Vinotheque: Cheap Drinks for the End of the Year

This week’s Vinoteque, poised at the beginning of finals, is crafted to help you cope with the three-ring hell circus that your life has become and also cheaply facilitate your end-of-year/end-of-times celebrations. So put your pinky down and grab a cup, because these wines don’t require a glass.


To make some good recommendations, I decided to lasso two friends, Emily and Natalie, into helping me try a small array of bargain basement bottom, bottom shelf wines that might be the first pick for a college student. Then we put bottle/box to mouth and scored on a 10-point scale.


Searidge Chardonnay                    $4.39           Rating: 8 —> 4 (after 60 seconds)

“Drink quickly because it only gets worse.”

This under-five-dollar white wine opened surprisingly not terrible. It presented with a unique bouquet of apple bubblegum. The bottle described it as having “hints of tropical fruit, citrus, and butterscotch. But the immediate leading tasting note we got was that it tasted, well, like generic wine. “I think it’s wine,” noted Natalie. However, our initial mild satisfaction quickly dissipated. You’ll want to knock it back after about a minute because soon it was like drinking balsamic vinegar.


Barefoot Pinot Noir                        $5.69           Rating: 0.1 —> -12 (after 5 minutes)

“Bad is the first word that comes to mind.”

“That was an insult,” I exclaimed, my face twisted from the liquid assault. This wine presented with an aroma that would be expected from a bottle of linoleum cleaner. It smelled like grape Pine-sol and tasted worse. The label suggested that this fine product “is perfect with lamb,” but who on earth buys lamb and then pairs it with a five-dollar Pinot? To be honest, I’d rather take this wine as an enema. “It just doesn’t taste like something you should be drinking,” Natalie agreed. I noted that it tasted like decent wine that had been consumed and then regurgitated. “Maybe that’s what it is,” Natalie suggested, “bile.”


As with some of the other wines, this one also experienced degradation over time, and it was extraordinary. “Now it smells how it tasted and tastes like butthole,” a keen Natalie observed five minutes after opening the bottle. It had acquired a palate that I can only describe as Welches that hadn’t passed the quality assurance test and was then fermented in a dorm fridge. “It’s a struggle,” Natalie said, “to imagine,” pausing again in disbelief, “finishing this glass.” Starting to feel a buzz, we both agreed that it wasn’t ethanol intoxication, but brain damage. I’ve enjoyed eating actual dirt more than this. At least no one expects you to dirty a glass with this mysterious purple liquid, because what’s the point? We recommend the Barefoot Pinot as a breakup wine: give it to people you don’t want to talk to anymore.


Crane Lake Pinot Grigio                 $4.39           Rating: 7

“I could get drunk off this.”

Opening up similarly to the Chard, this one lacked the rapid decay. “It tastes fresh off the vine,” noted Natalie. “This is like water.” The Crane Lake had a surprisingly appetizing aroma of cinnamon raisin bread. It sort of tasted like some collegiate party host got the bright idea to mix diluted apple juice and vodka, which somehow had a banana aftertaste. After a number of minutes, we noted that this ever-so-slightly carbonated oddity was beginning to taste like gasoline and “smell like regret and Wonder Bread” according to Emily, so we quickly moved on.


Vendage White Zinfandel (box)   $2.89           Rating: 2

“A big mouthful will make you shiver.”

Perhaps the most glowing endorsement for this boxed wine was when Emily shamelessly expressed “this is what I’m used to” before topping off her glass. “I’m not mad about it,” she added. However, for me and Natalie, this wine induced that visceral “I shouldn’t put this in my mouth” response you learn as a toddler. It smells like raspberry syrup, it feels like it’s causing neuronal harm, it tastes like nothing in particular that I’d like to taste and the burps are awful. We noted that the box doesn’t say definitively if the liquid inside is actually made from grapes. It certainly doesn’t live up to the claims of “sweet and juicy with notes of strawberry and jasmine” on the box. But really, a box wine claiming jasmine as a tasting note probably should not be trusted. If you’re looking for a box wine (or any wine, for that matter), I’d probably avoid this one.


Tisdale Cabernet Sauvignon                     $3.39           Rating: 3

“This wine really concerns me.”

After having our taste buds permanently chemically altered by the Barefoot product, it was amazing that we could taste anything. But we pushed on to this remarkably cheap bottle. Immediately after pouring a splash, I looked up in utter shock. “This wine smells savory!” The lasting first impression was an aroma of meat and chemicals. The confusing aroma made it very difficult to drink and inhaling anywhere near the glass felt like huffing paint. The first half-second with the wine in my mouth was surprisingly decent. It tasted like unfermented grape juice. But it quickly turned into what I imagine drinking Clorox is like. The ever-optimistic (read: classless and desperate) Emily, however, offered, “I’d take shots of this” before taking a gulp.