One way to lower the energy consumption associated with shipping wine is to take it out of those glass bottles.
Tetra Pak says that with its containers, 96% of a wine's total package weight comes from the wine, a much better ratio than bottles offer. The eco-argument is that, because they're lighter and square, they can be packed more efficiently and consume far less fuel during shipping. Similar arguments can be made in favor of bag-in-a-box packaging, according to Black Box Wines , a leading producer here. French Rabbit and Three Thieves are California wine makers that have generated a fair amount of buzz and brand identity around their twist-top tetra bricks of red and white wines, which you can find in wine stores for less than $10. Wine blogs like BoxedWineSpot report that boxed wines have been gaining new appreciation in Australia and Europe for several years now -- they're sometimes called cask wines, which sounds a lot better -- and the wine industry buzz has been that they'll gain more acceptance here as better wines find their way into them. In addition to the environmental pluses, these contraptions have a technical advantage over bottles: The plastic or aluminum bag inside the box collapses as the wine is dispensed, keeping oxygen out and the wine fresh for more than a month -- handy for those of us who dislike opening a bottle of wine for a single after-work glass. On the disposal end of things, the box part of the bag-in-a-box is cardboard and easily recycled. Tetra paks are more problematic. Treehugger points out that they're made of recyclable materials, which matters only if your community accepts them -- fewer than half the states have municipalities that do. Tetra Pak keeps a list . But glass bottles have their own problems. Primarily, they need to be separated by color to be made into new bottles . But brown, green and clear bottles often break while they're being collected and sorted. The shards mingle with each other and with other types of glass, and they have to be relegated to landfill or downcycled to lower-grade uses like road paving. The boxed wines are handy and a more environmentally friendly option for holiday celebrations than laying in cases of bottled wine. But if you feel that cracking open a tetra pak during a small dinner party or letting people belly up to the cardboard cask at your next open house is a little too gauche, keep them hidden in the kitchen. Head to Williams-Sonoma ( WSM) or even Target ( TGT) for some stylish pitchers or decanters that will add back the celebratory panache you lose by not being able to pop a cork. The only one who will miss the bottles is the guy who picks up your recycling.