Drink + file

Wines for tax time  
By LAYNE WITHERELL  |  April 12, 2006

WINE WONDERLAND: Boxworld.We are just shy of the most traumatic day of the year, April 15, so let's follow two taxpayers in their quests to celebrate their very different fortunes with wine purchases.

First up is Mr. K. Marx, the bearded, scruffy night manager of the Lumpen Proletariat Café on Congress Street; we’ll just call him “Lumpy.” Lumpy’s tax celebration will be meager at best: His budget-deficit calculations ended by stuffing all his money into a large, fat envelope addressed to the government.

All is not forlorn: On the very bottom shelf of your local grocery store is “Lumpyland” — the bag-in-the-box wine department. You can celebrate tax time at the equivalent of between two to five dollars a bottle with the marvelous spout-sporting cardboard boxes that are just the right size to shove into your fridge.

The decisions about these are much easier than how many deductions to declare on your 1040. On the two-dollar-per-bottle end of the spectrum is the reliable and ever-present Franzia winery located in the hot and dusty Central Valley of California. You can feel pretty plush hauling a five-liter (6.5 bottles) box out for $14.39. The chardonnay and merlot are both light, drinkable, enjoyable wines. But if Lumpy wants to chill after paying his taxes, there's the “Chillable Red.” And the old standby, Almaden, of Mountain Burgundy fame, has a wonderful party favorite — Red Sangria.

If, while crawling around the bottom shelf, Lumpy should discover some spare change rolling around, then the bag-in-the-box world can get downright exciting. The Aussies, the real inventors of the box, have put some very tasty wines into three-liter containers (about four bottles). Hardy’s Southeast Australian Merlot and Cabernet are in bags because of the good-grape glut in Australia. Hardy’s cost $16.49 per three-liter box ($4.12 a bottle). Even Stone Haven Chardonnay has made it into a box. A stalwart $10-a-bottle wine, it is now Lumpy-priced at $18.49 for three liters ($4.62 a bottle). This is good juice.

If by some chance Lumpy should get a tax refund, then he needs to do two things. First, purchase some strawberries (they will accompany this next wine, and he could use the vitamin C). Then he needs to find a little gem we'll call “the miracle on ice:” the Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, Niagara Peninsula, 2004, half-bottle, $100. Cab franc, usually for a dry table wine, finds its purpose in life washing down lamb chops. Getting those grapes to freeze on the vine is a miracle that will have Lumpy awash in layers of gloriousness.

The second person to check out is balding, bespectacled, and mean; we’ll just call him Dick. He is the vice president of the Haves and Have-Mores Oil Company. Seems Dick won’t be paying a lot of taxes this year, because, well, it has been a really good year. So good that we will skip dinner and go straight to dessert. There won’t be any shopping — his minions will just deliver the goods.

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