I’m not a big fan of boxed wines, but not because I’m opposed to boxes on general principles or am terrified about the kind of wine that is in them. My problem is convenience. Do you know how difficult it is to pour wine from a 3-liter box at the dinner table?

Having said that, this year’s version of Black Box’s cabernet (about $21, or the equivalent of four bottles, and available at most liquor and grocery stores) provides fine value. You get fruity California cabernet with decent tannins and even a bit of vanilla oakiness. It’s a big wine, yet still reasonably balanced. In fact, I served it with spaghetti and red sauce, and the wine was almost too much for the dish. That means it’s a beef and smelly cheese wine.

One note about Black Box, which is probably the leading U.S. producer of boxed wines. The wines are notoriously inconsistent, not just from vintage to vintage, but from product to product. That’s because Black Box buys grapes from different growers, and they aren’t necessarily the same people from year to year. So one year’s cabernet could be completely different, both in quality and in value, from the next year’s. This is a function of the company’s business model, which fixes a price for the wine and then buys grapes to fit that cost structure.

I saw that with this vintage of the Black Box pinot grigio, which is Italian. This version is OK, but nothing special – a little thin and about the same as most other grocery stores that cost $6 a bottle. Black Box has made better pinot grigio, including the years it got the grapes from California.

Wine notes

• Shameless State Fair wine plug: My Wine 101 seminars at the fair continue through Oct. 19. The schedule is here.

• DrinkLocalWine.com: Wine is made in all 50 states, and you can find out about much of it in a project I’ve put together with some of the best wine writers in the country. The official debut is Monday, which is the beginning of regional wine week, but the site should be up and running today or tomorrow. This is also Texas wine month, with a variety of events scheduled throughout the state.

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