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 screw-top wines on the market. This week: Franzia.
The Vintage: Franzia Crisp White, ABV 13.6%
On the scale of shame, boxed wine ranks just a couple notches above gutter wine wrapped in a brown paper bag. If Thunderbird is the dredges scraped from the absolute bottom of the barrel, Franzia is the stuff they siphon off the top of that vat of booze. Franzia used to be owned by the Gallo brothers (Fred Franzia is a nephew of the Gallos), until they sold it off to The Wine Group. Proof that legacy of Ernest and Julio Gallo lives on, dedicated to keeping us poor boozehounds awash in a river of cheap wine.
Franzia is also one of the best options out there for getting you drunk on the cheap, and is much more palatable than its fortified wine brethren. A five liter bladder of wine encased in a stylish cardboard box can run you as little as ten bucks. That works out to 28 six-ounce glasses of wine for a mere ten note. The Crisp White vintage is an unknown combo of grapes (we assume) that is an ideal table wine for those with watered down palates. Break out the crystal glassware, because you're going to need something to gussy up this tired (but dependable) old mare.
(See, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor this bounty after the jump)
Appearance: Franzia Crisp White looks like watered down white table wine. This alone is not very notable, but Franzia's benefit lies in the fact that you have five boozy liters of watered down white table wine. An impressive bladder o' booze that can get your entire party drunk.
Bouquet: Bland and inoffensive. The official site describes Franzia Crisp White as being of medium body with floral undertones, but there was very little floral bouquet noted. It smelled like cheap wine with slightly acrid undertones of vinegar. Provided you abstain from huffing your wine with every sip, you should have no problem consuming this white.
Body: Again, Franzia Crisp White proves elusive. Nothing is too distinctive about the vintage. You may have to keep looking down to reassure yourself that indeed, you are consuming a glass of wine. The body is slightly fruity and very watered down. It's hard to believe that this deceptive glass of white wine clocks in at 13.6% alcohol by volume. Therein lies its dangerous little secret.
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Finish: Aha! There's the patent ghetto wine zip! Franzia hits the back of your throat and causes all those bitter taste buds to shrivel up with glee. The slight vinegar scent contributes to the pucker factor, although after the first couple of sips your tongue will accept the inevitability of cheap wine coming its way and quit putting up such a fight.
Pairs with: The glorious thing about boxed wine is that it pairs well with just about anything. But the fact that you're drinking this dirt cheap vintage means that you're probably more of the kipper snack demographic instead of hanging with the well-bred pate crowd. And everyone knows that kipper snacks go great with saltines and mustard. Bon appetite!
Lasting impressions: 5 liters for $9.99! 5 liters for $9.99! 5 liters for $9.99! A box of Franzia will keep in your refrigerator for months on end, and at ten dollars a pop, there's really no excuse for us thrifty boozers to abstain. Plus, the Crisp White vintage (playing loosely with that term) is one wine that tastes great over ice, and you will feel only mildly guilty doing it in the process.
Know of any screw top vintages we just have to try? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.