Older wine drinkers still dominate the market for fine wines in the $20-plus price bracket, but millennial audiences are driving the trends among value-priced wines. Because this age group is less wedded to traditional bottles and more interested in eco-friendly options, it's no surprise that selection and quality are growing in the boxed-wine aisle. Many alternatives to bottles and corks abound these days, but the clear winner for those looking to drink well for the dollar is the 3-liter bag-in-box format, which contains the equivalent of four standard bottles of wine. The clever shrinking bag and tap system can keep the wine inside tasting fresh for two to four weeks after opening, and on top of the expected economies of scale, this efficient package significantly lowers wine prices in other ways, too. Standard wine bottles contain only three cups of wine (750 ml) but they are bulky, fragile, and weigh roughly a pound each when empty. As a result, a standard 9-liter case of wine weighs 40 percent less and occupies 35 percent less space when it's in 3-liter boxes, which lowers shipping and storage costs. Most wines in this category come from California, such as this tasty, easy-drinking merlot. Packed with jammy black cherry flavors and accented with just enough vanilla-scented oak, it's perfect for backyard barbecues and everyday occasions — no corkscrew required.
Black Box Merlot, California, $20.99 (regularly $24.99; sale price through April 29). PLCB Item #5906