Last week I nearly brought the Internet to a halt with the fascinating news that this stranger is leaning toward a beach-based honeymoon. I trust you're all still riveted to the spot where I left you, and while I must encourage you to loosen the rivets for just long enough to brush your teeth and change your underpants, I think it's almost time to divulge another barely relevant personal detail. You brush, I'll wait. See you next paragraph.
'cheap wine' on Serious Eats
Mass market bottles can veer toward sweet-and-jammy, without acidity to balance the wine. And if it's not blended with other stuff, budget Pinot Noir can be thin, bitter, sour, and unpleasant to drink. When you spend a little more, Pinot Noir can get earthy and mushroomy, bright and tart, filled out with fruit and herbal flavors. But can you get any of that in a weeknight wine? We decided to put a mixed case to the test.
Labeling aside, we wondered if there were any good values to be found among the 7 dollar array of sparkling wine that Barefoot has to offer.
This week, we worked our way through the second chapter in the Barefoot lineup: the reds. And our journey was actually much more enjoyable than our tasting of Barefoot's whites.
My mom came into town this weekend. And she came to our Serious Eats wine tasting. I figured a lineup of Barefoot whites would actually be very appropriate for my mom, as most of what I've heard is that they tend to be light, fruity, and sweet (and inexpensive, at about $7 a bottle). Most of them fit the bill, but a couple stood out as much more palatable compared to the rest of the lot.
The bubblies are roughly aligned with the prices of the Yellow Tail varietal bottles, coming in at around $8 to 10, depending on where you buy. And each comes with a novel, resealable closure called a "Zork". Basically, you peel off a spiral of plastic (like some milk gallons have) and shimmy off the remaining closure. Less exciting without the pop one normally looks for in a sparkler, but it should keep the bubbles in the bottle for longer. But is the stuff beyond the Zork any good?
Many of my first wine experiences were at wineries in Napa, leading me to believe that if a wine wasn't $50+, it probably wasn't good. Times have changed, though, and I'm always on the lookout for affordable gems—whether they're priced kindly because they're from lesser-known regions or less-common grapes. But what about the big brands? Are there good bottles to be found in the supermarket aisle? Over the next several weeks we'll be tasting our way through the entire Yellow Tail collection to see if there are a few...err...cubic zirconias in the rough.
I was intrigued to see some of the lesser known grape varieties among the mix (although the options might change from year to year and shop to shop). We picked them all up and gave them the Serious Eats Amateur Wine Tasting treatment. And while a few of the wines were forgettable, we were pleasantly surprised by a couple of bottles that, for $6 each, we'd be happy to pick up again.
When we recently received a sample of the new 500-mL Tetra Paks from Black Box Wines, we had to giggle a little. I mean, they look a bit like juice boxes meant for tucking into a sack lunch. And then we thought: sack lunch with wine? Maybe that's a good idea...
Having recently visited a Trader Joe's in San Francisco as well as the TJ's wine shop in New York City, I was surprised to discover how many different private label wines this chain has to offer. I had to wonder: how much do these wines really improve as you climb the price ladder? Could any of these wines be worth buying in bulk for Thanksgiving?
Last night the Red Sox managed to blow the final game of the season in high style, which means they didn't make the playoffs and thereby allowed my fellow Sox fans to get an early start on writing their epic poems about What It All Means.
Bottom Shelf research coordinator Emily and I drank seltzer at the outdoor ballet last night, even though there was a perfectly good Red Sox game on TV and an even better bottle of rum in the cereal-and-rum cabinet. We did this strange thing for several reasons.
I was in my neighborhood wine shop yesterday, calculating how many bottles I could possibly shove in my too-packed fridge, when this wine caught my eye. I couldn't avoid it, really; there were stacks of Züm everywhere I turned. Was it a tremendously good deal (on sale for under $10) or did they just buy too much? My verdict: this Mosel riesling is a solid budget pick.
One of the signature—and Bottom Shelf-relevant—oddities of Cambridge, Mass., is that so many of the civilians operate in states of sartorial disarray. I tend to be a bit undersheveled myself; my nicest t-shirts are the ones with the bleach stains, because at least they indicate onetime proximity to a cleaning process. But even though my Sunday-best liquor distributor freebies have bathroom-cleaner scars, I still never feel underdressed around here.
We've been exploring the world of riesling this month, and we've tasted some truly delicious, complex wines. Some were hauntingly mineral, and others offered a spark of electric acidity. But as we tasted mostly bottles in the mid-range, pricewise, we were also curious about budget options. Here are two we'd be happy to drink again.
Our kitchen, which is big enough for two people to turn around in simultaneously, has so many cabinets that one of them contains nothing but canned fish and dried fruit, and there is another one dedicated solely to coffee mugs and stolen hot sauces. (Our household policy is that if you're not responsible enough to carefully guard your practically full bottle of Cholula, you can't be trusted with such a nice thing.) And yet we must make do with an undersized fridge that has its capacity further reduced by the two-inch sheet of ice that covers all surfaces when the temperature is set low enough to keep beer from evaporating in the can. It's like having a Rolls-Royce without air conditioning. Or maybe like having a perfectly adequate Volkswagen with crappy air conditioning. Either way, it's tough to keep things cold around here.
How do you spend your wine dollars wisely? If you possibly can, try to favor the wines of Old-World small family estates, not because they are necessarily "better" (though often they are) but because you're getting more absolute wine-quality per dollar spent. Why? Because these families own their land, their vines and their homes. Their only actual expenses not already cited are for equipment maintenance and upgrades, and most saliently for labor.
Sometimes someone will return from a trip to France where he has visited the producer of the wine he's been paying $27.99 for, and he's shocked to see he can buy it at the winery for 9 Euro. He assumes a retinue of greedy capitalists have squeezed every shekel they could eke out of the wine. But where do those numbers come from?
Sorry to have missed you guys last week. I was caught up in a celebration that has me in the mood to talk about sparkling wine—André Blush California Pink Champagne, to be specific. We'll get to that in a couple paragraphs. First let's remind ourselves of my good fortune.
Did you realize there are seven varieties of Two (or Three) Buck Chuck on the shelf at Trader Joe's? Here at Serious Eats, we take that kind of thing as a challenge. Which is the best Two Buck Chuck? What should you do with the bad stuff, besides pouring it down the drain? The answers may surprise you.