It's time to let you in on a little research project that Dave and I have stumbled into. We're taking one for the team, and we wanted to let you know about it.
We recently found ourselves absolutely wine-less. It was a sad day at the barn. When we hit the city, wine deprived and cash poor, we visited the Liquor Barn to remedy this situation as affordably as possible. Our bind having put me in a rare quantity-over-quality state of mind, I proposed that we have a fun hunt for cheap wine, which evolved into a game of picking $5.00 bottles to try. Six bottles later, all of different varietals and vintners, we had the beginning of science in the name of the public good. (Seriously, it's all about you folks out there.)
Surely you too have found yourself in the position of coveting wine with dinner, but not wanting to or able to spend big bucks, and wondering if any good cheap wines are out there. Well, we're here to find out for you. We're only budding oenophiles, so there will be no flowery descriptions (I'm still trying to figure out how they taste those peaches and apricots in there), but we'll tell you what we think and whether we'd buy them again. Two bottles have now been dutifully drained, and the first report is ready.
The first to be cracked open was a 2007 French Maid Chardonnay. With a name and a label like that (I'm a Francophile who owns a French maid costume--bought for Halloween, I promise!), it had to be tried. It was cute. It came from France. I had hopes.
Unfortunately, our maid must have come from the rough part of her French town. She was all dolled up but had no refinement or class, not even much pleasantry. In fact, she put up a fight against even opening, breaking our cork screw in the process. (Perhaps that should have been a sign.) Once wrestled open, she was a mite raw and harsh, maybe a one star wine if we're being generous, meaning barely drinkable but not repeatable. The succint verdict is that we wouldn't buy it again, and it's proof that not everything French is beautiful. Enough said.
The second test bottle was a 2010 Fish Eye pinot noir hailing from South Eastern Australia.
Now this was more like it. Although lacking the full body and rounded depth of pricier reds we've tried, we enjoyed consuming it. I especially liked it, which was a pleasant change for me, as I sometimes have trouble with the oakiness and tannic qualities of most reds. My red shy self actually relished its immaturity or juvenility, if you will. (I'm getting more flowery. Somebody tweet Food and Wine magazine.) I found it quite grapey, totally missing the cherry and spice mentioned on the label, like a very grown up grape drink with more bottom notes that I could easily put away. In fact, I just realized that it had the dark grapey quality of the suicide sodas I had at a church camp concession stand when I was a girl, the one with a little bit of all the drinks in it, but with grape always singing a descant above the Coke and Sprite and Mello Yello. That may sound weird, but it's a good thing, in case you've never experienced a suicide. (But maybe you should try one in order to say that you've really lived.)
As I said, not a practiced wine palate here. We're dealing with the basics: Did we feel that our $5.00 was wasted, and would we voluntarily drink it again? This wine scored well on both points. It's unsophisticated, yes, but also inoffensive. Downright fun, if you haven't graduated to full fledged red appreciation.
There you have it, folks--the average Joe and Jane report on our first two experimental wines. Four more still await our assessment. If we have little bargain success at the $5.00 price point, we plan to try $6.00 wine. Then we'll move up the dollar scale until we find the tipping point at which more dollars more reliably buys better wine. Unless I can find this Three Buck Chuck I've read about, in which case we could back track.
Oh, the possibilities! For you, we're willing to be the guinea pigs.