Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

GA/FL, Wednesday: Okay. What the f*** is up with the boxed wine?! | November 5, 2009

I love good wine. I’ve tasted some of the finest Napa Cabernets, Bordeaux, elegant French Champagne (the only kind of Champagne), exquisite dessert wines from Sauternes, Hungary, and Germany. High on the hog. But sometimes, as Nicholson so eloquently put it in Batman, one must ask himself, “have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moon light?”

Sometimes, you have to commit the most heinous of sins. Call it experimentation. Wasn’t that the excuse when your folks busted you with that joint in your bedroom? Regardless, the deed was done. The crime committed. Might as well talk about it.

And why is that bottle of Dom sitting in the middle? Is this picture trying to compensate? Fits in like Ted Nugent at a Phish concert. “Hey, brah. Wanna try a raw-food vegan burrito?” Oh, and that sexy ’99 Dom Perignon was emptied by the time we got there. Sunuvabitch.

I know…I’m filibustering. Time to get to the point and explain these boxes of wine. The wife and I arrived at our rented beach house with a group of friends for the annual matchup between our beloved Georgia Bulldawgs (the spelling is correct) and those despicable rednecks from North Florida- the Florida Gators- whom elicit more venom from me than does a box of Argentinian Merlot from Louis IVX. Anyway, the trip came hot on the heels of a recent conversation with a fellow wine lover about what they’re drinking in Europe- namely, France. In the states, wine aficionados (okay, nerds) generally bite their thumbs at bulk-production wine. Yes, it’s a huge seller here. Yes, more wine comes out of California Central Valley (think jugs, or “cannonballs” of wine) than anywhere else. But- surely- the noble French would NEVER drink such swill, would they? They drizzle their pancakes, er, croissants, er, crêpes, er, cigarettes in Chateau Latour and La Tâche, right? Wrong. In fact, 40 to 50% of the wine produced in France is designated vin de table (source http://www.terroir-france.com/), or “table wine”, and it’s produced in incredible bulk, often simply labeled as vin rouge or vin blanc and sold by the gallon in grocery stores. I was even told that there are “filling stations”, where you take an empty jug and fill up out of wine spigots. And to think we stateside have been drinking from stupid old water fountains. European sensibilities prevail again.

For this reason (among others), we really wanted to see if we could drink like most of the world drinks wine: down and dirty and on the cheap. Well, I’m afraid my palate’s been spoiled. The Franzia Merlot (sourced, interestingly enough, from Argentina) was incredibly fruit-forward on the nose, with an overwhelming smell of “fake” fruit, sort of like Hi-C fruit punch or Juicy Fruit gum. In the mouth it was too easy-drinking and too fruity (to the point of perceived sweetness) with little-to-no structure and a short finish. The Target-brand “wine cube” of Cab-Shiraz wasn’t much different, if not slightly better. Very fruit-forward, a hair more tannic, but barely. I probably wouldn’t have distinguished the two blind.
All the snobbery aside, it was not the worst stuff I’ve ever had, coming from either box. I think back in my novice days, I would’ve preferred this flavor to a structured beast from the northern Rhône or Bordeaux or Napa. And, we had some folks there who don’t normally like to drink wine, and they thought it was not bad, leading to comments like, “hey, I might have to give this whole wine-thing another try sometime.” I think that’s a baby-step in the right direction.
So, if you’re still here (I’m sure some folks came to this site for some wine advice, saw boxes of wine, threw salt in their eyes, and banished my suburbanwino.com to the land of wind and ghosts), I hope my explanation is valid. I think true wine appreciation is not only being able to distinguish what is good, but also having the discipline to reinforce what you don’t like…usually gained through tasting poorly-made wines. Even more critical, though, is the need to keep in touch with the wine world as a whole, and understanding what most folks on earth are drinking gives one a more “worldly” knowledge of the culture of wine.
And if all that sounds like a bunch of malarky, then watch this episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (“The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention”). Sometimes, the pursuit of humor trumps discriminating tastes, and drinking wine out of a can is hilarious (more on that later).
Now I ask you to raise your glasses, bottles, boxes, and cans…to wine being accessible to everyone: Cheers, Sláinte, L’Chaim, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, Kampai, and Laissez les bon temps rouler!
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