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, most face-planting, getcha drunk wines on the market. This week: Arbor Mist.
The Vintage: Arbor Mist Sangria Zinfandel, ABV 6%
Arbor Mist is a classed up Boone's Farm that survived its high school heyday (O'Doyle rules!) and is trying to erase the Wild Island daze by dropping the splashy neon colors and opting for a more subdued pastel color palate (trim A-line skirt and clean-cut bob optional). Arbor Mist is light and fruity spritzer version of wine, basically a wine cooler in gigantic bottle form.
I imagine it's perfect for suburban housewives, people who think liquor tastes icky, lightweights, or whoever the heck the wine cooler target is. The actual brand reference sheet refers to Arbor Mist's "Primary Consumer Target" as "Overwhelmed." 2.5 kids, second mortgage, and a dog that shits on the rug! I was right on the money.
(See, swirl, sniff, sip and savor this bounty after the jump)
Appearance: The Sangria Zinfandel has the distinction of being the clearest sangria I have every encountered. While it gets points for forgoing the overtly fake coloring of cheaper bum wines, don't go thinking that means this is a more "natural" alternative. It still has the same disturbing, slightly carbonated hiss that these wines emit when cornered and uncapped. It's slightly darker than a pink zinfandel but still far short of true red sangria. Also, it lacks any deliciously redeeming fruity bits.
Bouquet: It smells like a poorly ventilated hair salon. Maybe they're courting the "Ladies Who Lunch" audience? All I smell is spoiled fruit and that nasty cream developing solution from every bad perm and unfortunate DIY bleach job I've ever attempted. When I was in sixth grade my mom had the salon cut my hair to ear length and then spiral curl the shit out of it. I sat in the chair for an hour smelling this vile developing solution and then cried when they unrolled the curlers and my springy afro came to fruition. Wow. Thanks for bringing back all those traumatic memories, Arbor Mist.
Body: If it weren't for the scent of hair salon, the taste wouldn't be that bad. It's innocuous and light, just like a fruit juice spritzer should be. It lacks the sugar-laden flavor of Boone's and the firewater flavor profile of Cisco (which is also made by the same company). It tastes absolutely nothing like sangria, though, more like sparkling water mixed with fermented grape juice. Although there were cherries and citrus abound on the label, my taste buds didn't taste a hint of the promised fruitiness.
Finish: The aftertaste is pretty rank. When the wine clears your nose and hits your tongue, you're good for a minute, then it coats the back of your throat on the way down and all that hair salon aroma becomes flavor-ized right there. It's like sparkling fruit juice mixed with bile. Or chemicals. Or something utterly unfit for human consumption.
Pairs with: The bitter tears of broken suburban dreams, accented by new car air freshener, a rising debt to income ratio, and maybe a nice relish tray.
Lasting impressions: Let's face it, white zinfandel might as well be grape drink to a sommelier, and this vintage does nothing to dispel that assumption. In fact, it highlights the disparity between drinkable wine and juicy juice by adding natural and artificial fruit flavors to the mix. Don't worry, no actual fruit juice was harmed in the making of this "wine," just bilious fruit flavoring. I can't imagine wanting to ever purchase this vintage again unless I was whacked out of my gourd on Prozac and looking for something to make my insides sparkle in the cheap wine section, and in that scenario I imagine I'd be smiling regardless of how rank the wine was.
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