A first, I thought, “ha ha, great joke!” But then I started wonder. Was he just being a wisenheimer or was he trying to send me a message? I mean, let’s face it, I’m writing this column for the Chico Beat – the operative word being “Chico.” Don’t get me wrong, Chico’s a nice place, but it’s hardly the most sophisticated city on the planet.
Maybe, I thought, my editor is trying to tell me to write my column at the level of our audience. Maybe I’ve been aiming too high with my fancy wine reviews and talk about how to spit properly. Maybe the people who read this column are spitting, but they’re spitting Copenhagen not cabernet. Instead of reviewing $20 bottles of wine, maybe I should be reviewing $12 boxes of wine.
So I bucked up my courage, headed to the nearest Stop ‘n’ Rob liquor store, and added some “popularly priced” wines to my collection of fine Bordeaux. Honestly, I felt like a complete hick when I brought my cart to the checkout counter, imagining the clerk (and everyone else in the store) sneering at me in derision. I slunk home to my single wide in shame and popped open these bad boys to soothe my hurt.
Thunderbird (Non-vintage) $3.69
At $3.69 for a standard 750ml bottle, the T-Bird is priciest stuff (per gallon) I tasted, and has the most alcohol at 17.5%. The aroma alone is enough to burn the hair off your chest, with overpowering waves of rubbing alcohol and citrus cleanser emanating from the bottle. This stuff smells like something you need a hazardous materials permit to buy. And that’s about how it tastes too. It hits you like cough syrup, dense, strong, sweet, and medicinal. In fact, this stuff probably makes pretty darn good cough syrup – at least after a few slugs you wouldn’t be feeling any pain. While the other wines left me confused as to what their purpose was, there was no doubt with Thunderbird: the purpose of this wine is to mess you up. 2 ½ barfs.
Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill (Non-vintage) $2.50
Boone’s farm is the wine you probably drank when you were in high school. I’d never had it before, and the first thing I discovered was that it’s fizzy! It tastes like strawberry soda, and I can see why this stuff is popular with high school kids. But it’s just so overpoweringly sweet that it’s actually difficult to drink and leaves behind a sickly sweet aftertaste. 1 ½ barfs.
Franzia Sunset Blush (Non-vintage) $10.99 – 5 liters
This wine is the bargain of the bunch: nearly seven bottles of wine for $11. This stuff is light pink like the Boone’s Farm. Not much aroma on the nose, but it hits you over the head with almost toxic citrus flavors when you first taste it, almost like biting into a grapefruit rind. After that, the flavor turns hideously sour and leaves behind a God-awful aftertaste. 3 barfs.
Riunite Lambrusco (Non-vintage) $2.99
Of the four wines I tasted, this was the only one that actually looked like a real wine. On the nose, this wine has an intriguing combination of raspberry fruit rollups and paint thinner, but the flavor is just vile. It was so sour that I thought the wine was spoiled, but it was also sweet – not in a good way like sweet and sour pork – but in a bad, bad, disgusting way. I can’t imagine that people actually drink this stuff. This was far and away the worst of the bunch – hard to believe, but true. 4 barfs.
You people actually drink this stuff?!?! My God, for a dollar more a bottle you can move up to stuff at least has some vague resemblance to real wine! Heck, for $1.99, you can drink Two Buck Chuck! Anything has got to be better than these over-sweetened, sour, citrusy booze bombs.
Look, I’m going to do you a real favor. Next week, I’m going to taste the next level up – the $4 a bottle stuff – and I bet we actually go from “barfs” to “stars” in the process.
If you want to laugh while watching me trying to down this stuff, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iGr51zHdHw.