Nothing goes better than wine and parties. And we like wine boxes – that’s in our name, right? The holiday season gave us great opportunity to try a different concept. We usually serve wine, even at large parties, and that tends to be a bit of work. We usually settle on two or three varietals in bottles, at least one white and one red, and invariably guess wrong on what our guests will enjoy. We end up spending a lot of time opening bottles, scrambling in our cellar for replacements after our initial stock runs out, and so on. So, this year, we decided to take a different approach. We set up a wine bar with five colorful boxes from Free Range Wines. They offer a total of seven unique varietals and appellations. Their red wines include Red Bordeaux, Merlot, and Pinot Noir; their white wines are White Bordeaux, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadet.
The Free Range boxes worked well for a party wine bar – they formed a brightly colored, compact block. We set up five boxes, each with three liters of wine – the equivalent of four bottles. That’s like having 20 bottles of wine on your table, ready to pour – all in a space just over two feet wide. This gives your guests plenty of selection, and at the same time prevents you from running dry every few minutes. We set the boxes on a platform (a box covered with a holiday cloth) to make pouring easy and to catch any drips. We also invited guests to comment on the wines they tasted by dropping a pre-printed square into a cup on top of each box.
What were the results? Well, we poured a lot of wine – about three or four times as much as past parties that featured a choice of bottled red and white. (Admittedly, when we added the wine bar we eliminated the “holiday punch” option, which in the past accounted for a fair amount of our beverage consumption.) Guests seemed to really enjoy the selection, and most sampled several wines before settling in on their favorite wine. It may have had nothing to do with the addition of the wine bar, but guests seemed to enjoy themselves more and stay longer than in past years.
The survey part was slightly less effective. We had four ratings (cleverly marked, “Yum”, “It’s OK,” “I Want MORE!,” and “Yuck.”) We found almost all of the comments were non-committal but favorable “Yum” ratings, with just one “Yuck” and a few “I Want More!” comments. From a statistical standpoint, we probably didn’t learn too much about the wines. (Measuring the consumption was probably at least as good an indicator!) In addition, we found the comment cups seemed to get juggled by guests a few times – if you try this, we recommend labeling each cup and perhaps securing it in place to avoid any possible confusion. Despite the lack of statistical significance, people seemed to enjoy getting a voice in the wine selection.
Overall, this was a fun experiment, and based on its success we’ll be inclined to try variations of this in the future. If you try this, of course, it’s a good idea to select quality boxed wine – this just wouldn’t be the same with supermarket Franzia box wines. Take the time to explain a bit about the wines, too – your guests will enjoy them more if they understand the background of the wines you are serving.