Sangria and boxed wines help conserve cash

After my annual July 4th party, the recycling bin brims with a mountainous pile of wine bottles. I imagine the recycling guy considers me a lapsed Friend of Bill, but it doesn't matter — our nation's birthday is the day to enjoy everything. In honor of our America's independence, here are some creative tips to prepare for the celebration.

Introduce the Box

Ignore the naysayers who might not be hip to the newfangled wine-in-a-box. Once derided as an outlet for the worst vinous swill on the planet, wineries now sell good juice you squeeze from a bladder — the plastic sack housed inside the box. Within each three-liter "cask" (the box's cool Aussie nickname) are four bottles of wine, hermetically sealed for your fresh drinking pleasure. Once liquid is drawn out, the bladder compresses to avoid exposure to oxygen — the element that ruins wine — so the wine stays drinkable longer (up to nine weeks). Good for a party, it's inexpensive, unbreakable, sits handily on your countertop for easy serving, and requires no dangerous-when-drunk corkscrew. Seek out Hardy's and Black Box selections. (Read more about boxed wines)

Serve Sangria

Another good use for boxed wine is red sangria, a perennial party-time favorite. Is there anyone who doesn't love to sip this sweet, fruity concoction? It stretches the party wine dollar and avoids disdain from dastardly label-conscious friends. The best, easiest recipe I've found (See other recipes):

1 lemon, 1 orange, 1 lime, 1 apple, all cut into small chunks

1 quart pink lemonade (I use Country Time powered lemonade mix)

1 bottle red wine

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

In a large pitcher, combine all ingredients and stir. Refrigerate at least two hours and serve over ice.

Inventive Cocktails

House cocktail, anyone? How about my homegrown recipe for Catalan Kir: cheap Spanish cava with 1/2 ounce of Chambord. An Ocean Breeze: 2 oz. cranberry juice, 2 oz. grapefruit juice, 4 oz. inexpensive bubbly. Or go decadent and serve Ice Wine Martinis: 11/2 oz. high quality vodka with 1/2 oz. ice wine, an unctuously sweet dessert beverage made from frozen grapes. The stuff is expensive, so maximum self-indulgence is achieved.

How Much to Serve and In What?

Count on three to four glasses per person for a three hour party - there are five servings in a 750-ml bottle. More if your friends are lushes. And as far as glasses, unless you're trying high-end stuff or analyzing wine, chill out. Plastic glasses are fine — just avoid Styrofoam. And the cops.

Recommended Wines

La Freynelle 2007 White Bordeaux Entre Deux Mers Entre Deux Mers is a little-known wine region in Bordeaux, so scrumptious wines like this one come cheap. Light, dry and citrusy with bracing acidity, earthy chamomile tea, green grass, wet stones and an almost nutty character. Delicious and quenching. Sw=1. $13. 1/2

Montecillo 2008 Albariño Verdemar Rías Baixas Albariño is a sadly unfamiliar grape, but I'm hoping people will embrace this crisp, acid-forward, grapefruit-ful wine. Hailing originally from Rías Baixas in northwest Spain's coastal region, it pairs well with that region's seafood-centric cuisine. Bodegas Montecillo's version definitely has grapefruit, lime and generous acidity but also the sweet tang of pineapple and a flinty finish. Super refreshing. Sw=1. $14.

High Note 2007 Malbec Uco Valley Mendoza Malbec is the new merlot — a rising star in the drinking ranks. And Argentina's Mendoza region has a lock on the supply. High Note is fruity, with raspberry, bright red cherry, sweet vanilla spice and a swath of earthy coffee down the tongue. Sw=3. $12 (although a Twitter follower said she found it for $9).

Sweetness (Sw) rating: 1-10. Star rating: 1-5. Reach Taylor at [email protected], on Twitter @tayloreason, and on Facebook.

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