'Tis the season for imbibing. However with the economy being what it is, 'tis also the season to look for bargains when it comes to holiday wine drinking. For the budget conscious wine buyer, boxed wines are a bargain alternative. However, many boxed wines kinda suck — okay for camping trips and for earthquake preparedness (no breakage) but can someone really show up at party with a box of wine and not look cheap?

The folks at Colorado Wine Company say yes indeed. Known for their tongue-in-cheek wine tasting events (home to the annual White Trash Wine tasting), last Thursday, Dec. 8 the shop held Thinking Inside The Box — a first-ever tasting of several carefully selected wines in alternative, eco-friendly packaging.

Kyler Sturtz dispenses wine; Credit: Kathy A. McDonald

Kyler Sturtz dispenses wine; Credit: Kathy A. McDonald

While many people's first introduction to boxed wine is often a supermarket-sold, white Zinfandel favored by underage partiers, these choices are well beyond that.

From the Tank Vin Blanc (white wine) is a blend of unoaked chardonnay produced in Languedoc, France that's fermented in stainless steel and then aged in concrete for three months. With a stony (as in rock) taste and a bracing minerality (a favorite wine word, which means there's an flickering aftertaste of rock or minerals), the wine is sold in a three-liter box priced at $39.99 that equals approximately four bottles of wine.

Within the generic brown box, From the Tank's Vin Blanc is packaged in a plastic bladder; even when opened, no air can get inside, so the wine stays fresh for a month once it's refrigerated. While there is no popping of corks and little romance involved in opening a boxed wine, it serves another purpose: the combo pack of quality and quantity.

Y&B releases several organic wines in handy milk carton-like containers called Tetra Paks. Their 2011 Torrontes (a white grape variety originally from Spain) is a slightly floral, food-friendly white wine that comes from a high altitude vineyard (5,500 feet) in Argentina's Cafayete Valley. Perfect for backpacking or picnics and $10.99 for a liter TetraPak, Y&B promotes environmentally friendly packaging and also imports wines from Spain.

As non-bottled wines gains popularity, look for more producers releasing via these handy re-sealable pouches. (For instance, here's Indulge Wine's Astrapouch as profiled in Squid Ink earlier this year). The Clif Family Vineyard's ultra-light Climber Cabernet Sauvignon is bold, earthy and slightly herbaceous–and tastes darn good. Sourced from Napa Valley's Howell Mountain, serve it in proper stemware that allows it to breathe, and it's hard to believe this $16.99 1.5 liter red came from a Capri Sun-cooler style pouch.

LA Weekly