Not Our Parents’ Boxed Wine: Mini-Barrels are Great for Entertaining

MiniBarrelSmallIn the last few years, boxed wine has been making a comeback. I’ve tried a couple of offerings here and there, but am forced to admit that I’ve never seriously considered serving such a thing at one of my parties because, well, it’s boxed wine. I remember my mother setting up boxes of pink and white wine at baby showers and open houses, and as I’ve learned more about wine, I’ve discovered what a travesty those things were. Even so, when I saw a blurb about the Red Truck Mini-Barrel in either Bon Appetite or Gourmet (can’t remember which, I was on a plan on a business trip so my memory is a blur) I decided that it might be worth giving this cute little barrel a try. After all, it doesn’t look like a boxed wine, and it’s a built-in conversation starter at any party. Who can pass up a little barrel of wine on the counter just waiting to be tapped?

After taking a chance and serving the mini-barrel at a recent party, I’m happy to report that it has changed my mind about “alternative packaging” for wine. While I may not be a boxed-wine convert (yet), I’m a mini-barrel convert.

Disclaimer: While I enjoy wine, I don’t consider myself to be anything more than someone who likes wine. I know what I enjoy drinking and I’ve taken just enough courses on wine to be dangerous to myself and my dinner guests. I do highly recommend Great Wine Made Simple by Andrea Robinson for making any wine list navigable, but please know that I’m writing this post from the point of view of someone who entertains regularly and not as a wine aficionado. Also, because I don’t want the feds breathing down my neck, I was in no way compensated or encouraged to write this post by folks at Red Truck.

Why I Like the Mini-Barrel

The mini-barrel has a lot to recommend it:

  • It’s cost-effective. One barrel is the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine and retails for about $30. It contains about 20 standard pours of wine, which comes out to $1.50 per glass. If you are going to throw a party for 30 people and assume each will have 4 glasses of wine (120 pours total), you can buy 6 mini barrels for $180. You’d have to buy 24 standard size bottles of wine to serve the same crowd and to stay on par with the mini-barrel pricing, you couldn’t spend more than $7.50 total per bottle (if you get 20% case discounts you could buy wine priced at about $9.50 per bottle). Now while I do know how to get a decent party wine for less than $10, even with great values you start to run the risk of finding more duds than studs at the $8-9 mark. For reference, the other Red Truck wines (not in barrels) retail for around $10-12 per bottle, so this one is consistent with those offerings.
  • It’s eco-friendly. Almost all of the packaging can be recycled, which is true of a wine bottle of course, but there’s still less packaging all around which is good.
  • It lasts for 6 weeks. Thus far I’ve written about this wine in the context of entertaining, but the mini-barrel packaging keeps the wine fresh for quite a while, which makes it a good idea for people who only drink a glass or two every few nights.
  • It tastes good! Even with the first three pros going for this wine, if it tasted bad I wouldn’t even be writing this post. I liked this wine, and so did my party guests. It’s medium-bodied with tannins that are present but don’t take over your mouth. It’s a blend of syrah, petite sirah, cabernet franc, and malbec, and mourvedre grown throughout California, and they’ve done a nice job of balancing all of the flavors. I tasted red berries and chocolate, and it paired well with my very varied collection of party nibbles. It was easy to sit around and drink as the party progressed. While I wouldn’t say it was stupendous or amazing, that’s not what I’m typically looking for in my party wines in the first place. I want accessible, easy to drink, and tasty – which is exactly what I got.

What Others Are Saying

I’ve done some digging and because the mini-barrel is relatively new, I haven’t been able to find many reviews of the wine, but I did find a few on an interesting cross-section of sites:

Because reviews of the mini-barrel are scarce, I looked for reviews of other Red Truck wines to see how they fair as a group. In general, reviewers seem to consider them value wines that won’t blow your mind but that are good at their price points. These sites include reviews of Red Truck wines across a variety of vintages and varietals to give you an idea of what to expect from this winery:

Get Your Own Mini-Barrel

I’ve only seen the mini-barrel at SAMs Club thus far, but I know they will have wider distribution in 2010. You can order online from their site and they seem to be pretty active on their Facebook page as they help fans find distributors.

If you’ve had the mini-barrel, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you try it, please come back and tell us how you liked it.


  1. I just wanted to say that your party was fantastic, and I loved the mini-barrel. Mouse has one too!

  2. Thanks for the tip. I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for a mini-barrel, it would be perfect for the big gatherings we have planned around the Holidays, and I like the idea of having something that keeps longer.

  3. Just bought a barrel at Spec’s in North Austin today! I’m excited to try it. We usually keep a box of something decent around as house wine, so I’m thrilled for the rec.

  4. Wow! These rock. Look for them soon from First thing Monday I’m having our buyer track them down. We already carry Red Truck so I’m sure we can throw them on our next order.

  5. Todd McDonald /

    I love Red Truck and had it many times in the bottle so I was excited to try the mini barrel. I was so dissapointed. I took it back becasue I thought it had turned. I exchanged it for a different barrel with the same bad result.

    • Natanya /

      Wow – that’s really surprising as I’ve loved the barrels I’ve had. I wonder if somehow it was a bad lot? I’m buying another for a party this weekend and will report back on how it tasted.