Last week I went to Grocery Outlet looking to score some bargain wine gems, but not with too much success. Still, it’s a noble concept, and one worth pursuing (particularly if you’re poor like me). So, this week I’m still hot on the trail of great (or at least drinkable) wine for under $5 a bottle. Next on my wine bargain radar was Big Lots.
Why Big Lots? Well, I actually heard a story about someone who went to Big Lots regularly, bought a bottle of everything that looked interesting, popped them all in the parking lot to give them a taste and then went back and cleaned out the store of whatever they liked.
Sounded like a sound strategy, so off I went.
I picked out four promising-looking subjects, headed to the parking lot, hopped into the back of my truck, and had an impromptu tasting party.
Jewel 2004 Sauvignon Blanc North Coast
Remember those gooey orange peanut-shaped candies you has as a kid? I used to love those things. Stick some of those in the freezer for six months so they get a nice freezer burn and you have the exact aroma of this wine. On the tongue…well, I can’t describe it, but there’s something weirdly wrong with this wine. Incredibly tart, sour finish. Borderline undrinkable. Retch. 0.5 stars. $4.00.
Chateau St. Michelle 2004 Gewürztraminer Columbia Valley
Pale, grassy aroma with a touch of lemon and refrigerator funk. Hmm. Not actually bad, but not promising. On the tongue it showed just a hint of frizzante ("fizz" to the commoner) and the slightest hint of sweetness. Pretty potent tartness though, but that fades after the first few sips. Flinty, minerally flavors, but not much fruit. Not something to be sipped alone, but I bet it’s actually pretty good with spicy Asian food. 2.5 stars. $5.00.
Lazy Lizard 2003 Shiraz Vin de Pays d’Oc, Lnagedoc
Okay, first of all, I have a real problem with a French wine using the Australian spelling of “syrah”. Syrah and shiraz are the same thing, but why on earth would a French wine (syrah comes from France) call syrah “shiraz”? Maybe because this wine is about as far from a French syrah as Sydney is from Paris? This wine was vile. Incredibly sour smelling, with a huge tsunami of dust on the nose. Hints of candle wax didn’t improve it one bit. I was actually afraid to taste it, and for good reason. Sour and off-balance, with a bitter finish. No fruit flavors to speak of. Bad, bad, bad, bad. –1 star. $3.00 that I’ll never ever see again.
Covey Run 2003 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
I don’t know why I keep giving Covey Run wines a chance. Maybe it’s because I once had a decent $6 bottle of their Riesling. Anyway, this wine was fairly promising on the nose, with classic dark fruit cab aromas. A little weak, but they were definitely there. On the tongue, this wine had expired. It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t anything. Whatever flavors it once had were long gone. I gave it a decent burial. 1.5 stars. $1.50 for 375ml.
Okay, I’m beginning to see a pattern here. This cheap wine gig isn’t turning out to be the “voyage of discovery” that I thought it might be. Instead, I’m mostly just awash in bilge water. Sure, there are a few diamonds (well, maybe zirconiums) out there, but you gotta kiss a hell of a lot of frogs to find them.
And it ain’t quite the bargain I’d hoped for. Sure, I only spent $14 on four bottles. But that was $14 bucks (literally) down the drain. I know for a fact that I would have been happier spending that $14 on one decent bottle of wine than on four bottles of swill.
Sorry kids, but “bargain” wines aren’t generally much of a bargain. Big surprise, I know. C’est la vie.