Anyone who has searched the couch cushions for a handful of change knows that boozing on an extreme budget can be a risky proposition. To help you decide how to spend that meager pile of pennies, we've scraped the Bottom of the Barrel to review some of the cheapest swill on the market.
The Vintage: Wild Vines Blackberry Merlot, ABV 6.0%
Wild Vines may have the distinction of being the only bottle of merlot we've ever encountered with the phrase "serve chilled" glaring up at us from label. "Serve chilled," and worse yet, "serve very cold," are ghetto wine double-speak for "numb your tastebuds, because they're sure as hell not going to like what's in this bottle." Wild Vines also has the dubious distinction of being one of the only bottles of merlot we've seen that has a list of ingredients on the label, which is telling. Merlot is listed first, thankfully, but is closely followed by carbonated water, two types of sugar, and the mysterious natural and artificial flavors. Noticeably absent are blackberries, because this is not blackberry wine. It's purple drink.
To call Wild Vines blackberry merlot a wine is an insult to hard working grapes everywhere, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad choice for afternoon imbibing, frazzled housewife style.
(See, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor this bounty after the jump)
Appearance: Deep, dark purple. At the very least the mad scientists pumping this bottle full of artificial dye and "natural" flavors managed to land on a lush blackberry-purple hue. Although it bears little resemblance to most merlots, it's not the equivalent of a neon sign flashing "cheap booze!" like Boone's or Mad Dog.
Bouquet: A very berry fruit punch medley, like someone just opened up a jar of blackberry jam. Although the smell is a bit more reminiscent of cheap air fresheners and dollar store candles than food product.
Body: A how-to tutorial for making Wild Vines: Grab a bottle of grape juice and toss in a couple of tablespoons of berry jam. We're starting to doubt that this is an alcoholic product, despite the label assuring us that it's so. On second thought, maybe that's the appeal?
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Finish: A slightly acidic tang chases a swig of this blackberry flavored grape drink, but the same can be said for a regular cup of grape juice. Save yourself the sugar-induced hangover and go buy some cheap but decent red wine like The Big Kahuna or Cape Peak.
Pairs with: The Wild Vines' recipe suggestions include entrees like Brazilian chicken, which requires a bottle of red wine that you'd be better off drinking in place or this swill. Or you could go for NY steak skewers, which require a cut of meat that probably costs more than an entire case of this blackberry swill. Be realistic, Wild Vines. Your clientele is more likely to be eating cold lo mein straight from the take-out box, after it passes the sniff test for freshness of course.
Lasting impressions: At least it tastes like juice, which is more than can be said for most frou frou alco-pop "wines" on the market. We could see how it may be refreshing poured over ice or mixed with sparkling water, spritzer-style. Just ignore the advertised "merlot," because it's nowhere in the bottle, and embrace this sugary swill for what it is, an adult alternative to grape juice.
Know of any screw top vintages we just have to try? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.