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Published Jan. 21, 2009|Updated Jan. 21, 2009

There is a box of wine in our refrigerator, a confession that just a few short months ago we would not have made under torture.

Technically, we're talking about what the industry likes to call a premium wine cask, a taste- and odor-neutral plastic liner inside a cardboard box, typically holding 3 liters of wine, the equivalent of four standard bottles.

Here's why producers like it and we do too: It is lighter and cheaper to ship, allowing a lower price point at retail; because it requires less fuel to ship, it produces a smaller carbon footprint; and because air is excluded from the container as the wine is drawn, it lasts much longer than wine in an open bottle.

We sampled a 2006 Central Coast Chardonnay from California's Boho Vineyards, an experiment that changed our minds about wine in a box. If we hadn't tapped the cask ourselves, we would not have been able to tell this thoroughly likable, lightly oaked chardonnay apart from a good medium-priced cousin in a bottle. It is expected to sell locally, beginning this month, for less than $25 for 3 liters, the equivalent of about $6 a bottle. That's such a good deal we're tempted to pair it with just about anything, from grilled cheese to stone crab claws.

Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.


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