years. “The box isn’t as romantic and it definitely isn’t appropriate for special occasions, but it’s great for picnics.”

To activate your cardboard "wine dispenser," punch out the perforated circle, pull out the spigot and peel off the seal. The bag collapses inside the box as it’s drained, keeping air away from the wine and preventing oxidation. Boxes are stamped with the date the wine is packaged.

Popular brands of cask wine include California’s Delicato and Black Box, and Australia’s Hardy’s and Banrock Station. All are three-liter boxes and cost between $14 and $20.

“Black Box is our most popular cask wine,” says Tom Greguska, wine buyer at Discount Liquor. “The box really sticks out on the shelf and they have been really aggressive with their marketing.”

Greguska says wine drinking is hotter than ever, and that many casual wine drinkers have started to care about taste, but don’t want to dole out big dollars.

“And, with the box wines, you get a fresh glass of wine without the hassle of a cork screw,” he says.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.