In my 10 years of drinking alcohol, I’ve never quite understood how to choose a wine.
I’ve been to fancy restaurants. I’ve watched as the wine is poured. I’ve swished it around, smelled it, nodded my approval. But what makes a truly good wine?
Or, more specifically, what makes a good cheap wine?
Let’s be real: I’m not buying $30 bottles of wine to take over to Mariska’s theme party on Saturday. I’m buying cheap-ass wine. Still, I don’t want to buy undrinkable wine that tastes like red vinegar and smells like a musty basement. So I decided to find it the only way I knew how: a good old-fashioned taste test.
How did I pick the wines? Mostly based on terroir, which is a fancy French word for land. I shopped only within the terroir around my office, where I’d most likely shop for wine to bring to a hypothetical friend’s party. From the Walgreens across the street I picked up Chateau Diana and Vineyard Creek, and then went two blocks over to Trader Joe’s for the rest. My criteria for the wines were as follows:
1. Is it under $9?
2. Is it red?
3. Have you purchased fewer than nine wines?
If the answer to all three was yes, I bought it. I bought it good.
Once I had my subjects, I sat down to try all nine wines in one sitting. I assume this is the method used by master sommeliers. Also like them, I assume, I vowed to spit it out only if it tasted real disgusting.
Wine ratings are typically based on a 100-point scale and measure things like “clarity,” “complexity,” and “finish.” Due to the nature of the wines I was trying (cheap), I modified the scale to include measures for “flavor,” “drinkability,” and “warmth.” Hey, master sommeliers: You’re welcome.
Here are the nine cheap wines under $9, presented in the order in which I drank them:
1. The Morning-After Review:
This wine was in a twist-off bottle, which I appreciated because I used to work at a country club and wine openers bring back terrible memories. Sadly this was a bad first wine to try. My very first sip made me cringe. But I knew I had eight more glasses to go, so I trudged ahead.
2. The Morning-After Review:
Underwood was rated 87 in Wine Enthusiast magazine — although this wine was ~technically~ under $9, that’s only because it was a can of wine and not the whole bottle. Still, if baby’s a lightweight, you don’t need the whole bottle. I also liked this wine despite a distinct diaper smell. Congratulations on your good wine, Oregon.
3. The Morning-After Review:
La Granja Tempranillo was also rated as a “Best Buy” at 84 on Wine Enthusiast. And because this wine got my highest score yet, I take that as a positive sign that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to wine.
4. The Morning After Review:
I found this wine to be arousing, but that may just be my libido peaking — according to the Journal of Sexual Medicine, red wine does that. Primitivo is apparently made from Old Zinfindel vines of the Puglia region in Italy. This wine is probably a good one to pull out on your first date.
5. The Morning-After Review:
For anyone wondering what the fuck Rosso is, let me tell you: It is a bunch of leftover red wines that are combined to create something awful. The bottle claims Rosso is a third each cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and Montepulciano, but I’m pretty sure it’s at least 10% ass. The gross taste took me to a dark place in which I was forced to ponder the whereabouts of the final resting place of Amelia Earhart. If that isn’t a sign you should skip this wine, I don’t know what is.
6. The Morning-After Review:
This wine has a drunken song you can sing on its back label, so at least it knows what it is. Part of the lyrics claim the wine tastes like “ripe cherries and dark chocolate … figs and jam,” which are flavors I apparently missed. I was probably distracted by the cheaply made cork that fell apart into the bottle. My comments make me think I liked this wine, but I gave it a shitty score, so I guess it was more like that nice guy at the party that you’re just not attracted to. There’s nothing wrong with him, you’re just not into it.
At this point in the night, I have to admit I was struggling to finish each wine. But I knew I had an important job to do. And I couldn’t let America down.
7. The Morning-After Review:
I’m surprised I hated this one so much. I was seven glasses in, you’d think I’d be forgiving. This wine is the best deal at $2.99, but apparently there was a coffee flavor in it, which I did not like. Full disclosure: I do not drink coffee. So you might like this one more than I did. But maybe wait until you’re a bottle deep to try.
8. The Morning-After Review:
It was at this point in the night that I finally pulled out my drugstore wine. This wine made me nostalgic for my childhood (Barney, Dora) while at the same time awakening my sexuality (“cummy”), and challenging me intellectually (√(b-mc)²). If only I knew its real age.
9. The Morning-After Review:
Ah yes. The crème de la crème. I’ve had Chateau Diana before, and I thought it was horrible. But apparently, after some alcoholic intake, this drink reaches Kareem Abdul-Jabbar levels. I trust my drunk self, and from now on, I will be imbibing Chateau Di exclusively.
The Day After:
I woke up remarkably refreshed, given my alcoholic intake the night before. I’ve been called a lightweight, so I was very pleased at my ability to recall the previous night. That was, until I ran into my sister.
Sister: “What was up with those texts last night?”
Me: “What texts?”
I had texted my family to let them know “Imgood.” I’m a very responsible blackout.
In an attempt to wrap up loose ends, I also wrote to the makers of my favorite drunken red wine, Chateau Diana, and asked them if they could tell me the year my particular wine was bottled. Their quick response in Comic Sans font removed any hesitation I might have had in giving it top marks.
My Final Thoughts:
If you chose to ignore my drunkest reviews, I would recommend buying the following good, cheap-ass wine: Grifone Primitivo and La Granja Tempranillo. Their prices are low, and both had high ratings in the key factors of drinkability and warmth. For your third bottle, I recommend any of the drugstore wines, because at that point, you don’t really care and you probably won’t remember.
Now go forth and drink your delicious cheap red wine. I’ll leave you with these wise words, spoken after my seventh glass:
“Red wine yum yum, yum yum red wine.”
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