SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- What you want: A holiday get-together with friends over a cheering glass of wine. What you don't want: A budget deeper in the red than an old vine zin.
The answer may be in the box.
Once the runt of the wine world, boxed wines have come a long way, says Natalie MacLean, author of the Internet wine newsletter Nat Decants.
"Get over your hang-ups about boxed wine being plonk. It's a great way to go with a large party," she says.
Today's boxed wines are mostly sold in 3-liter containers, the equivalent of four bottles. And while the quality's gone up, prices remain reasonable.
Fish Eye from The Wine Group in San Francisco, for instance, is $16 a box, which works out to $4 a bottle. How do they do that?
"We've put all of our money into the wine and not into the package," says Laurie Jones, Wine Group spokeswoman.
Of course, price isn't the only consideration when choosing wine. You also want something that will complement, rather than overwhelm your meal. And this time of year, everyone is looking for the right wine for the big bird.
Pinot noir is the classic accompaniment for Thanksgiving turkey -- you want to stay away from heavy tannins, such as a hearty cabernet sauvignon, Sbrocco says. Herding Cats Merlot-Pinotage from South Africa is a fine choice. It comes in a 3-liter box from Underdog Wines and is about $16.
Also try French Rabbit pinot noir, from Boisset Family Estates, which comes in a 1-liter Tetra Pak (juice-box style packaging), for around $10.
Whites can be right, too, especially if you want a wine that not only does justice to the turkey, but also all the sweet and spicy trimmings that make up the traditional Thanksgiving feast.
Look for aromatic, dry whites, such as a pinot grigio or maybe a viognier, says Leslie Sbrocco, a frequent wine judge and author of "Wine for Women." Target's Wine Cube pinot grigio, available in a 3-liter box for $17.99, is a good choice here.
Though boxes have largely shed their rube cube image, it can't be denied that there's something just a bit inelegant about slapping a big box down on the buffet.
Sure, it says party, but it sounds more like "Part-tay."
To which we say one word: carafe.
The advantage of boxes is the plastic bag inside which contains the wine. The bag doesn't let in air, which means the wines can stay fresh for six weeks after opening without going in the fridge.
But just before drinking, a bit of a breather is a good thing for wines, boxed or otherwise. Decanting into a carafe or other reasonably attractive glass jug makes host and wine look a little better.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.