Box wine has long been the subject of jokes about old ladies with too many cats and young men who cut away the box and drink directly from the bag inside. Well, those days are long gone. Today, these can be great choices for your holiday and other gatherings.

Three-liter box wines—each the equivalent of four bottles—are professionally made…can last as long as a month after opening…and offer tremendous value. It’s not unusual to see three-liter boxes selling for $18, or about $4.50 a bottle.

Caveat: They may not have the consistency from box to box that you find from bottle to bottle, so just because a box was well-made the first time doesn’t mean that it will be the next time. That’s due to a combination of mass-production techniques, which make quality control difficult, and the quality of the grapes used to make the wine. Best: Find a producer you like, and stick with it. These five box wines should get you started…

La Vieille Ferme Blanc. This French producer makes terrific inexpensive wine—this white is no exception. It’s not too fruity, amazingly clean and fresh, and does not have any off flavors or weird aromas that cheap wine sometimes does. About $24 for a three-liter box ($6/bottle).

Black Box Merlot. I’m often asked for a simple, competent red box wine for a party, and I usually recommend this California label. Like other merlots, it has some sort of tart red fruit, soft tannins and a bit of acidity and oakiness. One critic accurately calls it dryish. About $20 for a three-liter box ($5/bottle).

Domaine Bousquet Origins Cabernet Sauvignon. Argentina’s Domaine Bousquet makes value-oriented wines. I find its reds a bit better than the whites. The cabernet is quite accomplished— especially for the price. It is almost savory, with dark fruit and even some herbs. The tannins and acidity have been toned down, but it’s not sweet. About $20 for a three-liter box ($5/bottle).

Bota Box Dry Rosé. This California pink wine helped start the rosé boom several years ago, and I’ve gone through more boxes than I care to think about. There’s lots of berry fruit…it’s crisp and refreshing, and low in alcohol—just 11.5%. About $22 for a three-liter bottle ($5.50/bottle).

Bandit Sauvignon Blanc. Charles Bieler, one of the founders of this juice box–style wine (packaged in plastic-coated cartons), makes top-notch rosé in France and Washington state. Hence, this Washington state white tastes like sauvignon blanc—almost flinty, with grapefruit and tart apple fruit. About $10 for a one-liter box.

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