Janet Combs

Janet Combs

I failed every opportunity to become a wine connoisseur. I spent an entire year living in the Loire Valley in France as a student, but I was both too young and on too strict of a budget to collect a bottle from every chateau tour our group took. Still, I enjoy an occasional glass of wine today, domestic or international, served by the ocean in a plastic cup or at a reception in a crystal glass. And that brings us to one of our recent home improvement projects: the conversion of our kitchen desk into a space to hold not only a small wine refrigerator, but — get ready, wine snobs — a selection of box wines.

Now, a discreet area of our kitchen can be completely confusing for newcomers trying to get to know us, because there are distinct stereotypes associated with box and bottle wine drinkers. One side of the cubbyhole says “Janet and Rich like to summer in Monte Carlo,” while the other side proclaims “Janet and Rich like to spend Saturdays at Darlington Raceway.” Lingering by the wine refrigerator, Rich and Janet could be discussing a trip to Andalucía to utilize their newfound Duolingo Spanish skills. Loitering by the box wine section, Rich and Janet might be talking about a trip to the Piggly Wiggly to pick up some wings on sale.

We did not think we would use the desk in our kitchen area, so my husband designed a way to fill in the space with one of those compact wine refrigerators. This appeals to me not so much because of the precise temperature at which it keeps the wine, but because it increases the valuable real estate in my counter-depth refrigerator by moving all wines to a separate storage area.

The reality is, I typically pour my glass of wine from a box. If you are the only one who enjoys a glass of wine in the family, a box wine is the perfect choice: it never goes “bad” because it is not exposed to the air. What’s more, if you like to cook and a recipe calls for wine, it’s always available without having to open an entire bottle to use a half-cup in a pasta or cream sauce.

But there is a stigma associated with box wines, and the new Combs kitchen wine station is doing its utmost to dispel inaccurate class distinctions by forcing both types of wine to occupy the same space. This was my husband’s idea — he was initially going to build mail and newspaper cubbies alongside the built-in wine refrigerator, but we knew that would become a catch-all for clutter, such as those annoying, indecipherable “Explanations of Benefits” statements from your health insurance company. Honestly, I try to pay attention to them, but these documents are intentionally baffling — they’re like the tax code of consumer health care. And if you try to talk to the representative for an explanation of your explanation, you’ll end up so frustrated that you’ll want to scream, “Please, take my deductible, and apply it where the sun don’t shine.”

Let us journey back to the Combs wine station and calm ourselves down. My husband determined that the amount of space to hold a box of wine, vertically, would be a perfect fit next to the wine refrigerator, converting the “kneehole” into custom cabinetry that flows seamlessly from one bank of drawers to the panty. I will post a photo on my website so you can see for yourself: https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.

The Combs wine station exemplifies how box and bottle wines can peacefully coexist, as well as delivers the message that you best not judge a person by his container — and by this, I mean any and all containers. His beverage container, his vehicular container, his domicile container, his very person — after all, what are our bodies but containers for our ethereal, beautiful souls? Sometimes you have to think inside the box.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.