Sediment: Lacking in bottle?

Wine in boxes, cubi jerrycans, tins, paté jars and
sealed plastic goblets – anything but bottles…

Ventoux In A Box Creates Headaches For London-Based Simpleton

So, filled with excitement from our adventures in Corsica, we make our way to the French mainland to stay with our pals in the Ventoux region. Here we discover to our horror that their house in the hills is even more eye-wateringly beautiful than the last time we were there, in fact is so glamorous that we wonder if we shouldn't sleep in the car rather than attempt to live up to the bedding in the spare room.

Still. After a day or so we have recovered enough from the shock to be able to loll around the pool and spend a couple of hours over lunch and drink our aperitifs on the upper terrace and generally kid ourselves that it wouldn't have taken that much effort on our part to achieve the same sun-drenched perfection, we just had different priorities. Then, to add to my bliss, if that were possible, our host Allan says that if I want to buy a quantity of local grog, he'll take it back to England for me in his luxury shooting brake.

Giggling with anticipation, I head straight down to the nearest cave, spending only an hour wandering around the adorable tourist honeypot townlet in which it is situated before actually going in to choose the drink. Which means that I am so surfeited with well-being by the time I enter the cave, I'm not really in a position to deal with the profusion of wines which suddenly fills my vision.

All I want is a medium BiB (as in Bag-in-Box as the French call them, i.e. a no-nonsense working man's wine box) of red, another of rosé and a third of white. But (a) I am initially thrown by the luscious high-end Ventoux bottles parked at the entrance and (b) am subsequently thrown by the presence of two elfin and hypnotically French young women, wrestling with a pallet of BiBs in exactly that dingy corner where the cheap grog lives. As I consequence, I gather up two whites and a red instead of a red, white and pink, stagger over to the check-out and only discover what I've done ten days later when Allan drops them off.

My bad, as they say, but since the stuff works out at slightly less than €3 a litre, I can't really complain. But what exactly is it? One 5 litre container owns up to nothing more specific than White Ventoux, plus instructions for getting at the tap. The red, similarly, is just AOC Ventoux Rouge 2012. Only the other white, the one bought in error, fesses up to anything: Viognier Chardonnay 2012 it says. This is the one, at any rate, which I cram into the fridge, having sawn the top off the box to get it to fit. The red I place on top of the wine rack, no more than half a metre from my elbow while I eat. 

I now have more cheap drink at my immediate disposal than I have ever had in my life. I could drink myself witless every night if I wanted to. Things could not be much better.

Except that, like the stooge in a morality tale, I find myself increasingly beleaguered by the superabundance of my own supplies. The red is pretty much as I hoped for, with that lightness and hint of austerity I associate with Ventoux; the white, on the other hand, gives me mild tinnitus plus a sense of existential doom. Why? It should be fine. I force myself to drink more, in order to desensitise my tastebuds. Over time it does seem to become less industrial; perhaps as it degrades in its BiB (four weeks is the maximum time you've got to drink it, according to the box). But it is a grim, attritional business.

But then (God help us) this raises another, bigger question: how much am I drinking? I pour a generous splash into my faithful Duralex tumbler, consume it, pour another, consume it, pour another, I mean there are 5 litres in there, or there were, and the cardboard is opaque, so in some ways it's a bottomless vat of wine, but in another way it's a nightmare, in which I entirely lose count of how many glasses I've poured myself, and only know that at the end of the evening I feel eighty years old and as if my mouth has been pressed into service as a photographer's developing tray.

After several days of this, I work out that what I need is a pichet, like PK's, into which I can pour a metered quantity of drink. A little glass jug catches my eye. I shall find out how much it holds, then determine how much 40 cl of wine looks like when poured into it, then use that as my guide. That way, I shall not only retain a measure of self-control at supper time, I shall make my booze last longer.

I take the jug down from the shelf. It looks a bit dusty. There is a small crack next to the handle. My wife, who happens to be passing, says, 'You know we use that to put flowers in, don't you?'

'Yes,' I say, with a pathetic timbre in my voice. 'But I have my dignity to think of.'

And indeed, that evening I sit there full of bourgeois self-importance with my little jug of wine, and everything works according to plan, even though the wine is not only light and austere, but oddly nuanced with a flavour of dust. Only another week to go, I reckon.


Turning on the box

In the past, I’ve been scathing about wine in boxes. Wine in a box? Is that like cigars in a bottle?

So it’s ironic that, just a week after CJ returned from France with three wines in boxes, I found myself buying one from Sainsbury's. This is Caja Roja, and the first thing to say is that it’s not a Rioja. An easy mistake to make, given its name.

An even easier mistake would be to think that it is the almost identical Carta Roja, a rather good Jumilla Monastrell/Syrah which has picked up a couple of awards, and which is frequently “offered” by Sainsbury for just under a fiver.

These two bafflingly similar products are shown in the picture. The boxed Caja Roja – and yes, caja does translate as ‘box’ – is, in fact, a completely different, Monastrell/Tempranillo blend. Its perfectly drinkable, bright, slightly spicy product does not have the added weight and warmth (and, therefore, awards) of the bottled Carta Roja. With its virtually identical labelling, lettering, colouring…

It’s surely hard to imagine that the two could be confused by a shopper, used to dealing in their supermarket dash with the contest between too much choice and too little time.

But believe me, lured by the prospect of a bargain, they can.

In a special offer, this box had been reduced by Sainsbury’s from £16 to £12. That’s 2.25 litres, or three bottles’ worth, for £12. It’s the cheapest drinkable wine I have encountered in the UK. It’s not the rather superior Carta Roja – but it’s £4 a bottle. An irresistible bargain. Only it’s in a box.

Now on the whole, I have resisted wine in a box. It is, as they say, convenient. It is also, as they say, uncouth. And I do so wish to be couth.

Like many purchasers, I argued to myself that a wine box would be a convenient way of drinking the odd glass, and cooking with the odd squirt, while keeping the rest fresh. The key word here being ‘convenient’.

Just a splash of wine in these lentils? Here it is, with its own ‘convenient’ tap, just as if red wine has been plumbed into the kitchen. A little glass of something with supper? Here again. Pour just as much as you like, and the box will stay fresh. It’s so ‘convenient’.

But is convenience necessarily a good thing? Velcro is more convenient than buttons, but you don’t see much of it on Savile Row.

Wine boxes are not designed for the dining table. They may well offer ‘convenience’, but you wouldn’t serve convenience food to your guests.

You also have to hoist wine boxes above glass height, always an ungainly maneouvre. It’s reminiscent of lifting dumbbells, something else not recommended over a laden dining table.

So unlike a magnum of wine, which everyone assumes you are sharing with friends, a box is something people assume you are drinking in privacy. A box is like announcing personal profligate consumption, the equivalent of the giant airport bar of Toblerone.

Yes, you can use your extensive collection of pichets and carafes to disguise your embarrassing secret. But that’s not ‘convenient’, is it. Soon you find yourself tiptoeing back into the kitchen between courses or during ad breaks, directly refilling glass after glass. With no visible record of your consumption.

How long before you’re just passing through the kitchen, work to do, clock ticking, stressed out like a cat passing Crufts. Can you be bothered to make a mid-morning coffee? Here, over here, calls the little box on the worktop. Who’s to know? And hey, if we’re talking convenience, why bother dirtying a glass? We’ve all drunk water directly from a tap…

It’s a downward path. In its worse case, I recall drinking with someone who, when the flow began to falter, pulled the box apart and, determined to get every last drop, actually wrung out the foil bag inside.

And in the end, the box goes into the recycling, where it is far more troublesome than a straightforward glass bottle, because who’s prepared to break it down into its constituent elements of cardboard, foil and plastic? It sits there whole, like a squat badge of shame, announcing to the neighbours your consumption, your poverty and your convenience-driven laziness.

A single bottle of cheap wine might be considered desperation. An entire box of it suggests destitution.

And ask yourself this. If boxes are so good, how come it’s only cheap wines which are in them?

So, swings and roundabouts. On the swings, it’s astonishingly cheap, perfectly drinkable, and with the added ‘convenience’ of staying fresh. On the roundabouts, it’s clumsy, ugly and suggests something dubious about your drinking.

Me? I’m on the climbing frame.



I have seen the future and it comes in a five-litre plastic flagon, filled by a man using a petrol pump.

This is serious. There we were (still) down in the Ventoux, and it was Saturday morning, and what do the locals do on a Saturday morning in that part of the world but drive to their friendly neighbourhood cave to stock up for the weekend? So we did that, only instead of the grim trudge that accompanies a trip to (say) Majestic Wine - the trolley squeaking across the chill concrete, the haggard bankers & lawyers bracing themselves for that next dinner-party - at Terraventoux we found a barely-supressed excitement, a mood both carefree and impossibly eager.

Why? Because of this man with the pump. Don't be put off - there was nothing dubious or furtive or down-at-heel about the cave or the pump, or, indeed, the man. In fact the place was exemplary in its cleanliness, it bourgeois dignity. High-ceilinged, thronged with bottles of red and white (their take on the local Ventoux variety), panelled with sober brown woodwork, somewhere in atmosphere between a gentleman's smoking room and a sauna, everything about it said diginity and composure. But then there were these huge wooden vats, lined up against a wall, each with its own petrol pump. And, turn and turn about, with a pair of Frenchmen on the end of the pump hose, one pouring the wine, the other standing contentedly over his plastic flagon like a dog-owner giving his pet a treat.

Because the majority of punters were arriving with their own flagons for a refill. Costing €2 and holding five litres, these cubis (as they are known) also come with a plastic tap and a convenient carry handle, and will last a lifetime, or a year at least. The booze that flows in? The same as the stuff being sold, bottled and labelled, for €5 a bottle and rising, on the other side of the cave. How much do you pay for the plastic flagon version? A truly magical €1.35 a litre, plus TVA (or VAT as we perversely name it). That is not a typographical error: €1.35 a litre, or €6.75 the flagon. Of wine which, I can proudly report, is light, refreshing, stylish, well-balanced, and which slips down so readily it's almost impossible not to drink at any time of the day or night. I can't tell you how excited I was, watching my own cubi bubble up with the good stuff, knowing that I was now part of a great and profoundly civilizing ritual; and that I could remain very slightly drunk for as long as I wanted.

The only snag is the keeping. Lots of French customers were buying this same delicious wine in BIBs (i.e. Bag-In-Boxes) which keep the grog in a collapsible plastic vacuum bag so that it doesn't spoil over time through contact with the air. Not possible of course in a rigid cubi. So the intelligent drinker takes his cubi home and straightaway decants most of its contents into old wine bottles which he then corks up again, thus minimising the air/spoilage interface.

I fully made a mental note to do this as I watched my cubi fill, but, once back at base, was so distracted by the incredible and unfamiliar bounty now sitting in my kitchen that I forgot to do any such thing until I was at least half-way through the flagon.

Opinions are mixed as to how long flagon grog can be expected to keep, given considerate treatment as opposed to damp-palmed bibulous neglect. A month to six weeks was a rough consensus. Suddenly and belatedly waking up to this problem, I realised that I had left it too late to decant and that the only thing to do was to drink with steady and increasing efficiency through the remaining wine before it had a chance to go off. This I am continuing to do, and although my Terra Ventoux is suffering a bit, it gamely refuses to die on me. Frankly, at €1.35 +TVA a litre, I would drink it even if it tasted like hair restorer. Every palatable sip between now and that state is a miraculous bonus.


Wine – no can do

Sooner or later I was going to come across wine in a can. I just didn’t expect to come across it in Waitrose.

I’ve encountered a wine spritzer in a can before, although that was technically an “aromatized wine product cocktail”; but here from Waitrose is a genuine, still wine in a can. And organic wine at that.

Now, it may just be me (it usually is), but isn’t there something a bit odd about an organic wine in a can? A can? Yes the can is recyclable, but if not in a glass bottle, I somehow expect an organic wine to be packaged in something natural, like a goatskin or a sheep’s stomach. Or bamboo – it must be possible to create a bamboo carton, given that so many things are being made out of bamboo these days, like bicycles, and t-shirts, and a complete mess of the view over my back garden wall.

Still, there’s a little graphic on the back of this can which tells me there is neither bisphenol-A nor phthalates present, which is an enormous relief, because I have spent so much of my wine-drinking worrying about them. In the case of bisphenol-A, I was worrying what the hell it was, but a Newsweek feature on it was headlined BPA Is Fine, If You Ignore Most Studies About It, which I fully intend to do. In the case of phthalates, I was just worrying how to spell it.

(BPA may be used to line cans, so they don’t corrode – which of course would not normally trouble a wine drinker who drinks from a glass bottle.)

This is a little, single-serving can, like the ones they use for mixers on trains. So the next time you’re on a train, and they are “passing through the carriages with cold drinks and snacks”, you can ask them why, by the time they reach you, the trolley only has soft drinks and biscuits, when they could have cans of wine. And they can ask you to shut up or get off at the next station. Sorry, “station stop”.

The packaging of this rosé must be aimed at women – that’s according to Mrs K, by the way, so don’t start on me. It’s a lurid, Barbie pink, a shade which doesn’t reflect that of any normal rosé wine. And it's graduated, from lighter at the top to darker at the bottom, which I also hope is not reflected in the wine.

The buzzword for canned wine in the US is “poolside”, where obviously broken glass is a hazard; but I don’t think the idea of drinking wine “poolside” is going to be big in the UK’s municipal baths. Here, despite the fact that most of them stop you taking in your own drink, they are saying that cans are good for festivals, where glass is also banned, and where cans are presumably a better missile.

So I assume, with all of this glass-free malarkey, that the intention is to drink this wine straight from the can. You’re unlikely to be pouring it into a wineglass, if glass itself is banned. So it would be unfair to taste it from a glass. I think I need the entire fist, ring-pull and drink experience.

And it’s odd to open a ring-pull can without hearing an accompanying pffft. It’s as if your mixer has gone flat. In fact, this rosé is mildly petillant – also mildly fruity, in that nondescript, rosé manner, and mildly coloured, if the little sluicing around the lid is anything to go by. In fact it's mildly everything, in particular annoying.

Because you can’t see it, obviously, and after the initial opening you can’t smell it. You’re holding it by two fingers, because it’s too small for a fist, and while manufacturers are right to say that wine in cans chills faster than in glass, that also means that it warms up faster too. And it’s so small, you can’t really judge when it’s coming to an end. Swigging it from its little, rapidly-warming can, deprived of so much of the wine-drinking experience, I found myself wondering – why would I do this?

Look, I’ll drink decent wine out of anything. If someone filled it with Lafite, I’d drink wine out of a chamber pot.

But let’s not take all of the sight, the smell, the sensations and the style out of drinking wine, in the name of convenience. Or in the next instalments of lowering the quality of life, we can expect caviar in pocket-friendly crisp bags, smoked salmon in wallet-sized pouches, and bag-in-boxes of vintage port.

So handy for festivals.


Disorientation: Graham's 1948 Vintage Port

So what did I find when we got to India? Only that once you go south of Goa and head for the Malabar Coast, booze is unobtainable, or as good as. In one place I managed to get a bottle of Kingfisher beer, but it had to be brought to my table swathed in old newspaper before being hidden behind a curtain so as not to start a riot. The last time anything like that happened to me I was in Utah. Out of three weeks in the sub-continent, I must have spent at least nine days teetotal. No beer, no wine - although I swear I saw someone else drinking Sula red - no whisky.

The nearest we got to that was in marginally hedonistic Mysore, where there were places in which men sat in almost total darkness, consoling themselves with liquor. We stopped outside one of these dives to examine the drinks on display outside: should we get a half-bottle of Royal Stag Indian whisky, or go for a full one of Peter Scot? A man lurched out from the (packed) counter and started telling us the prices. Other men shouted encouragement through an open window. We said we'd think about it. A day later and it was back to water. I haven't felt so disorientated for years.

I tell a lie: weeks. The previous time I felt so disorientated was just before I left for India, when I met the fiendishly talented writer/photographer/cultural contrarian who runs The London Column, for a drink at the Royal Festival Hall.

'You'll like this,' he said, producing a small glass jar with a lid. Inside the jar was an amber fluid. 'Graham's 1948 Vintage Port. We've been keeping it for years. We drank most of it the other night.'
'What's the container?'
'It's an old pâté jar from Lidl.'
'The safety button's popped up.'
'I washed it out. Don't worry.'

We tipped the contents into a couple of plastic cups (see serving suggestion, above). It's possible to pay over £500 for a bottle of Graham's 1948, although perhaps less for this one, given its slightly kooky provenance: British Transport Hotels Ltd. St. Pancras Chambers N.W.1. it read on the label.

'They must have flogged it off. Perhaps it was Dr. Beeching.' He showed me pictures of the formal bottle-opening, complete with candlelight and crystal decanters. 'It was pretty good.'

Up to this point, we'd been drinking the RFH's own Les Amourettes basement red, which tasted of coal dust and paraffin and was the cheapest thing on the list. The Graham's, in comparison, was like, I don't know, a 78 rpm recording of Galli-Curci, something desperately ancient and classy, almost on the point of extinction. There were Madeira-ish overtones, raisins, cinnamon, a long finish with a nice suggestion of old carpet. Nothing like the bespoke expectorant I normally associate with mainstream port, but instead a patrician, largely geriatric, intimation of what port could be if only it made an effort.

Of course it was over in a flash on account of there only being a tiny quantity to start with - about £60 worth - and us drinking it too quickly. We looked at the now-empty pâté jar as it baked under the RFH's savage shopping mall lights.

'Well, that was nice,' I said, inhaling the fumes from my cup.

And then, a few days later, I was 10º north of the Equator, quite unable to get a drink of any sort.

For a while, I toyed with the idea that destiny had taken it upon itself to cut off my booze supply altogether, using the Graham's Port in a pâté jar as a metaphor for the direction in which my life was headed. Back at home, of course, I now appear to be surrounded by grog, as ever, and can drink as much as I want. But is that really true? I thought the whole world was liquid, once. Seems I may have over-estimated.


Wine to go – Cavatina Goblet Shiraz

I suppose all of us must sometimes feel, despite our desire for a glass of wine, that it’s just too much hard work to open a bottle, and pour its contents into a glass. Oh, the effort. Or perhaps all of one's wineglasses are dirty? Or broken? Or you’ve forgotten which way round a corkscrew turns? That must be when we reach with a sigh of relief for a serving of wine conveniently prepackaged in a sealed plastic goblet.

This concept once appeared on Dragon’s Den, a TV programme in which, for the uninitiated, business concepts are “pitched” to a panel of potential investors. The entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne said at the time: "This doesn't work as a selling item. People do not want to buy wine in plastic glasses like that. For that reason, I'm out."

But of course, he has been proved wrong. I could have told him that, depressingly, there are people out there who will buy wine in anything, from cardboard boxes to metal cans, from absurdly shaped and coloured bottles and faux carafes to CJ’s jerrycanA plastic goblet seems positively civilised by comparison.

And despite the Dragons’ misgivings, this concept seems to be proving extremely successful with, the manufacturer’s website says, “picnickers, concertgoers and commuters.” I will take their word for the latter, as I haven’t myself seen anyone drinking wine on the 237 bus.

But it would seem to me, despite my opening remarks, that the market for sealed plastic goblets of wine is surely an outdoor one. Which was why I was surprised to see it on the supermarket shelves this week. Because here in London, it’s December, and it’s been bitterly cold – icicles hang by the wall, and Dick the shepherd blows his nail. (Heaven knows what Nail the shepherd blows.)

Yet Lord Sainsbury, in his infinite winter wisdom, piles these goblets high and sells ‘em, if not cheap, then at £2.49 apiece. And upon his informative little shelf-talker, he recommends that they are “Perfect with grilled steak or tomato-based pasta dishes”. 

Now, those are not really outdoor dishes, are they, whether in chilly December or not. So they are clearly suggesting that one enjoys this product indoors at the moment, with one’s warming winter meals. So be it.

I can tell you from the outset, though, that having a plastic glass, with a label on its side, at your table for Sunday lunch, makes you feel a total prannock. (One of the offspring raises the glass, quizzically; Mrs K offers those emollient words,“It’s for the blog,” and they both sit back to watch with barely disguised amusement.)

Obviously you could try and emulate in your home the outdoor situations for which the goblet was presumably devised. You could perhaps picnic in the dining room, by sitting on the floor in an uncomfortable position, pairing your plastic glass with plastic cutlery, and forgetting several vital components of the meal.

You could emulate train commuters, by lurching about in your seat, overcrowding your dining area with newspapers, and having your companion push past you mid-meal to visit the lavatory. 

Or you could resist going to the toilet at all, and turn on somebody else’s choice of music at inappropriate volume, while, every so often, your companion jumps on your foot. That’s the outdoor concert. Or is it the commuting…?

Anyway, the goblet initially is a little challenging. Opening it is rather like opening a pot of yoghurt, or a plastic flagon of milk. Like the milk, the problem comes with removing the very last bit of the foil lid, which jerks free and invariably causes the contents to slop out. Like the yogurt, one wonders whether it is socially acceptable to lick the lid.

I would like to describe the wine’s bouquet, but I can’t, because the glass is almost full, and so it is impossible to get your nose inside the glass without getting wine in your nostrils. Loath to share the fate of the Duke of Clarence, we shall have to forgo notes on the bouquet.

And the goblet is also somewhat uncomfortable in the mouth. In order for the lid to adhere, the rim of the goblet is flat, not rounded – again, like a yoghurt pot – which means that it catches on your upper lip as you drink. It is akin to drinking from a plastic flowerpot.

But astonishingly, the wine itself is actually drinkable. It’s a pretty bog-standard Shiraz – a bit light in weight, but with distinctive fruit and spice, and no evil catch in the throat. The plastic seems to have had no more discernible impact on the flavour than on beer in a plastic glass, or water from a plastic bottle. Frankly, I’ve drunk worse. And as the price of £2.49 a goblet actually works out at £9.99 a bottle, it ought to be drinkable.

There’s something to be said when the means of delivery is less palatable than the wine itself. Yes, I could have poured the wine into a proper glass. Equally, if there was any merit in serving wine at home in flat-rimmed plastic receptacles, I could have poured decent wine into a yogurt pot.

What to do now with my plastic goblet? It says on their website that the goblet is “in fact near unbreakable” which, as another offspring is fond of saying, sounds like a wager to me.

But on the base it says that you can “reuse” it. Their website seems devoid of suggestions, so if anyone has any ideas for reusing a plastic flat-rimmed goblet, I would be interested to hear them. In the meantime, enjoy your Christmas, although it may only involve this product if you are pursuing your festivities outdoors. 

Or on a train.


Boxing not so clever

How much is left in my wine box? Your guess is as good as mine – and it’s my box.

You might recall that at the beginning of lockdown I bought a box of wine, as a desperate measure when it seemed as if we might never be able to purchase wine again. I went happily along for several days, pouring myself a nightly pichet from the box for supper, before it became possible to order, purchase and drink wine pretty much as ever before. And when I switched to the newly delivered bottles, I lost track of how many evenings I had drunk from “the bottomless well”.

Then Mrs K asked whether it was okay to use some for cooking – and reported back with the ominous news that she had had to tip the box to make it pour. Oh no. Like those wretched rechargeable devices such as radios, which simply run out of power without warning, the box is running out of wine.

It’s hard enough to judge how much is left in a bottle of wine, when you can see through the glass, given that you have to allow for the narrowing of the neck. Can you pour yourself just a bit more, or are you going to leave yourself short for the next time? It’s a difficult calculation, and can have consequences, when you realise you’ve gone that bit too far so that, sod it, you might as well drink the lot.

But with a box, there’s no visual indication at all of how much is left. And shaking it doesn’t really help. There’s just a vague sloshing noise, which I can’t relate to any particular quantity. What does a glass of wine sound like?

Nor does shaking it seem to release any more of the wine. It’s not like freeing the last glutinous contents of a bottle of sauce, of which I was warned as a child, “Shake and shake the ketchup bottle; None’ll come out, and then a lot’ll.”

Although I remember drinking with someone once who showed me how they would remove the silver bag from inside a wine box, and literally wring it out to get at the last few drops. It may sound mean, or desperate, or even borderline alcoholic, but actually you’d be surprised how much extra you can squeeze out…

Why get worked up about it, you might ask? Because there is no point in coming to the box and finding that it only pours out half a glass. Assuming you don’t have another box of the same (and no, of course I don’t), what do you do then? Mix it, with something different from the cellar? Switch wine halfway through supper? Down it in one and open a new bottle? Throw it aw… no, forget that one.

It cannot be beyond the wit of man to devise a solution. Like a clear column in the side of the box which shows you the level inside, as with some designs of kettle. Or something like a fuel gauge, which goes down, not so much into the red as out of it. Or some kind of thing, I don’t know, floating on the wine which you can see through a window. I’m thinking of that little flotation device in the dishwasher which tells you when you need more salt. Allegedly.

Or must I resort to weighing the box? There are three bottles of wine in there, so as I think I remember (find the tables on the back of my Silvine exercise book) height times width times depth to get the cubic capacity in inches, sir, then convert to, er, fluid ounces, then 16 to a pint, er, a pint weighs a pound… oh, it says here on the box 2.25 litres. Which is 2.25 kilos. God, kids today…

So I’d have to weigh the full box, noting anything over 2.25 kilos as the weight of the packaging, and then monitor the ongoing weight of the box (minus the weight of the packaging) as an indication of how much liquid is left inside? But it somehow sounds like you're drinking so much more. "You've drunk half a kilo of wine tonight!"

And it’s a bit of a faff, isn’t it? Writing the ongoing weight/quantity on the box itself each night to keep track? Oh, and just where one’s partner can see it and remark upon the amount one appears to have consumed in three nights? Perhaps not.

In the meantime, the box just sits there, guarding the secret of its contents like Colonel Sanders’s recipe. There may be enough wine inside to accompany a meal – or there may not. And having lost track in all this excitement, I can only ask myself one question. 

Do I feel lucky?