Bottom of the Barrel: Hungover Sunday in Woodstock is as magical as you would imagine
Have you ever woken up in a bunk-bed in a Vermont cabin accompanied by great friends and a pain in your head? Well your esteemed columnists sure have. A couple weekends back we ventured over to the Green Mountain State for no real reason at all and found ourselves in the picturesque town of Woodstock, Vermont. Per the recommendation of a dear friend and Woodstock regular, we stopped in at the famed FH Gillingham & Sons general store to see what they had to offer. Gillingham did not disappoint in its wine selection, containing delightful bottles both Old World and New. We thought, to commemorate our Grand Excursion, that we ought to get something that reflected the local terroir.
Putney’s Apple Maple Wine presented itself as a truly Vermont vino. When one who has spent relatively little time in the state thinks of Vermont, he thinks of apples and maple. Rumor has it that some who spend lots of time in the state think of apples and maple when they think of Vermont. While the verdict isn’t out on what makes this wine a wine and not a cider (many of the options stoked at Gillingham were marketed as ciders), your reviewers were very excited to try this bev and look back on our idyllic weekend spent slightly south of where we currently are.
We uncorked the bottle on a calm, unseasonably warm Monday night, dreaming of cross-country skiing, taking the kids on a sleigh ride and chopping pine on a Saturday afternoon. The wine pours clear and looks like a golden, grape-only white wine. We believe this color is almost certainly derived from the apples. Apple cider is sort of golden, right? There isn’t much of a nose to the wine, but the legs show just from the pour. Not able to smell a whole-heck-of-a-lot, we dove right into our tasting.
This wine does not taste like a grape-only wine. This wine is, upon initial contact between beverage and tongue, dry. This wine, seconds after this initial contact between b and t, tastes spicy. This wine has a kick. This wine probably has a kick from the maple. These reviewers question whether the maple was added before or after fermentation. The kick may derive from a spicy post-fermentation addition of maple. The kick may derive from the fermentation of honey producing a drying-out quality. Interestingly enough, this wine is mild in the booze department, clocking in at a calm and tender 10 percent. This kick, this spice, is mysterious.
In theory: we are fond of this wine. It is an interesting application of local resources to create a product representative of a space and time. It is clear from visiting the winery’s website that the vintners are passionate about producing a quality product in a place that they love. At the end of the day, that’s a great thing. While the wine may not be to our tastes, were we to open a bottle shop (currently seeking investors), it’s a product we’d proudly sell.
Tonight's Soundtrack: Phish, live: August 20, 1993 - Red Rocks, Morrison, Colorado
Justin: "Vermon is cool, not quite Maine cool, but in my live ranking of New England states it has surpassed Rhode Island. Also Boston—it was always cooler than Boston. “
Will: “It’s foolhardy to talk about the Vermont beverage industry without making reference to its incredible craft brewing scene. Speaking of beer, if Jae-Yeon Yoo [’18] and Nick Benson [’17] of the Orient’s Tapped Out column want to review my homebrew, I wouldn’t stop them."
Bottom of the Barrel: Zum Martin Sepp Rosé 2012 proves to be a 'cool guy' wine
Schweller: Moulton Light Room breakfaster, grew a mustache all summer, has a pretentious major, has worn his beanies super far back on his head, doesn’t eat meat, brews his own beer, the little-known Bowdoin Don Dada of the Birkenstock clog, lives in Cleave
Ramos: Sneaky theater guy, listened to Vampire Weekend in ’07, thinks La La Land is straight hype, macaroni art enthusiast, not as crunchy as Will, lives in Cleave
A lot of the time, we sacrifice for you folks. We drink duds so that we can create amusing musings tangentially related to said duds so that you can read them out of sympathy for us, but you never leave the exchange between author and reader feeling like you want to go out and buy the duds and drink them and share in our experience. This week your columnists were feeling like ~cool guys~, and ~cool guys~ don’t buy just any old dud. So we made a trip towards Tess’ Market over on Pleasant Street for some ~cool guy~ wine.
And ~cool guy~ wine did we find in the Zum Martin Sepp Rosé 2012.
This pale, pale, pale, rosé wine is mysterious. Elusive. Found covered in dust on the floor of a narrow row in the back of Tess’ Market, the bottle is shaped weirdly relative to your standard Hanny’s fare. The bottle is squat, probably a 1-liter. Instead of a cork, it had a beer cap, which to Will suggests some sort of small-time, back-alley secret—like this wine was quickly bottled and then hidden away. The label is simple, slightly faded and torn. The wine is advertised as an Austrian rosé, and the label bears a street address in Vienna. Perhaps that of the vintner who so carefully stashed this bottle on Pleasant Street for us to find. Described on the back of the bottle as a dry red wine reminiscent of Pinot Noir, the Zweigelt grapes promised to create a wine complex, spicy, suggestive of times spent discussing Das holländische Gruppenporträt with Riegl before the War. The fact that the wine was called simply Rosé should have been a suggestion that we were in for light fare, but regardless we were surprised as all get-out when we poured a liquid the color of a pinkish-yellow fit for a nursery.
We first tasted the wine very lightly chilled. It smelled big. In your face. JNCO jean big. It tastes, upon first sip, like a summer spent in Brunswick Apartment K3. It tastes like keeping the windows open at night even though folks are outside milling about, making all kinds of noise. It tastes like jumping into Sewell Pond from the rope swing and stopping at DQ on the way back. But, FR FR, it only tastes like this for like a millisecond. Then it tastes dry. Like licking a dog’s bone two seasons after it buried it dry. Clean. Like straight booze, sucking the moisture out of your mouth. But in a good way. It makes you think. Several friends who sipped this sweet (sweet only in the sense of “sweet juice” being a common turn-of-phrase, and common turns-of-phrase [not to mention overly complex sentences] [or semi-niche hip-hop references] being our bread and butter [see what we mean]) juice commented on their fondness for it.
Public Service Announcement: wine is good. Being sick is bad. One of the reasons being sick is bad is that it makes wine, which is good, taste bad. For our sniffling and sneezing columnist, Justin, this ~cool guy~ wine had a lot of anticipation. But ultimately it tasted like dry water with a boozy after taste. So, for those afflicted with the common cold, leave the ~cool guy~ wine for another time.
Tonight's Soundtrack: "LOL :-)" by Trey Zongz feat. Gucci Mane and Soulja Boy Tell 'Em
Justin: "Hot take: being sick is not a ~cool guy~ move."
Will: "This is honestly the first wine that I want to buy multiple bottles of to drink. Really, genuinely, liked it, no poorly conceived jokes needed."
Bottom of the Barrel: Ellis "La Forza" Palmieri '17 joins us to uncork a taste of Italy
Senior year is all about friendships—and crippling stress but I digress—so what better way to start our first wine column of the year than to invite our dear friend and housemate Ellis “La Forza” Palmieri ’17, co-captain emeritus of the much-vaunted Bowdoin Rugby Football Club, to join us. Ellis spent all of winter break in Italy, and that mere fact alone means he already knows more about wine than either of us.
With our internationally travelled friend on the mind, we selected a Bell’Agio Chianti 2015, proudly bearing both the wicker-basketted bottle oft associated with wines of its kind and the candles used at the Cub Scout Spaghetti Dinner fundraisers at which Will used to work. A wine that displays its national and regional origins so proudly is perfect for this, we thought, seeing as such a wine must truly try its best to represent its roots well. We hoped to impress La Forza with our eye for fine Italian vintages, knowing that his potential disappointment in it would leave us in the lowest of spirits.
This wine smells of dust despite its young age. Smelling this wine dims the lights of whatever room you’re in to the luminosity of a single lit taper. All sounds take on the din of quiet conversation. Suspense lingers on every sniff. The taste reveals the wine to be a heavy hitting red, reminiscent of certain boxed varietals found in regions across our great nation. Tasting reveals a change in equation. Nuance is not on the table. Justin was quick to note that the wine tastes like what he imagined wine tasting like when he was at the table with his parents at various Italian eateries. You’d think the buttery grapes would glide you to the hill towns of central Tuscany. However, upon second and third sip, it appears your journey has been redirected to somewhere of a different tone. Tuscaloosa, perhaps? Or could we be detecting notes of Happy Valley, Pennsylvania? The mouthfeel left by the bev was vinous, to say the least. Seconds after the garnet liquid passes down your throat the taste of what one can only identify as wine lingers.
With that, we’ll leave you with this:
The Palmieri Review
Many thanks to Big Billy Schweller and JJ “Drama” Ramos for the feature in this week’s article. As they’ve already informed you, I spent my winter traversing the wine country of my homeland experiencing only the finest of this succulent red fruit. The aforementioned journey across Italy became a sort of spirit quest to reestablish my innate connection to the grapevine.
If I learned anything from my dear mother (Hi Mom!) who was more than generous, and more than quite insistent, that I partake in the tasting of fine Italian wines, I would say that the Chianti proves underwhelming among the ranks of its peers. While the Chianti is able to pose as a good wine to the lesser-versed wine drinkers that sit to my right and left, the true Italian wines of Amarone and Brunello are the heavyweight fighters when it comes to Italian wines. To settle the long standing family debate over which carries more weight, I’ll use this credible and well established wine forum to be the first to publish the final verdict—Amarone is a better wine than a Brunello. Chianti is nice if you like grape juice, but the real wine drinkers won’t go wrong with an Amarone.
Tonight's Soundtrack: "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?"-Frankie Lyman & The Teenagers
Justin: "This wine would gain a full star rating if I had an Italian delicacy to pair it with. RIP to the ball Scamorza left home over break 1/21/17-1/22/17."
Will: "I can't say I'd buy this wine to drink again, but I can say I'd buy this wine to keep a few bottles in my room for the aesthetic."
Bottom of the Barrel: Everybody hurts sometimes when sipping Falkenburg Riesling 2014
Wednesday December 25, 2002: Chevy Chase, Maryland
It was a still morning, 36 degrees Fahrenheit, and the smell of my mother’s mahogany balsam 3-Wick Candle filled the air. Christmas morning, bitches. Few moments in life are filled with more excitement and anticipation than the Christmas mornings of your youth. But this year was different. This year there was a craze sweeping the nation. This year Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire hit stores. I had sent St. Nick an analytical paper detailing why exactly I deserved a spot on the nice list. It was perhaps my greatest work. In return I had asked for one of the two games. Truthfully I had a preference for Ruby but I was in no position to be picky. So that morning, filled to the brim with enthusiasm, I immediately ran towards the Christmas tree. Within moments of shredding the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer wrapping paper, I knew. Underneath that exceptionally crafted exterior laid a brand new Easy Bake Oven. Underneath that exceptionally crafted exterior laid disappointment.
Sunday, August 25, 2013: Dewey Beach, Delaware
The surf is soft as you wake Sunday morning, mouth tasting like crab cakes, heart heavy. You’re two weeks from starting your freshman year of college—you applied early to Dartmouth, but bygones...The broken air conditioner of your family’s timeshare, two blocks from the beach, clangs. Its noise is not why you slept poorly the night before. Love, or rather love lost is why you slept poorly the night before. Erica. Hell, did you ever love Erica? It sure seemed like it just two nights ago when you shared a Marlboro Gold with her under the boardwalk, enjoying the relaxed curfew earned at age 18. She was back in town from her freshman year at The New School, grown up, sophisticated, cultured. You thought this was your break. That’s when you asked the question, “So, how do you feel about long distance?” For three summers you talked with her at beachside barbeques, yearning for stolen kisses, late night confidences. There was an awkward silence in the air, each second feeling like an eternity, and then she responded “Sorry kiddo, I’ve got a man in the city.”
Monday, November 28, 2016: Brunswick, Maine
It’s past starting to get cold. It’s downright chilly. It’s dark. Our guts are heavy from a week of binge eating. However, our spirits are high. We arrived at Bootleggers, over in Topsham, with dreams of finding the perfect pre-final paper mood elevator. Copping a bottle of something toasty to cuddle up with. We were prepared to fork over more than the standard $10 for something special. We were overjoyed to find that for $12 we could get something exciting, though slightly a-seasonal: an ostentatiously packaged Falkenburg Riesling from 2014.
As wine columnists we’ve striven to toe the party line: wine is a pretty dang good thing. We’ve waxed poetic on how it can help set the atmosphere on a melancholy evening alone, how it makes you want to sit in the back of a Wraith with the starlights on the ceiling, how it is simply tasty and an object worth enjoying. We expected, when purchasing the Falkenburg ’14, to be stunned. The German wine comes in a 1.5L bottle stretched to resemble a cross between the majesty of the Saturn V rocket and the modernist je ne sais quoi of Brancusi’s Bird in Space. Loyal readers of the column will know that empirically, the cooler the bottle, the better the wine. Well, now we can say that’s not always the case. The ol’ Falkenburg is gross. A disappointment greater than that of Easy Bake Ovens or unrequited love. It is hardly worth noting flavor profiles. There isn’t much to say other than: were we you, we would not buy this wine.
Tonight's Soundtrack: "Everybody Hurts"-R.E.M.
Justin: "I'd like to thank my parents for getting me all the Pokemon paraphernalia you could possibly imagine."
Will: "I feel like Yu-Gi-Oh! doesn't get as much shine as it deserves these days."
Bottom of the Barrel: YOUnity incorporates local flavors in ‘Maine’s House Wine’
Have you ever noticed that Bowdoin College is in Maine?
The valleys of Bordeaux. The dusty shores of Portugal. Napa. Great wine often conjures up Mediterranean climates, small plated meals, big price tags. Cheap wine often aspires to Mediterranean climates and small plated meals through fancy looking labels and overly complex names. Buyers may grab a bottle thinking they will escape to a small village in the foothills of Vesuvius only to find themselves still very much in the foothills of suburban New Jersey.
Well, folks, guess what? We may have found a reasonably priced bottle that aspires not for the Old World, but for our dear old Pine Tree State.
Our selection this week, YOUnity Winery’s House Wine, is unabashedly Maine in it’s branding. In fact, there are nine references to the state of Maine on the label alone. The bottle’s description speaks of “wicked-good pasta” and “wicked-good times” with family and friends. YOUnity’s branding is unpretentious, fun and whimsical. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but the wine is awesome. The bottle is even more awesome. No irony here—merely appreciation for a charming, New England graphic.
Upon uncorking, the wine pours pinkish-red. Think back to the mushed blueberries on your face during the summer of your fifth year. That color. The nose is distinctly sweet. The legs longer than a NASCAR race.
The initial taste was semi-dry and distinctly sweet. Our mouths were initially confused; blueberry wine serves as a distinct tasting experience from more traditional grapes. You often hear of berry notes in wine, but this is a berry symphony. Owner Clem Blakney emphasizes, “This IS NOT a blend with grape but 100% Blueberry from our supplier in Stockton Springs.” Blueberries are really truly the prime fruit. It’s impossible to name something that isn’t improved by the addition of blueberries. Pancakes, salsa, motor oil.
This is an adult complex wine for non-wine drinkers and wine drinkers alike. It is complex without being biting. It’s sweet without being Pixie Stix. It’s certainly a more delightful conversation than any talk anyone has ever had with our mutual friend Allen. This wine makes you feel good, and we sincerely think it is more than just the hefty 13.5 percent ABV.
Tonight's Soundtrack: John Cougar Mellencamp's Greatest Hits
Justin: "I feel like this wine is giving me a hug."
Will: "While drinking this wine, I really wish I were back home, scouring my old man's closet for some ratty Brooks Bros. polos."
Bottom of the Barrel: Myx Moscato and calamari is our summer diet
The hip-hop hot takes expressed in this column do not reflect the opinions of the Bowdoin Orient or Bowdoin College. However, hopefully, they do coincidentally coincide with those of President Clayton Rose.
Hip-hop and grapes are inexorably linked. Rappers have been discussing wine in their tracks for decades—from Drake’s tweet on October 1, 2012: “Dropped my phone in a glass of wine…just to give you an idea of where my life is at these days,”—to Drake’s line from 2013’s Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2: “Afterhours at Il Mulino/Or Sotto Sotto, just talkin’ women and vino.” Heck, rappers (one in particular, it seems) even cite their love of wine in print publications. Take Claire Hoffman’s April 2012 profile on Drake for GQ Magazine as a prime example: “At the ready are a bottle of chilled white wine and a pitcher of ice, for tonight we shall drink wine spritzers, his favorite beverage and also mine.”
Your intrepid columnists do indeed love wine. They also do indeed love hip-hop. Therefore, it is not without coincidence that the wine that they choose to review this week is doubly inexorably linked to hip-hop. Myx Moscato is Nicki Minaj’s wine. She raps about it. She appears in advertisements for it. She co-owns the company that produces it. The wine does not come packaged in a traditional, 750-milliliter wine bottle. Rather, it is sold as a four-pack of 11.2-ounce, capped bottles. Stylized like a curvier, sleeker bottle of Bud Light Platinum, complete with twist-off bottle cap, Myx Moscato promises to be a treat. This was not a wine selected on a whim. This was a wine pursued.
Poured into a standard 18-ounce wine glass, Myx Moscato is clear and lightly effervescent. It looks like water and smells like sugar water. Butterflies would try and drink Myx Moscato if you placed an open bottle in a meadow. Justin immediately thought of his summer evenings spent at the esteemed NYC institution, La Marina. Myx Moscato tastes like fruit juice, perhaps because it is wine mixed quite literally with fruit juice. Myx Moscato will—full guarantee—be the only moscato that these two wine reviewers will ever consume on nightclub couches. Myx Moscato is smooth. Myx Moscato is tasty. Myx Moscato comes in four small bottles. This is pretty cool. Porsche Panameras have four doors. This is pretty cool.
Perhaps our only complaint is that Myx Moscato does not come in a larger bottle. The size of the Myx Moscato bottle prevents it from being shared with friends at table. Myx Moscato is worth purchasing. Myx Moscato is worth bragging about purchasing.
Tonight's Soundtrack: "Truffle Butter" (2014) by Nicki Minaj feat. Drake and Lil Wayne (as if it could be anything else)
Justin: "This is a Socratic wine."
Will: "This is a moscato that would inspire me to write favorable comments on this column's online edition."
Bottom of the Barrel: Flaco Tempranillo 2014 serves as second-best option to Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
Rough estimates suggest that there is a great variety of wine available to a curious, of-age Bowdoin student. A quick trip to the Hannaford snack aisle to buy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (which all seasoned Hannaford patrons know the store fails to stock), and one can see wines of all colors, prices and brands. This breadth of options, when paired with the shocking disappointment derived from a lack of red-powdered, spicy snacks is dizzying. The wrong purchase—a bad bottle of wine—can lead to a particularly sour night. Choose the right wine, however, and the evening’s proceedings can be magical.
It’s oft best to rely on the advice of others. Hell, even the Orient’s most seasoned wine-reviewers need help. This week, we looked to the wizened Somms of Hannaford’s Limited Reserve. Justin knew what to get the moment he saw it: The Flaco Tempranillo 2014. Doubly enticing were the wine’s association to hip-hop legend and pioneer, A$AP Rocky a.k.a. Lord FLACkO Jodye. Will was hooked as soon as he saw a cork.Before starting the tasting, we let the Tempranillo breathe for an hour. In the meantime, we prepared accordingly—decorating the table with a fresh ball of mozz and letting 1997 Diddy aerate the room.
The only way to describe the nose of this Spanish red is “boozy.” Red fruits dominate initial taste—a touch of spice. Will detects hints of dates and brown sugar. Thin mouthfeel, kinda light but not Natty Light. We want to drink this in a red velvet chair in a fur coat.
This wine is like a fake Rolex.
This wine makes you wish it was 10 degrees warmer.
This wine pairs well with fresh mozzarella.
This wine complains about taxes.
This wine thinks Dean Martin is better than Frankie.
This wine stays draped in Vines.
As with all research, it turned out as we set about writing our review that our esteemed predecessors at “Bottom of the Barrel,” Bryce Ervin ’15 and Brandon Oullette ’15 had already reviewed an earlier vintage of this wine on September 12, 2014. In their words: “This wine would be excellent if you wanted boxed-wine quality at a bottle-wine price.” It appears we drank a very different wine.
Highly recommend you snag the pretty Flaco while it’s around. Highly recommend you write positive things in the online comments of this article.
Tonight's Soundtrack: "No Way Out" by Puff Dadd & the Family (1997).
Justin: "Anytime I drink red wine I would rather be wearing a khaki linen suit."
Will: "I'm strictly trying to cop those colassal sized Picasso's."
Nose: 3 out of 5 stars
Body: 1 out of 5 stars
Taste: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars
Bottom of the Barrel: Smooth Sicilian serves a superb summer swan song
Old World grapes always conjure up images of summer nights on the Continent. Tender evenings spent with a loved one in a petite café. Bulls dodged in narrow alleys. Verses writ.Your dear columnists, once the College’s most prominent Ladd-campus-wide-couch-stander-onners, are now seeking to live the good life. This year we will be sampling the finest wines purveyed by our fair town’s finest purveyor of groceries: Hannaford grocery. By finest wines purveyed by our fair town’s finest purveyor of groceries, Hannaford grocery, we mean the finest wines 10 American dollars can buy.
Will—whose notions of wine and wine-drinking have been most unfortunately informed by his reading of Hemingway while too young —initially balked at the idea of buying wine not corked. But as we made our way down the vino aisle, it was almost as if we heard a faint whisper of a Sicilian ciaramedda in the distance when we came across the 2014 Belmondo. The bottle was unassuming with “Terre Siciliane” emblazoned on the front, indicating its origin from the island’s wine region. Overcome with excitement we made our way home to begin the drinking process. In the hallowed halls of our happy home, 17 Cleaveland Street, amidst clouds of man’s best friends —fruit flies—we began our tasting.
The initial opening of the bottle had Justin questioning whether he lacked a sense of smell, but after pouring into our surprisingly adequate stemware (thanks Old Cleave), an aroma arose.
Half the taste of wine comes from its smell, or so we’ve been told. Needless to say, it’s a lot of fun to swirl the wine in the glass before taking a wee sniff. This particular vintage smells of scratch-and-sniff, generic, what’s-the-first-thing-that-comes-to-mind-when-you-think-of-white-wine white wine. This is not a bad thing. The wine smells like white Concord grape juice poured over playground wood chips. This is not a bad thing. The initial taste matches the nose. Flavor comes seconds after the sip. Slightly sweet like a crisp, October apple. Eminently palatable, this 2014 Grigio is more than just a little reminiscent of elementary school cafeterias and Juicy Juice 100% Juice. Vague notions of apricot kick around in the back. Dry, but who doesn’t like their Grigio dry? Against a dark background the wine is clear. Don’t be deterred by the screw top. This beverage is worth buying for those who want to dip their toes into drinking wine, but don’t want to mess up their pedicures.
As the wine flows, our conversation turns inward. It’s weird being a senior. Don’t recommend it. It’s easy to sit in your kitchen and feel weird about your past, present and future while your friends play NBA 2K16 in the living room. Wine pairs well with nostalgia.
Bottom of the Barrel: From Beringer to Bandit: boxed wine puts the cork in two semesters of savings
After eight months, 11 columns, 5873 words, 15.4 liters of wine and a grand total of four Bowdoin Orient online comments (Special thanks to “JC Strobaugh,” “Bear Grillis,” “eicrow,” and “Eduquest!”), our illustrious tenure at the Bottom of the Barrel is coming to a close. Though we have prided ourselves on our disruptive approach to collegiate wine criticism, we must also acknowledge that we too stand on the shoulders of giants. Therefore, for our final entry, we would like to offer an homage to Bryce Ervin and Brandon Oullette’s canonical April 17, 2015 installment: “Wine juice boxes: an Ivies alternative to bring our your inner child.” [Note that the following is a cross-platform, hypertextual companion to our celebrated April 25, 2016, Monday night master class “Bottom of the Barrel Presents: An Evening with Martin and Will: Imbibing on a Budget: A Vinophile’s Guide to Ivies.”]
We managed this year to find some metaphorical liquid diamonds in the proverbial rough of Hannaford’s wine aisle, but because of our self-imposed $10 budget constraint, we have also drunk a lot of shit wine. As a result, we have become viticultural virtuosos of jazz-like improvisation, adroitly converting our duds into more palatable blended beverages. Mimosas, sangria, even the exotic kalimotxo (red wine and Coca-Cola) are straight-shooting arrows in our quiver of taste.
However, our literary forefathers enlightened us to the potential for a drinkable Ivies wine that can be consumed unadulterated and without concern for grave glassware-induced injury. In a stunning Shakespearean betrayal, we sojourned to Bootleggers rather than Hannaford for our last dive to the Bottom of the Barrel. The tony wine refrigerator lining the back wall impressed us immediately. Drawn to the hypnotizing hum of properly preserved wine, we soon found exactly what we wanted. Just barely within reach on the top shelf stood two prismatic 1 L Tetra Pack® containers of Bandit® Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay ($7.99). Boxed wine seemed a natural extension of our tendency towards hexahedral beverage consumption, as evidenced by our well-documented Facebook official relationship with Boxed Water®.
Twisting open the conveniently re-sealable plastic lid, we were surprised to find two crisp whites sequestered within the aesthetically pleasing packaging. We expected a wine that claims to have been “born to run” to be revolutionary in all aspects, but perhaps the real act of rebellion was managing to combine extreme mobility with dependably good flavors. We wholeheartedly endorse Bandit® and its myriad of varieties as the key to a safe Dionysian Ivies experience.
Despite our longstanding pecuniary feud with the editorial staff, we would be remiss if we did not thank the Orient for providing us with an occasionally read public platform in which to hone our wine-based bona fides. Look out for our upcoming blog featuring our reviews of the Mongolian delicacy airag.
Tonight’s Soundtrack: “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel (from "The Graduate: Music from the Broadway Comedy").
Will: “I hope this column gets me endorsed for ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘editorial experience’ on LinkedIn.”
Martin: “Is this column a failure if I still think all white wines taste the same?”
Nose: 2/5Body: 3/5Mouthfeel: 4/5Legs: ?/5Taste: 4/5
Bottom of the Barrel: Parting the Red Sea: Manischewitz Concord Grape wine
This month, your esteemed critics were faced with a predicament that has plagued sitcom writers since the beginning of time—namely whether to produce a holiday-themed installment before or after the true day of celebration. Luckily, fulfilling our remaining Kickstarter rewards from last semester’s wildly successful $135 bacchanalia impressed upon us the necessity of delivering this review in advance of Passover. Thus, we have finally brought to fruition Will’s sororal obligation to sample Manischewitz Concord Grape wine.
While France and Israel have both developed robust Kosher wine industries, the Manischewitz bottle is what most American Jews reach for when celebrating Seder or Shabbat. Despite Martin’s preemptive chiding by a fellow Hannaford shopper when purchasing the wine, our consumption took place under decidedly non-ceremonial circumstances. However, we took care to pair our drinking with one of Manischewitz’s other Kosher offerings: Everything Matzah—an essential nosh not only for times of lessened leaven, but also for all 353, 354, 355, 383, 384 or 385 days of the lunar year.
The Passover season also allowed your esteemed critics to indulge their shared passion for musical theater, as the obvious soundtrack to our night’s proceedings was “Fiddler on the Roof.” Though we at first erroneously settled upon the 1995 Anthony Newley rendition, we were quick to correct our mistake and substitute in the exemplary original 1964 cast recording, anchored by legendary thespian Zero Mostel. The emotional roller coaster we rode from “Prologue: Tradition” to “Anatevka” proved the perfect accompaniment to our prolonged consumption of the generously sized bottle.
Though the 1.5L Magnum ($8.99) provided double the usual quantity of wine, its wide neck foiled our normal decanting method with the VinOair. Even without this aerating augmentation, the Vitis labrusca-corn syrup medley manifested itself in a powerfully “grapey” nose and mucilaginous mouthfeel. We immediately had transcultural flashbacks to the Scuppernong debacle of last January 29, but the ritualistic qualities of the Manischewitz proved much more comforting than its similarly sweet cousin. We were then transported even further back to the tweenage joy—real and imagined—of swallowing thimblesworths of “Mani” at bar and bat mitzvahs, dreams of adult beverage adulation whirring in our heads.
Now ready to make good on those earlier aspirations, we find that this wine performed poorly by every single college metric we have developed to date. However lacking in taste the Manischewitz may have been, it more than succeeded in reminding us of the rich cultural heritage of the Jewish people. Recreational Manischewitz use may prove to be unwise, and JSwipe may not pass muster as a digital Yente, but as we neared the end of the bottle, our yearning for connection was satisfied. Chag Sameach! Additional Notes:
Tonight’s Soundtrack: “Fiddler on the Roof” (Original Broadway Cast Recording)Will: “Can my quote be, ‘Could whoever took my boots with yellow laces from Red Brick please them return to me?’”Martin: “If I was an Israeli trap DJ, my name would be ‘Lazer Wolf.’” Nose: 3.6/5Body: 1.8/5Mouthfeel: 1.8/5Legs: 3.6/5Taste: 1.8/5
Bottom of the Barrel: Going off-script: corporate dreams fall flat with Skinnygirl® Chardonnay
Long-time readers of our column will know that your esteemed critics are not only devoted aficionados of Bravo’s myriad “Real Housewives” series but also connoisseurs of fine wines. We can hardly go more than a few paragraphs without mentioning Teresa Giudice’s legal travails or Phaedra Parks’s thriving funerary business or Andy Cohen’s dog Wacha. Thus, it should come as no surprise that we have been dying to review one of Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl® wines for our column. Thanks to a wonderful closeout sale at Hannaford this week that knocked the price of the 2012 Chardonnay down to $5.89, the oenophile entrepreneur’s wares finally met our singular review criterion. Skinnygirl®: The Wine Collection Chardonnay boasts the “complex, lingering flavors” of everyone’s favorite white, while still managing to come in at only 100 calories per standard serving. Strangely absent from the label, however, is the statistic that most other wines average only 128 calories per standard serving. Nonetheless, we wished to immerse ourselves in the lifestyle transmediated by way of Skinnygirl®’s intertextual advertising campaign. Could anyone become a Skinnygirl® as long as they identified as “sophisticated and sassy?” Or was it a privilege conferred upon an elite few, those willing to submit themselves to the aspirational dictums formerly espoused by Bethenny Frankel but now enjoined by the crypto-plutocratic regime of Suntory Holdings Limited? Does drinking Skinnygirl® make one a skinny girl, a Skinny Girl or a Skinnygirl®? We momentarily acquiesced to the idealized lifestyle peddled by this multinational conglomerate. But in doing so, did we lose any flavor when we said goodbye to those 28 calories, or, rather, does the wine taste better coupled with the knowledge that we can safely eat 14 Tic Tacs guilt-free at some other point in the day? The Chardonnay poured out of the screw-top bottle quite loudly, surprising your critics with a babbling brook of well-aged white. We made sure to follow the label’s suggested pairing with “food and friends,” ignoring the potentially cannibalistic interpretation of the phrase. We soon realized that the Chardonnay weighed in at a paltry 10% alcohol by volume, much lower than our previously reviewed bottles. This diminutive percentage may have contributed to the fact that the Skinnygirl® tasted very much like juice, a comparison your esteemed critics—unlike many other published reviewers—do not make lightly. As a result, the Chardonnay was eminently drinkable, though it did seem to lack the brio of other previously sampled wines. The overall result was much like drinking Diet Coke after a lifetime of imbibing Coca-Cola Classic. That being said, the faint peach intimations lulled us into such easy, convivial conversation that we felt empowered to embark on our own entrepreneurial endeavors. In the end, Skinnygirl® Chardonnay failed to deliver any memorable flavor or meaningful caloric savings, and the packaged fantasy of sinless sin promised by the promotional material evaporated as soon as we finished the bottle. Nevertheless, much like the reality show that sired it, Skinnygirl® allowed us to temporarily transcend the banality of our post-break Monday night blues. While the production status of “Real Housewives of Brunswick” may be still up in the air, any budding wine critics interested in pursuing a year of scholarship—and a life of learning—in the viticultural arts should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information on continuing the illustrious legacy of Bottom of the Barrel. Additional Notes:Tonight’s Soundtrack: Billy JoelWill: “Do you think the CPC could help me become a reality television personality, talk show host, author, chef and entrepreneur?”Martin: “This is the flirtiest wine I’ve ever tasted.” Nose: 2/5Body: 1.5/5Mouthfeel: 3/5Legs: 3/5Taste: 2.5/5
Bottom of the Barrel: Gekkeikan sake pushes the limits of our grape-y palates
There are these two young Orient columnists walking through Hannaford, and they happen to meet a managing editor walking the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the wine?” And the two young columnists walk on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes,
“What the hell is wine?”
With apologies to David Foster Wallace, this anecdote offers some insight into the ontological confusion facing your esteemed critics this past week. At some point in the preceding days, we had been visited by the notion to expand the frontiers of our journalistic endeavor and review sake, the traditional Japanese fermented rice wine. Emboldened by this sense of culinary adventure, we set off to procure the necessary ingredient for our review. The Gekkeikan bottle on the bottom shelf of the wine aisle immediately grabbed our attention, with an arrestingly simple typographic label and a luminous green tint to the glass.
Once back in the safe eyrie of Coles Tower, we were soon disarmed by the ease of the screw-off top, which rendered impotent our arsenal of uncorking accouterments upon which we have leaned so heavily this semester in our criticism. Lacking traditional Japanese serving vessels, we were forced to rely on the heretofore-unquestioned orthodoxy of our Libbey stemware. Our doubt and uncertainty were further compounded by the handful of serving and tasting techniques offered on the back label. How could we neophytes choose between the hot traditional manner and chilled on the rocks? We split the difference and sampled the beverage at room temperature. Upon pouring, the sake resembled a faint white wine, with a stronger pair of legs than one would expect from a similarly hued Pinot Gris.
Despite our best attempts to understand the sake within our carefully constructed critical schema, the first sip obliterated our finely woven hermeneutical tapestry. The thin body apparent in the glass belied a syrupy viscosity that assaulted our taste buds and lingered in our olfactory membranes, as if someone had beguiled us into drinking ethanol. Like a work of analytical cubism, the sake broke up the basic flavors of rice into disorienting mix of its component parts without offering any sort of gustatory cohesion. Despondent—and just a bit nauseous—we spiraled into confusion.
Over the past few months, we had immersed ourselves so fully in the world of wine that we seemed primed to take on any challenge. We knew wine and we knew how to taste. But our conception of wine had become so hermetic and self-referential that even something as minimally divergent as drinking beverages fermented from rice rather than grapes could dispel the illusion of this column being our Künstlerroman.
Had we ever really known what wine was? We, as published connoisseurs, loathed our selection for this week, yet many laypersons had extolled its virtues. Were we hindered by our own expertise, or had our column just been constructed upon a false premise, with only witty aphorisms and sly references to support it? If rice can be made into wine, then what should one call the fermented product of other grains if not wine as well? Had the fiat of precedent falsely circumscribed us to view the world in only red and white? Or, rather, were the amber hues of beer part of our journalistic birthright as well?
For our own physical and metaphysical welfare, we will refrain from Gekkeikan sake for the time being, and would recommend doing the same. However, we’ve heard that Ballast Point makes a damn good IPA.
Bottom of the Barrel: Red Fire Zinfandel Ignites Romance and Dispels Valentine’s Day Darkness
Valentine’s Day is here once more to remind us that Christian martyrdom is almost always rewarded with a great commercialized holiday. If the onslaught of winter assignments has left you scrambling for V-Day plans, never fear—your esteemed wine critics have you covered. Together, Martin and Will have distilled their respective romantic histories and added a dash of their trademark wine-based wit in order to bring you, our beloved readers, a fool-proof guide to a satisfying Valentine’s Day, with or without a significant other. While the amorous advice of two single senior men who spend more time on LinkedIn than on Tinder may seem suspect, our step-by-step plan is guaranteed to work. However, if our plans do fail to spark the flame this weekend, please direct all queries or complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 1: Purchase one bottle of Red Fire Old Vine Zinfandel ($8.99) from Hannaford. Billed as the “essential BBQ wine,” this Italian red is sure to ignite the passion of young collegiate hearts in this winter of our discontent. Though this pugliese Zinfandel suggests pairing with the “bold flavors and spice combos of barbecue” (note the change in orthography), we suspect the true intent of the original Italian tasting notes may not have survived the translation into English. Instead, we invite you to couple the wine with the second-tier chocolate of a Russell Stover assortment ($4.99, also from Hannaford). While the chocolate may lack the signature umami of grilled meats, it is hard to ignore the widely-acknowledged aphrodisiacal power of cacao products in mid-February.
Step 2: Attempt to open your Zinfandel with a Cork Pops Auto-Corker before discovering that your compressed air canister—an essential element of the device—is mysteriously empty after only two uses. Lament the all-too-human limitations of the Silicon Valley culinary technocracy before resorting to traditional Luddite methods. In wine-tasting, as in romance, the simplest way is often the best way.
Step 3: Exalt at the continued successful performance of the VinOAir vacuum aerator and pour the appropriate (and responsible!) number of glasses for the evening ahead. Marvel at the subtle jammy, sweet—but not unbecoming—medley of flavors presented by Red “Fuego” Fire. Exclaim how lucky you are to have found such a fantastic bargain wine at a time when the other sweaty-palmed would-be-romantics at Hannaford are nervously reaching for whatever slight innuendo-labeled wine they can find (your esteemed critics had the class and conviction to ignore the “Menage à Trois” and “Spin the Bottle” wines prominently featured in the aisle). Then, as you plop one of the Stover’s confections into your mouth, argue about the proper pronunciation of caramel (while Merriam-Webster accepts both variants, we all know which is correct) in your first real lovers’ quarrel.
Step 4: Congratulate yourself on executing a perfect Valentine’s Day evening, all for less than $15. Who says that romance requires overly priced cards or a dinner out to a restaurant like Trattoria Athena, where you may have happened to go for the past three years with someone else in tow before you had your heart cruelly torn out of your chest and stomped on in front of you? If, like Jason Derulo, you find yourself “ridin’ solo” this Valentine’s Day, take pride in your newly heightened degree of fiscal autonomy and treat yourself to another bottle of Red Fire Old Vine Zinfandel with all the money you’ve saved by being single. Rest assured that your esteemed critics will be doing the same in short order.
Bottom of the Barrel: Wines of Future Past: Duplin’s “Scuppernong” fails to bridge generational divide
Like the Magi of Matthew 2:1-12, your esteemed critics have returned to Bowdoin bearing gifts from their distant homelands. From the maritime reaches of Silicon Valley, Will Danforth brings forth two tokens of the future. The first, the “VinOair,” is a plastic spigot that instantaneously aerates the wine through vacuum-tube technology. The second, the Cork Pops “Auto-Corker,” guarantees forceful wine stopper ejection via compressed air.
The introduction of such technological marvels raises serious ethical quandaries about the veracity of our expert appraisals going forward. Like Icarus, now we too soar at the boundaries of human potential. Have we transgressed against the laws of God, man and our editors through artificial aeration? At the dawn of this new year, does our use of these devices portend a millenarian shift for our column?
Perhaps these questions are best left to the philosophers; we have wine to drink.From the rolling hills of the Southern Piedmont, Martin brings a relic of our nation’s winemaking past: Duplin Winery’s Scuppernong. Derived from the muscadine, one of the only grapes native to North America and the alleged favorite of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, the Scuppernong makes our tasting feel like yet another chapter in the perennial struggle between tradition and modernity.
Despite the historical import of the Scuppernong to Martin’s home of North Carolina, his public school education failed to enlighten him about his state’s viticultural heritage. He hoped that North Carolina’s best could hold its own against wines tried in previous installments with provenance in Will’s home state of California.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Scuppernong reinforces widely held stereotypes about the pace of life in the South. The wine imparted a flavor reminiscent of sweet-sticky molasses as it slid slowly down our throats. Quoth James Jelin ’16, “This is incredibly sugary. Please don’t make me drink the rest of this [glass].” Indeed, each quaff left our mouths coated with a cloying residue that made us feel as though we were rapidly developing dental cavities. It was as if a six-year-old child had imagineered his understanding of wine into existence.
Nonetheless, our journalistic integrity dictated that we, as well as James Jelin, finish the Scuppernong. Given the historical success of this variety, the wine’s viscous and saccharine nature left us confused as to how anyone could finish more than a minute sampling. As we sacrificed ourselves on the altar of our column, we sought elucidation as to the wine’s enigmatic appeal from the bottle’s label. Though the seagull and lighthouse graphics may have been composed of Microsoft clip art, we found them oddly comforting. With outstretched wings, the bird ruptured the frame of its rectangular sticker, offering us the promise that, like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, we too could ascend to a higher plane of existence if we just kept flying.
Enlightened by our journey, we finally concluded that the Scuppernong was nothing more than an inexpensive and disappointing alternative to port or sherry. We can only hope to avoid a renaissance of this anachronistic offering in our lifetimes.
Bottom of the Barrel: The spice must flow: mulling unshackles Liberty Creek from tasteless oppression
As part of their recovery from Rossi’s Burgundy blunder, your esteemed critics looked for rejuvenation grounded in traditional American values. What better way to satisfy this yen than Liberty Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon, located in the bulk shelf at Hannaford? The cracked Liberty Bell on the label pealed glad tidings that resonated in our marrow, promising fulfillment of our founder’s wishes for “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” (LibertyCreekWine.com, 2015). Inspired by our forebears’ own zeal for cheap and/or untaxed beverages, we utilized the Powers of Hamilton’s dependable tender to acquire this revolutionary rotgut.
Once installed in Yellow House, we quickly realized the errors of our patriotic passion. While Liberty Creek boasted a great wine smell, this proved to be merely an obfuscating veil. Our quaffs exposed a faint fruit-flavored serum. Despite its invocation of American exceptionalism, Liberty Creek was far from noteworthy. Indeed, subsequent examination of our tasting notes revealed that we drafted only a cursory description of the wine.
Hoping to rectify our situation, we looked abroad to Martin’s semester in Europe. Fond memories of Christkindlmarkts drifted upon the wintry winds that buffeted 75 Harpswell Road. Remembering how the autochthonous glühwein had warmed his spirits in Berlin last year, Martin hit upon a way to salvage this week’s installment of BotB and simultaneously indulge our latent Teutonic tendencies.
Cobbled together from various Internet sources, our Orient-approved mulled wine recipe— listed in our additional notes and perfect for any celebration secular, Judeo-Christian, or otherwise—metaphorically hit the proverbial spot. And despite the characterization of cinnamon as the “bane of American cuisine” by Kritika Oberoi, Cornell ’16, we channeled House Atreides and let the spice flow.
In what was Martin’s inaugural use of his home’s two kitchens, we began by creating a mélange of sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, oranges, and cloves. After evaporating most of the water to create a concentrated syrup, we poured in a quarter of our remaining Liberty Creek, and the resulting mixture could only be described as a “wine-flavored energy drink.” To amend this botheration, we emptied the rest of our bottle into our mulling vessel, throwing in an extra handful of cloves because as college seniors, we love nothing more than living dangerously.We kept a watchful eye on the contents of the pot in order to ensure that our wine was heated without evaporating the Liberty Creek’s greatest and only asset — its 12% alcohol content. After a sufficient period of mulling, our concoction was ready to consume. In order to protect our supple and well-moisturized hands, we substituted ceramic mugs for our usual Libby stemware.
The glühwein turned out to be just what we were hoping to cook up on this blustery winter’s eve. The mulling process imbued the wine with a comforting, nostalgic aroma and a vivifying warmth, and it is safe to say that Liberty Creek has never been so enjoyable. In short, it tasted like the love your esteemed critics had been searching for their entire collegiate careers.Liberty Creek’s wallet-friendly price was certainly alluring, but it was only through culinary transmutation that we—like the Yuletide alchemists of yore—were able to harness the true potential of this Cabernet Sauvignon and turn viticultural lead into gold.
Bottom of the Barrel: Jug-gling savings and satisfaction: Carlo Rossi burgundy offers viticultural utilitarianism
Bottom of the Barrel: When the wine looks: 19 Crimes provides gustatory, if not visual, pleasure
Bottom of the Barrel: Top of the barrel: Bertani Amarone makes Kickstarter dreams come true
Despite Bernie Sanders' best efforts, casino capitalism still reigns supreme in the world of collegiate wine criticism. Thanks to the generous soft money donations to our Kickstarter (SuperPAC), we found ourselves saddled with the troublesome burden of spending $135 on one bottle of wine. Freed from the tyranny of the Powers-that-be on the Orient editorial staff, we embarked upon a glorious odyssey.
Hannaford, with its plebeian $29.35 cap on wine prices, could not service our prodigious need. We looked instead to the West, traveling to the distant environs of Freeport’s Bow Street Market. Unfortunately, our journey eerily paralleled the opening pages of Stephen King’s “The Mist.” Conor Tillinghast, our normally capable chauffer, decided to take the “back route” to Freeport—inadvertently plunging us into a haze reminiscent of an Epicurial milieu. With great courage, your esteemed critics ventured forth.
After a perilous 10-minute journey, we were rewarded with the Bow Street Market’s expertly curated back-room liquor department. We inspected the wares and, after much searching, chanced upon Bertani’s 2009 Amarone della Valpolicella—priced at a paltry $114. Emboldened by the store’s gracious cashier, we returned to Brunswick on the more orthodox freeway.
Comfortably settled in Yellow House, our first order of business was to let the wine breathe. CNN’s pre-debate coverage helped pass the half hour before we could finally imbibe our ill-gotten gains. As Lincoln Chaffee confusedly ambled upon stage, so we too ventured into a realm to which we were not sure we belonged.
A hearty pour into our trusty mason jars presented a rich velvety color heretofore obscured by Beltani’s dark-horse of a bottle. Will’s quick swish revealed the finest legs your humble critics have yet to observe. Sturdy, thick, and robust, they provided the perfect support for the full-body that greeted us upon our first taste.
What can you say about a wine that has it all? Like a 7-layered dip, each quaff imparted a multitude of distinct, yet well-blended flavors. A sweet fruity greeting gave way to a smoky, almost spicy undertone as the wine sojourned through our oral cavities. To put it bluntly, we felt the Bern. Maybe even a little Chaffee. Despite the Amarone’s overwhelming dryness, we couldn’t help but reach for more after every delectable sip.
At this point, Martin decided to update his MacBook to OS X 10.11 “El Capital” so as to remove any and all technological distractions. Even with this impediment to our note-taking abilities, the complexities of Bertani’s offering were permanently imprinted upon both of our consciousnesses. Long after we finished, this wine ignited within us a lingering warmth—the kind of warmth that only money can buy. We felt like a proverbial Scrooge Mcduck, diving into a proverbial pile of gold coins.
Readers have corked up our mailbox, clamoring to know the answer to one simple question: was it worth it? In a word, yes. In more words, if we asked to spend $114 dollars of other people’s money at Bow Street Market for a Tuesday night debate companion, we would have a hard time saying no.
Tonight’s Soundtrack: Anderson Cooper’s dulcet tones and asinine questions
Will: “This is great. Let’s launch Kickstarters every week ad nauseam.”
Martin: “I feel like Moses entering the Promised Land. But just like him, I know I won’t be here next week.”
We would like to thank our wonderful Kickstarter supporters and we look forward to delivering your rewards soon.
Bottom of the Barrel: Say no to 'Sí': Pinot grigio honeymoon over too soon
After glowing reviews of our column two weeks ago from both our mothers (the only women we are beholden to), we have decided to push on with Sì’s bold Pinot grigio offering. By bold, we mean that Sì boasts the most exotic wine bottle design present in Hannaford’s wine alley. Not wanting to fall victim to the sophomore slump, your esteemed critics gravitated towards the most gimmicky bottle we could find. The result is Sì’s geoduck of a bottle.
While the intention may have to been to mimic wine skins of yore, we find ourselves with an especially Freudian take on the traditional wine bottle paradigm. A cobalt blue sheen augurs a progressive take on the Pinot grigio—fitting given its grapes are oft belittled as a mutant clone of the Pinot noir.
Given its bottle's curvilinear nature, perhaps Sì stands as an abstracted homage to the shofar blown at the end of Yom Kippur (Shanah Tovah!). Regardless of symbolic significance, Sì scores points for its convenient twist-off screw cap that rendered our preponderance of novelty corkscrews unnecessary.
In an effort to bring an air of authenticity to our tastings, we paired our wine with its natural partner: extra sharp Somerdale cheddar. The cheese packaging’s explicit recommendations made this pairing an easy choice. Who are we to say no to a cheese that knows what it wants? Of course, buying cheese necessitated buying the redeemingly bland and ubiquitous Carr’s water table crackers. While this column remains devoted to wine, we can’t help but praise the crumbly texture and decidedly dairy flavor of Somerdale.
Since one reviewer foolishly forgot to chill the wine before drinking, Martin is forced to wrap a wet paper towel around the frame of bottle and place it in the refrigerator to speed the cooling process. However, Sì’s neck presents a daring challenge to wine-lovers everywhere: its parabolic curvature offers no clear hints as to proper pouring technique. We daringly proceed, anxious of spilling this ostensibly divine nectar on 14B’s majestic lion rug.
Will then graciously outlines the major tasting steps for white wines.The first exploratory sip introduces an overwhelmingly sour flavor, but one should persevere regardless.The second sip coats one’s mouth and prepares the taste buds through thorough swishing.Lastly, the third sip reveals the wine’s true flavor.
Our devoted adherence to these commandments resulted in a much more complex flavor. Sì coquettishly revealed hints of citrus adrift in a medium body that fully warmed your esteemed critics on a chilly 52º evening.
We were also pleased to notice that unlike last week’s Merlot, Sì offered a very visible set of legs. Unfortunately, our satisfaction diminished remarkably after that initial honeymoon phase.
What we originally took to be interesting quirks of the Pinot quickly revealed themselves to be naught but a shallow veneer. The medium body gave way to a flimsy, almost tedious feel, leaving us disenchanted with what had only recently seemed to be a promising specimen.
Sì’s fantastic bottle design and enchanting initial flavors compelled us to say “yes.” Sadly, a long-term sensory relationship with the wine left us downhearted and disappointed, forcing us to say “no” to Sì.
In order to rectify our gloom, we have embarked upon an entrepreneurial endeavor. We are excited to announce the launching of our “Top of the Barrel” Kickstarter campaign. We are seeking to crowdsource the modest sum of $100 in order to fund the purchase of a truly exceptional wine. With enticing rewards to our benefactors, we hope to successfully regale our readers with a masterful critique of outstanding bottle of remarkable vintage in the near future. Details can be found here.
We will also graciously accept physical donations in the form of Diners Club cards, travellers cheques, and Spanish doubloons.
Tonight’s Soundtrack: ABBA
Surprise guest Jay Vaidya: “Will, you just ooze consulting.”
Martin: “I can’t smell the wine tonight because I’m sick, which is a blessing and a curse.”
Bottom of the Barrel: Merlot-ering the bar: Beringer falls short of oaky dreams into sour wasteland
Rules were meant to be broken, and what better way to start our turn at the helm of this column than by breaking the prohibition uttered by Paul Giamatti in the award-winning film “Sideways”—“I’m not drinking any fucking Merlot.” The film looms large in our consciousness as we obstruct the wine aisle in Hannaford.
Will’s mother expressly forbade him from watching it as a child, and despite a priest’s glowing review of the Alexander Payne project in a 2004 Sunday sermon, Martin emerged from a late-night viewing last year feeling more than ever like a 45-year-old man.
We settle on a 2013 Beringer Merlot, whose handy flavor spectrum on the back label both previews its flavor profile and renews our appreciation for Bowdoin alum/sexologist Alfred Kinsey.
Despite lacking the bottle-recommended “grilled meats” to pair, we decant to the scenic vistas of Coles Tower and swap anecdotes to establish our viticultural bona fides (at last reckoning, Will’s summer trip to Napa barely eclipses Martin’s semester of drinking €3 bottles of tinto in Spain).
In a beautiful homage to Ryan Peabody and Dan Lipkowitz’s first column two years ago, Will spends seven minutes sawing through the wax label with one of Moulton’s finest butter knives.
And with some MacGyver-inspired finagling, Martin finally opens the bottle with a novelty corkscrew Will snuck past the TSA en route to school.
We let the Beringer aerate in our newly purchased mason jars (Hannaford inexplicably does not stock stemware) before we taste.
We are confronted by a strong alcohol scent but soldier on and take a sip. The taste is milder than the smell.
While the bottle claims hints of currants and oak, the flavor instead assumes a more generic citrusy-sour note. Will notes that the wine has no legs, appreciating how the Beringer neglects to stick to the sides of our mason jars.
Subsequent tastes reveal hidden flavors, leading us to a begrudging respect for a wine that seems comfortable with embracing its $7.49 identity. The overall impression is one of thinness; the wine is quite drinkable. If you like the idea of water, but hate the taste, this might be the drink for you.
Our decision to go with Merlot was willfully contrarian, an attempt to buck the decline in California Merlot cultivation in the wake of “Sideways.”
However, Wikipedia happily informs us that the wine, made from the blue French grapes favored by blackbirds, had already enjoyed its day in the sun in the nineties thanks to a “60 Minutes” report promoting the French diet.
While we are certainly enticed by the idea of drinking Merlot as a step on the path to Continental fitness, the wide variety of interchangeable French reds means that the Beringer is unlikely to make it into a regular rotation in our theoretical wine cellars.
Bottom of the Barrel: Xo, G provides a less than stellar send-off
Dearest followers. Welcome to our final column. Of all time. At least with us. And we’re really the only wine connoisseurs that matter. This week, to celebrate our immensely successful year of writing what we can only assume is the Orient’s most widely read column, we decided to review a “premium” wine.
By “premium,” we mean the premium packaging that Xo, G comes in. It is made up of separate, durable plastic glasses in one convenient pop-apart tower, wrapped in artistically designed plastic. While it may not be very eco-friendly, it is definitely fun and an incredibly unique way to market wine.
We are somewhat concerned that the packaging may encourage drinking while driving, as it notes that this wine is “Perfect for the girl on the go” and fits in a standard cup holder. Out of the available options, we decided to go with the rosé since we barely dipped into this category during our tenure with the Orient. The wine has a beautiful silvery-pink color and catches the eye.
The initial odor that escaped the plastic container almost made us gag. It is akin to some sort of wine-scented compost. After it had time to breathe—if you could call it that—one visiting commenter said that it smelled like trash juice. Brandon thought it was pleasing and earthy, while another visitor said it became offensive over time.
The wine is surprisingly acidic and is not as sweet as one may guess based on its pink color and fancy packaging. It is fairly tasteless overall, but it has quite a strong aftertaste of alcohol and earth. According to Brandon, this aftertaste is what you would expect your mouth to taste like when you vomit this wine up later. This is despite the wrapping saying it has notes of berries. This is certainly no white zin.
At the same time, it is surprisingly drinkable and when judged in the context of its wine-to-go platform, it is maybe not all too bad. We honestly think you could do better, but if you are looking for a middling quality taste with cool packaging this may be for you.
With a high 12.6 percent alcohol by volume, you can really feel this wine burn through you. The Xo, G has a pretty flat and boring mouthfeel that could be called silky if we were feeling generous.
So with that, we bid farewell to this column and to you, our faithful readers. We are certainly not bidding goodbye to the wine though. Over the year we’ve gained a new appreciation for wine, and we’ve learned a lot. Our most important lesson, that we hope we’ve passed on to you, is that you don’t have to splurge to keep your next dinner, party, outdoor picnic, or stress-induced sobbing session classy. You can certainly find some great wine for under $10, and we hope this column has inspired you to add more wine to your life.
As always,XO, B + B
Nose: 1.5Body: 2.5Mouthfeel: 2.5Taste: 2.5 Final, final thoughts: Brandon: What a year, what a column, what a beginning to my lifelong wine-based alcoholism. But in all seriousness, though I am continuously shocked that we have somehow managed to gain a readership, it has been great hearing all of your suggestions and compliments.
Bryce: Wine column Tuesdays have become the highlight of the early part of my week. Thank you to all those who have voiced their support and excitedly told me they took our advice. It’s fun to see we actually have a readership and that there are people who believe what we say.
Bottom of the Barrel: Wine juice boxes: an Ivies alternative to bring out your inner child
Good morning Polar Bears. Spring is in the air, midterms are behind us and the snow has finally disappeared from the beloved Quad. You all know what that means—Ivies will soon be upon us. Break out your finest salmon shorts, questionably appropriate tanks and the shortest sundress you own because the debauchery is about to begin.
Ivies is a difficult time for many students. No, not because of your latest breakup or inability to find an Ivies bae, but because of the structural challenges it presents. When preparing for a full week of drinking you must be strategic. Beer? Sure, if you’re trying to gain 20 lbs from guzzling 30-racks all day. Hard alcohol? Enjoy your Saturday transport if you even make it that far. It is our humble opinion that wine offers the perfect alternative.
But, of course, no one wants to tote around a bottle of wine on the Brunswick Quad. That is so last season. Thankfully, we, your humble servants, are here to help. This week we are reviewing not one, but four varieties of boxed wines. No, not Franzia, unless you want to be known as that annoying person who keeps trying to get people to “slap the bag.” We found a much more suitable alternative: juice box sized wines that hold an impressive three glasses each. This is a perfect size as you can stock up for the concert without violating any rules pertaining to glass or container opacity.
Tonight we have chosen to sample two whites and two reds. We are covering a spectrum of grapes and vineyards to bring you a chardonnay, pinot grigio, cabernet sauvignon and a red blend. They hail from regions ranging from California to Chile.
While international varieties may generally be lauded for their quality, the Chilean cabernet sauvignon really disappoints. What may be truly the worst wine we have reviewed, the Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon elicits such a strong visceral reaction that it almost brought us to tears. If you enjoy drinking, or for that matter anything good in the world, avoid this wine. God only knows how a 2013 vintage survived in that cardboard box for two years, but it certainly didn’t develop any appreciable flavors and was less than subtly disgusting.
What may be considered the coconut water equivalent of our juice boxes, the Bota Mini Pinot Grigio tastes like a slight portion of alcohol was added to some water as an afterthought. This is not intrinsically a bad thing though, as it is incredibly refreshing, and although we can’t recommend it instead of coconut water as an emergency IV, we’re not saying it couldn’t work. We are both seriously considering using this as our “break beverage” during Ivies when we need a reprieve from the grownup drinks.
While Bota Mini’s other offering, the Redvolution, may sound like some sort of Soviet coup, we promise it’s not. However, it does tastes like one: bitter, with a nasty aftertaste. We can’t help but grimace as we sipped it. While the Redvolution was much better than the Black Box, our little red wine juice boxes are not faring well. Despite being billed as a red blend, the Redvolution does not divulge what may have gone into it. There isn’t really much more to say. Drink white.
Ideally it will be hot out anyway and a nice cold juice box will be just the thing to quench your thirst and fuel your fun. Also, if you happen to spill it, it won’t ruin your meticulously planned Ivies outfit.
This brings us to the king, perhaps kween, of the juicebox wines: Rex-Goliath Chardonnay. Named after the world’s largest rooster, weighing in at 47 lbs (that’s a big cock), this wine is by far the best out of our selection. Drinkable, with a fruity palate and an OK aftertaste, Rex-Goliath really surprised us. This is a wine we would definitely recommend guzzling on the Quad or the football field.
So until next time, enjoy your Ivies and please drink “responsibly.”
XOXO,- Gossip Bs
Overall we would rank the wines in the following order:1. Rex-Goliath Chardonnay2. Bota Mini Pinot Grigio3. Bota Mini Redvolution4. Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon (for the love of God please do not purchase this wine)
Additional notes: Brandon: Go to Hannaford’s. Find the rooster. Purchase. Drink. Enjoy.Bryce: We used straws to drink the juice boxes and that was an issue. They just kinda explode wine into your mouth.
All available at Hannaford ranging for $3.50 – $4.99
Bottom of the Barrel: Simone Sauvignon Blanc: A training wheel wine bargain
Queso: check. Solo cups: check. Cheap-ass white wine: check. Another successful Tuesday night in Tower 12B. While the presence of refinement in these wine columns was questionable to start, it certainly will not be found at this late point in our senior year. Our first assessment of our wine for this week was “this will be an experience,” and likely not an amazing one.
Why this reaction? We bought this bottle for only $4.99. Yes, you read that correctly. We bought this wine for less than Sabra Hummus at the C-Store (don’t you love those mark-ups?). For better or for worse, this is what we have come to.
But there appears to be a light at the end of this dark, boozy tunnel. Our wine, Simone, a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile (certainly no California arsenic for this column!), received 87 points and was labeled a best buy by Wine Enthusiast. Naturally, we were quite surprised that anything so cheap could be rated so highly. The only little hiccup was the small print indicating that this award was actually for the 2008 vintage, and our bottle tonight is from the ripe young year of 2013.
Despite the deceptive advertising, Simone is actually quite tasty and not offensive at all. It is hard to gauge if our predilection for fine wines and purebred vintages has simply disappeared under the yearlong bombardment of under-$10 wines, but at this point we really don’t care. The wine tastes crisp and refreshing. It’s more or less exactly what you would want out of a cheaper Sauvignon Blanc. While it is nearly impossible to smell anything but plastic when the wine is in a solo cup, we could still make out slight fruity notes with hints of citrus.
The color of the wine is a light silvery-gold akin to the inside of a pear, and the mouthfeel is smooth; we may even go so far as to say slightly effervescent. This is a great spring wine. Even though it seems like we’re still in the depths of winter, there are signs that spring has finally sprung. Perhaps this wine will become a spring staple in our room.
In terms of taste, this wine was quite good. We honestly don’t know if the pleasing aftertaste was the queso or the wine (Brandon found that it had nice oakiness), but in either case we really enjoyed it.
All in all, this wine surprised us. We went into it with fairly low expectations that were quickly surpassed. Maybe this is a sign for Bottom of the Barrel that it’s time for us to drop the queso and start pairing with better options. Or maybe it’s a sign that the queso is making everything better. As the weather begins to match our Senior Spring attitude, we’re likely to believe in the latter. Graduation is swiftly approaching (hello cap and gown order forms, and LOL to registering for classes or entering the lottery), and this means that we only have a few short weeks left to enjoy life in college. Honestly, there’s no better way to savor this time than to hang out with friends over a bottle of wine and snacks. We’ll drink to that.
Additional Notes: Brandon: “I feel like this wine is a good training wheel wine. It’s preparing me for my future life of guzzling Sauvignon Blanc at every available opportunity.” Bryce: “While 87 points may be generous, a couple bottles of this could make a nice spring sangria.”
Nose: 3.5Mouthfeel: 4Body: 3.5Taste: 3 Get your hands on Simone while it’s still at a crazy low sale price! Shaw’s: $4.99.
Bottom of the Barrel: Pinot Evil offers pairing, mulling potential
So here we sit. Another Tuesday, another bottle of wine, another bag of Tostitos. What is new this time is the microwaveable queso tray we bought. Nothing says “class” like wine and cheese, and nothing says “klass” like wine and microwaveable cheese. It is at the point in the semester where people just don’t seem to care anymore. For us, that means sleeping more than any one person ever should, and more importantly, using a solo cup as the new wine review glass.
Our wine this week is a Pinot Noir from Chile. Assiduous readers may note that this is not our first Pinot Noir, but given the poor quality of our last we thought we should give the variety another chance.
The winemakers decided to disregard the French origins of this grape, naming their wine Pinot Evil, based on the Three Wise Monkeys Japanese proverb. Meant to reference the supposed “evilness” of the Pinot noir grape, Pinot Evil claims that Pinot Noir is a guilty pleasure. We couldn’t agree more.
Pinot Noir is one of our favorite varieties of red wine, so we were excited to break into this bottle. Important to note is that the label indicated the bottle is “imported” and emphasized the fact in fancy cursive lettering. Whether this is to impress any potential party guests or to dupe people into buying more of their wine, we cannot say.
We appreciated that the bottle has a screw top and as such, it would seem to indicate the latter is true.
The wine is a nice ruby red color and has a pleasing nose with hints of cherries and spice. Pinot Evil has a very smooth, silky mouthfeel and a moderate acidity that is well balanced with warm, spicy, fruit flavors—in short, it tastes Christmasy. This is easily a cheap wine someone’s parents could bring to a holiday party to get tipsy on. This affords it some flexibility and it could easily be made into mulled wine with a few added spices.
We firmly believe that while the holiday season is well behind us, the winter seems to have no end and that a hot wine is still quite appropriate in our frozen circumstances.
Overall, this wine is very drinkable and we blew through the bottle in about twenty minutes. We should note that is not to say that this wine is one of the better ones we have reviewed. The stress this time of year brings has pushed us to be happy with anything you could serve us. Case in point, as soon as the Pinot Evil was empty, we found some leftover Franzia from the weekend and that hit the spot too. Pinot Evil has so inoffensive a flavor that it can be paired with practically anything you would want to eat. The label suggests roasted duck, but our microwave tray of Tostito’s queso worked quite well, and we imagine anything else you typically snack on would be great too.
Additional Notes: Brandon: “I can envision myself getting very drunk off this wine at my next family gathering.”
Bryce: “‘Surprising’ is the first word that comes to mind. Three bottles of this to myself could make a good night.” Nose: 3.5Mouthfeel: 4Body: 3Taste: 3
Get some Pinot Evil while it is still on sale! Shaw’s: $7.99.
Bottom of the Barrel: Red wine and Pepsi make a killer couple
We are sad to report that we were the victims of a hostile takeover. No, not by our local wine connoisseur, but by the men’s ice hockey team. Upon our return home after a long two hours of grueling work at the library’s circulation desk, we found two-time NESCAC champions and zero-time NCAA champions, Bowdoin seniors Connor Quinn, Mike Schlagel and John McGinnis lurking in our apartment playing our Wii and hanging out with our roommates. They had apparently decided that they needed to make an appearance in our wine column. Luckily, they brought with them a sumptuous feast of leftover buffet food, chips and shrimp.
And they brought wine, so all was good.
Each brought their own wine, so we had three bottles to sample. Quinn brought a red blend from Dark Horse. We’d love nothing more than to tell you what was in this blend, however the makers decided that information like that just wasn’t important. McGinnis also brought us a red wine blend, this one a Sterling Vintner’s Collection. Finally, Schlagel brought us a Cabernet Sauvignon from Newman’s Own. When a company makes both wine and salad dressing, you know the wine’s gonna be good.
Our main intention that night was to drink the disturbing combination of red wine and Pepsi. Quinn had been begging us since September to feature this seemingly noxious combination in our column, and we decided it was time to humor him. Now before you decide to throw your paper down in disgust, keep in mind that this drink is actually the popular Spanish drink Kalimotxo. We assume it is all the rage for teenagers in Basque country. This 50-50 combination of cheap red wine and cola is a trip into new territory for Bottom of the Barrel.
You may be wondering why we chose Pepsi over Coke. This was purely on the recommendation of Quinn, who told us we had to use Pepsi. We were told later that Diet Rite from Wal-Mart was the normal mixer, but that that choice of Pepsi would be more befitting of our column’s classy reputation.
The Kalimotxo combo was surprisingly—some may say shockingly–drinkable. In fact, we all found it quite good. This may be due to the fact that the CO2 content in the wine makes the alcohol hit you harder, according to (somehow) chem and physics double major Schlagel. (Please don’t fact check us). The dominating note in both flavor and smell was sugar, unsurprisingly. The Pepsi overpowered whatever wine you poured it into.
In terms of the wine itself, none stood out as particularly good. The Dark Horse blend and Newman’s Own were both light in flavor. The Dark Horse was perhaps better tasting, while the Newman’s Own had the best nose of the three. The Sterling Vintner’s, however, stood out as particularly bad. While McGinnis hypothesized it may have something to do with the 5 percent Malbec ratio, we think it much more likely that the wine just sucks. Although to be fair when one is cleansing the palette with sharp cheddar cheese, accurate tasting may be impaired.
Overall we’d recommend the wines in the following order (Pepsi optional):
1. Dark Horse Big Red Blend, Hannaford’s, $7.992. Newman’s Own Cabernet Sauvignon, Hannaford’s, $10.99 (Side note: all Newman’s Own profits go to charity, so we felt that it was okay to go over our normal $10 limit.)3. Sterling Vinter’s Collection, Hannaford’s, $8.99
So at the end of the day, none of these wines stood out as great. But that’s not really what matters. First, when you’re combining wine with Pepsi, quality really becomes a secondary concern. You could use literally any red and it would taste sugary and delicious. Second, it’s important to remember that wine drinking should never be done (purely) for the wine’s sake. This was the best tasting we’ve had thus far, but this column was the hardest to write because of all the good moments and funny comments we wanted to include but couldn’t for lack of space. So we’ll end by asking you to go out, grab some friends, buy some wine and Pepsi, maybe some plastic wine glasses (stems included, per recommendation from the hockey boys), and enjoy those that you’re with. That’s what drinking wine is all about.
Brandon: Perhaps the first time I’ve agreed with Connor Quinn about anything. What is happening to me?
Bryce: Regrettably drinkable, red wine and Pepsi is a good way to start a bad habit.
Bottom of the Barrel: Sweet dreams not made of this: Insomnia Pinot Grigio
Did you miss us? We certainly missed you. Or at least we missed the wine. Because that’s what it is really all about, isn’t it?
As we write this, we are holed up in our Coles Tower room sheltering ourselves from Snowpocalypse Juno, which is currently raging just outside our window. On a night like tonight, there is no greater joy than to uncork a bottle of wine, put on a good rom-com, and spend time with those who mean most to you. After all, with weather like this, they’ll probably soon be buried under a mountain of snow.
We decided on “It’s Complicated” for the movie (can’t go wrong with Meryl) and we honestly can’t imagine anyone better than ourselves to spend time with. That only leaves us with the wine. This week we went with a California Pinot Grigio, this time under the Insomnia brand. Fitting, given the long hours we have both been keeping due to our level of schoolwork. So much for an easy senior spring.
Normally we supply an entertaining backstory regarding how we carefully compared and selected our wine. This time, however, our wine choice was gifted to us by Brandon’s grandmother as her highest sub-$10 recommendation. We shall see if it lives up to its lofty expectations.
So without further ado, the cork was popped and the wine was glugging into our glasses. Let the early week drinking commence once again. Our initial impression was that the wine certainly looked like pinot grigio, and carried a pleasantly light nose. Although to be fair, Bryce and I have been sick the past few days, so that may be a product of congestion more than anything else.
At first sip, we were initially struck by the dryness of the wine. It was certainly drier than our last pinot, although when you are drawing comparisons with FlipFlop you never really know what to expect. Bryce did not find the dryness to be totally off-putting. Brandon, however, felt that this wine tasted like you could strip paint with it.
In terms of mouthfeel, Brandon found it to be quite nice, however Bryce was not as approving. He felt that the mouthfeel was unimpressive and liquidy, seeming to forget that when one is drinking wine, liquidity is presumably to be expected. The body leaves something to be desired. And here we were in rare complete agreement, finding the body to be thin and rather watery.
Despite our ambivalence towards this wine, we still decided to drain the entire bottle. We felt it would disappoint you, our loyal readers, if we didn’t. If nothing else, despite the wine’s misleading name, it help put us to sleep. To be honest, most of the wines we review for this column have been used as a general sleep aid. And no, in case you are wondering, we are not alcoholics! Don’t judge us!
Additional Notes: Brandon: They must call this Insomnia because the taste of this wine will haunt my dreams for years to come. Bryce: The more I drink, the less happy I am. That should never be the case.
Nose: 2.5Mouthfeel: 2.5Body: 3.5Taste: 3.5
Make a 3 am run to get some Insomnia, Hannaford, $8.99.
Bottom of the Barrel: Slip into the ambiance of this Cali Riesling
Going into the end of the semester is a trying ordeal for any stressed college student. We wholeheartedly endorse using wine as a medicinal coping mechanism for when you can no longer deal with reality. Brandon is a psych major, so you know our advice is legit.*
Deciding to kick the class up a notch this week, we chose Spotify’s “Coffee Table Jazz” to play as we expertly sampled our wine, a California Riesling appropriately labeled “Belle Ambiance.” Our spit cups nowhere to be found we decided to drink the whole bottle like we usually do. Keep the music classy, but true wine connoisseurs need to be able to taste the entire bottle.
As Brandon popped the cork we noticed that our “Belle Ambiance” Riesling fit the environment quite well. With a delightful glugging akin to a cherub’s laugh, the glasses were filled and the bottle was suddenly half empty.
A very light nose greeted us with floral notes, not very strong overall, but quite pleasing. Also, who really cares what it smells like as long as it tastes good, right? The color of the wine is a white gold, and the body is relatively light.
Rieslings are known to be quite sweet and low in alcohol content. This wine delivered on only one of those qualities.
Typically German, our California Reisling was sweet, but not cloying. With an American twist, however, our wine was at a comfortable 12 percent alcohol by volume, resting on the higher end of the scale for this type of wine. Have we found a wine that gives us the best of both worlds?
The wine is refreshingly sweet at first, yet finishes well with a light acidity. Easy enough to sip on its own, we didn’t feel the need to pair it with anything but more wine.
The aftertaste is lovely and lends itself to making this a casual sipping wine. It also makes you want to drink more. This wine is the ultimate stress reliever. We highly suggest pairing it with some smooth jazz, even if you aren’t a fan, and then just let yourself feel the stress melt away. If you wish to go into a happiness coma grab two bottles, turn on the music, and throw on the Parent Trap (Lohan version, obviously).
Remember: you’re going to be okay, if you let the Belle Ambiance take you away.
Brandon: I can imagine putting on a record, curling up in front of the fire with my (as of yet, nonexistent) significant other and escaping into the Belle Ambiance.
Bryce: I am actually at such a relaxed state right now that I could find Nicolas Cage repairing the Coles Tower elevator and I wouldn’t even be fazed. Nose: 3.5Mouthfeel: 4Body: 3.5 Taste: 4.5 As per the good doctor’s orders go grab your weekly bottle and de-stress. $9.99 at Target. *Disclaimer: Brandon is not an actual doctor of psychology.
Bottom of the Barrel: Zinfully good: this bargain rosé has impressive taste
This week we decided to step out of our comfort zone and try out a White Zinfandel. While Brandon is not particularly fond of rosés, we felt it was only fair to add variety. While perusing our favorite wine section at Hannaford’s, we settled upon a Sutter Home White Zinfandel.
White Zinfandels come from Zinfandel grapes, but are processed differently to create a semi-sweet rosé instead of a heartier red wine. Our particular wine was actually created by mistake on the part of Sutter Home Winery. The accidental creation of this sweet pink wine proved to be incredibly valuable—White Zinfandels are now the third most popular type of wine in the U.S.
When Bryce first smelled the wine he initially noticed vanilla, but it matured into lighter floral and berry notes with undertones of melon. Overall, not the most exciting nose to date.
Let’s just say that this wine is easy to drink. It is sweet—akin to a Riesling—but far from a true dessert wine. Our White Zin is delicious on its own, by the glass or bottle, but could pair with anything you have on hand in your dorm for snacks, such as Wheat Thins or White Cheddar Cheez-Its. But honestly, snacking just takes time away from drinking.
The taste of the wine itself is like creamy strawberries with a slight nuance of watermelon. This wine has the unique ability to be sipped or—in Brandon’s case—guzzled. Like a good lover, this wine has a gentle and smooth mouthfeel that makes you want to keep drinking more. The body was a little thin for Brandon’s taste, but Bryce preferred its lightness and found the wine to be more delicate than thin.
You may have noticed this column is less snarky than usual. This is probably due to the fact that we loved this wine so much, we could not think of any disparaging comments about it. For those of you who know us, please try to contain your shock at this revelation that we have found something that truly pleases us both. This poses a difficulty in terms of any criticism, but we believe that what has occurred here this evening can only be labeled an epiphany. What had we been doing with our lives before we discovered this wine?
We had been lost on a path strewn with Barefoot Pinot Noir and Franzia Crisp White, but tonight we have found the one true wine and it is Sutter Home White Zinfandel. If you are partial to Franzia’s Sunset Blush, set down that filthy bag and grab a bottle of this wine. We promise you won’t be disappointed.
Additional NotesBrandon: “This wine is definitely a keeper. I can see myself in 20 years coming home from a long day of therapy to a screaming child and perpetually disappointed husband, sneaking into my kitchen, popping off the cork to a Sutter Home White Zin and enjoying a well deserved glass of ‘juice’.”Bryce: “Why this wine isn’t in Capri Sun-like packaging is beyond me.” Nose: 3 Mouthfeel: 3.5Body: 3Taste: 4.5 Grab some Sutter Home White Zinfandel before we drink it all. Hannaford: $7.99.
Bottom of the Barrel: Post-Ivies whine: the nectar of Nantucket
Ah, Nantucket. Take a deep breath and smell that salty sea air. The land of decadence and high society, an island of 20th century Gatsbys frolicking in the summer sun. Yachts, seabreeze, seagulls: the American dream. With a nod to CBS’s The Jeffersons: “We’re moving on up…To a deluxe apartment in the sky [over Nantucket].”
And what do they do in Nantucket, these captains of high society, fame, and fortune? They sail across the whitecaps in their yachts, wearing only pale red shorts and sipping the local vintage. We recreated the atmosphere by washing our underwear with red sweatshirts, taking to the sea in Ryan’s newly purchased kayak. The only thing left was the wine. The nectar of Nantucket, if you will.
Nantucket Nectars Grapeade wine was dateless; its label gave no hint of its age or origin. The wealthy residents of Nantucket drink nothing but the best. This ambrosia of aristocracy is above such sycophantic labels as age or alcohol by volume. If we were to mingle with our peers successfully, we needed to figure this wine out on our own.
The avant-garde bottle surprised us with a Snapple like pop-cap (no time for wine openers when you’re yachting). Nevertheless, we managed to open the bottle. The exterior of the beverage’s vessel is emblazoned with a clump of what could only be Nantucket grapes. Massive orbs of crimson and violet rest in quiet repose on the grass. Nantucket is a small island nation off the coast of Mass-o-chumpchump. It remains populated with the wealthy and wonderful and isolated from the plebes of the mainland. Nantucket is governed by what can only be described as a “totalitarian theocracy.” A man known only as Murray controls access to his trademark red vintage with an iron fist. Fortunately, this local wine is sold in Maine.
Grapeade shines translucently, a pale orange-red that shows little sediment. Its nose is filled with sweet, sugary grape notes, without a hint of bitterness or earth tones. Forward, fresh and dangerous. This Nantucket wine suited us perfectly.
Due to Murray’s legal system, ABV is not required to be printed. We thus have no idea how much alcohol was in our Grapeade, and we extend our compliments to the vintner on his ability to hide its flavor. The skill with which this wine was made is apparent. We noticed almost no alcohol as we drank this “ade” (an old oenological word used in Nantucket to characterize their wines).
Nectars should be drunk young and chilled, preferably on a yacht. However, the imprint on the bottom of our bottle told us that our Grapeade would be drinkable until February of 2022.
Without any trace of alcohol, the sweet nature of this wine shone through. It starts with a splash of grape on the tongue, fading to the pleasant refreshment of Nantucket spring water. A sort of granular sugar dominates the middle, leaving a nice, sugary grit on your teeth, before dropping out to leave an artificial taste of sour fruit.
You know that moment when you pee, look down, see that it’s red and say, “Maybe I should see a doctor. Oh well, it’s Ivies?” People in Nantucket do that every day. They drink Nantucket Nectars Grapeade, whether they like it or not. It is the only beverage allowed to be drunk on the Island. Be like them, drink like them. Persevere. It might seem like a long, dark road, but do you know what will be on the other side? Us, on a beach, sipping Nantucket Nectars Grapeade.
Dan: More like nom-tucket. Drink it for taste, drink it for power and prestige, drink it for Nantucket.Ryan: That was Nan-titillating.
Nose: Doesn’t matterBody: Doesn’t matterTaste: Yee-haw Nantucket
$1.89 at Bowdoin Express.
Bottom of the Barrel: Retweet this: Taste of boring Beaujolais bears little likeness to scent
The editors of a should-not-be-named college paper, that may or may not be too proud of publishing once a week longer than anyone else, wanted us to review Franzia Chillable Red. You all know what that tastes like.
In case you’re still wondering, it does not taste very good. Naturally, there are always worse things to drink, including: radiator fluid, chilled strawberry soup and orphan tears.
Eric Asimov at The New York Times (which publishes every day) sent out a request for reviews of Beaujolais, a French wine that neither of us had ever tried before. So in our constant bid for retweets (find us on the Twittersphere), we found ourselves sitting in Tower 6A with a bottle of 2011 Jean-Marc Burgaud Les Vignes de Thulon Beaujolais-Villages instead (#payattentiontous).
The deep red of the wine grabbed our attention right off the bat. An inky erubescent, the Beaujolais remained translucent when held up to the light. The wine resisted clinging to the glass, in line with its lower alcohol content (12.5% ABV). According to wikihow, the best way to get retweets is to reference the J.J. Abrams upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII. So be prepared, Star Wars reference dropping is about about to go down like Alderaan in episode IV.
If you haven’t noticed yet, we have an entirely self-serving agenda in writing this column. Step one: review Beaujolais instead of Franzia. Step two: get retweeted by Eric Asimov. Step three: gain Twitterverse momentum (#masstimesvelocityequalswinecolumn). Step four: get retweeted by J.J. Abrams. Step five: use our notoriety to meet our personal hero, nationally acclaimed and beloved superstar chef Guy Fieri.
If you would like to help, please submit our column to Buzzfeed (“15 pictures of wines and pandas that are better than Franzia”) or Upworthy (“These two college students drank a bottle of wine and you won’t believe what happened next!”).
Viticulture has been practiced in the Beaujolais region of France since Roman times. Modern Beaujolais wines are made primarily from the gamay grape, a 14th century grape that became popular when residents of Gamay realized that it ripened far quicker than pinot noir. Recovering from the black death, village residents had occasion to drink and began planting the grapes everywhere (because seriously, #blackdeath #winewednesday). In 1395, however, Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, declared the grapes to be full of “very great and horrible harshness” and outlawed them to increase pinot noir production. Grape cultivation retreated south to the Beaujolais region, a Degobah-like refuge.
With a relatively weak nose, this wine made us feel like we were like two patrons in a Guy Fieri restaurant, wandering in search of olfactory hints to the character of what lay before us. We were able to detect notes of blueberry and blackcurrant, with hints of sugar. As the wine warmed, alcoholic heat began venting, bringing to mind Asimov’s instructions to chill a Beaujolais slightly before drinking.
The taste stood in contrast to the nose. Hints of dark berries were trumped by a strong sour acidity and a metallic taste on the back of the tongue. The saccharine elements we recognized earlier were nowhere to be found.
You know what else is nowhere to be found? Retweets of our column. Get on that. A low alcohol content left the Beaujolais light in the mouth, with a slight tartness that intensified as the wine became warmer. Beaujolais are fresh wines, meant to be drunk at a young age. A 2011, our Beaujolais was certainly pleasant, but was not fantastic. Promised fruit tones die out early, leaving only acidity and a weak sour feeling.
For the money, you would be better off buying an order of Guy Fieri’s dragon chili cheese fries or another bottle of wine. We were left slightly bored and underwhelmed. That being said, this wine is easy to drink and perfect to bring to a party and show you’re sophisticated and deserve more twitter followers. Additional Notes:
Dan: This wine is as great as Guy Fieri’s frosted tips.Ryan: Still better than Franzia.
Nose: 2/5Mouthfeel: 4/5Taste: 2.5/5
Bottom of the Barrel: A drink worthy of the gods: local mead is sweet as honey
Be this Valhalla? Nay, tonight we drink in the great hall of Tower 6A. We have fought long and hard and laid with women, men and beasts, but now the horn of plenty showers our heads with golden mead. A reward from the gods of Hannafjord aisle four for our fortnightly efforts.
Honeymaker semi-sweet mead is produced in Portland, Maine. Many meads are simply a type of wine, aged to allow the honey-derived sugar to convert to alcohol. Others may be brewed, hopped, spiced, and fruitened (a technical term). Ours is made from honey and water, simple by design.
Meads are some of the oldest alcoholic drinks in existence, dating back to 2000 BC across Eurasia. Mead’s first professional review came from the Brythonic bard Taliesin, in his song Tanu y Med, which peaked at No. 3 on the Brythonic Billboard Hot 100 in 550 AD. Mead was famously consumed by the Norse gods and dead warriors in Valhalla, where it sprung forth from the udders of the goat Heiðrún. Unfortunately, we struggled to find a mead goat, so we bought a bottle from Hannaford and duct taped it to Jordan Goldberg ’14’s belly.
While suckling at Jordan’s singular teat, we were struck by the incredibly rich golden color, effervescent in the torchlight of our banquet hall. Our drinking horns amplified the sweet honey nose. Anything normally expected in the nose of a wine was nowhere to be found; a pleasant scent of honey was the start and finish. We weren’t that surprised when the taste followed suit. A strong, sweet body was moderately supported by accents of light wildflower and a noticeable alcohol presence with a touch of dryness on the back end. We were happy to find that the mead is not at all syrupy; the body stays light and refreshing rather than heavy and cloying.
In Norse mythology, mead imbues whoever imbibes it with either berserker rage or poetic inspiration and intelligence. Mead—as well as immortal goat milk—has its origins in divine spittle. When the gods of Æsir and Vanir made their peace, they hawked heavenly loogies into a vat; from their spittle the man Kvasir was born.
Kvasir was quite intelligent. In fact, he was so smart that he embarrassed a bunch of dwarves, who, in turn, became angry with him. They killed him and poured his blood into a new set of two vats and a pot, respectively named Óðrerir, Óðrørir and Óðrœrir.
In Denver, Colo., pots are still named to this day, but more along the lines of “Sour Diesel” and “Maui Wowie.” Back to Kvasir. The dwarf mixed his blood with honey, told the gods he had drowned in his own intelligence (specifics on this are still unclear), and mead was born. Then it was somehow put in that goat.
Whether found in vats, goats, or on the shelves of a local Brunswick supermarket, mead is a wonderful way to expand your palate. Who knows? It may just give you the wisdom to ace that test next week.
Or maybe, you’ll get written up for berserker rage. Either way, pour a horn of Honeymaker, recite a skål or sumbel, and drink up, for the battlefields of Ásgarðr shall await us in the morn.
Ryan: I think I grew a third chest hair.
Dan: Tanu y Med is on my “spring jams” playlist.
Nose: 3/5Body: 4/5Mouthfeel: 4.5/5Taste: 4.5/5
Pairs well with noble death. $13.99 at Hannaford.
Bottom of the Barrel: Tasty wine from down under: Woop Woop is reason to cheer
According to the ever reputable urbandictionary.com, Woop woop is “an expression designed to express approval, happiness, joy, and/or excitement usually accompanied by a knocking together of the fists with a buddy.”
The two of us work on a strictly professional basis, but we couldn’t help but bump fists over glasses of this 2012 Australian Cabernet Sauvignon.
When we first poured this wine we were immediately struck by its rich red color. We haven’t seen a red like this since our ill-fated experience drinking dragonfruit MD 20-20. Or that time Ryan ate a Sharpie. Woop Woop looked different. Its red was acidly bright but beckoned seductively, like crimson lipstick in a bottle. Had it done something new with its hair? Was it showing us a little too much leg? Or was it just a really red wine?
As we brought the glasses up to our lips we encountered strong earthy tones and subtle notes of berry. For $13 a bottle, this wine’s nose was surprisingly sophisticated. Understatedly high-brow, Woop Woop Cabernet could find a kindred spirit in a newer Matthew McConaughey film (maybe not that NC-17 one where he kills people), or that freshman lax bro with a solid grasp of Hegelian philosophy.
Our tasting sessions are conducted in silence with an occasional muttered critique of the wine.
As we got our first impressions of this wine we tried to maintain our composure but couldn’t help but scream “Woop woop!” The call echoed through Coles Tower and across town, cracking the white silence of winter. Strong earth tones of peat and moss are balanced perfectly with sweet cherry and plum carried over from the nose. The mild sweetness is balanced well by tannins that developed after allowing the wine to breathe for five minutes.
Mother nature herself must have heard our exclamation, for snowflakes began to lazily drift down from the sky. A sharp mewling from the Coles Tower lobby broke through the muffled breeze. We opened the door to discover six direwolf puppies huddled around their mother’s body. We knelt, the rusty scent of the she-wolf’s blood permeating the sixth floor.
“Valar morghulis. Valar morghulis,” the man whispered. The steel sunk into one back, then another. The wine columnists fell to the ground and Jaqen H’ghar was gone. This column is now brought to you by HBO. “Game of Thrones” starts April 6!
Woop Woop is produced in Australia: a country with the distinction of both being founded as a prison and being filled with things that have evolved to kill humans. The grapes came with the prisoners, brought along with the First Fleet of 11 ships in 1788. The unfamiliar climate proved problematic, probably because it tried to kill everything, and grapes were not successfully grown until the mid-18th century. Today, Australia is a major producer of wine and most grape varietals have found success in the country.
Our one reservation about Woop Woop is that the sweetness can be a little overpowering initially. Allow it to breathe, or just drink with a friend. In Westeros there are no friends, no enemies. There are only players and pieces. And dragons.
This Cabernet tastes good and is backed by a solid body with a high alcohol content (14 percent). Despite the body, it is not at all heavy, and feels silky and cool in the mouth.
Dan: My mind was telling me no, but my body said yes.Ryan: Is it wrong that I think Jaime Lannister is the most sympathetic character?
Nose: 4/5Body: 4/5Taste: 5/5
Pair with Parents Weekend dinner, Thorne Dining Hall. Thirteen dollars at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store.
Bottom of the Barrel: Casa de Campo Moscato is juicy... Literally, it may be juice
Have you ever wondered what a gold medal tastes like? Or how about defeat? They say victory is sweet, but so is eating packets of Sweet & Low. While Ryan was in the oxymoronic state of “dry season” for swimming and attempting to win his own gold this week, I tried to find my answer through wine. I turned to the Fates to find me a new compatible columnar colleague. As the divine trumpets of a passing ambulance were faintly heard from Maine Street, my calls were answered as Sam Karson ’14 sauntered towards me. So now, glasses in hand, Sam and I shall venture forth to review the Casa de Campo 2012 Moscato.
Casa de Campo is a Moscato. Muscat grapes are tucked away in the northeastern region of Piedmont, Italy. The Muscat grape has both red and white varieties, but the Muscato wine is exclusively made from the white grape Muscat Blanc á Petits Grains variety. When wine is made using grapes specifically from the Piedmont region, it may be called a Moscato d’Asti or simply an Asti. However, the Casa de Campo is from Mendoza, Argentina and thus cannot receive such lexiconical labeling. Instead of a fancy name, our wine had an amateur painting of a cow. The artist decided to color the cow green, but apparently abandoned that idea halfway through the process, leaving the depiction of a cow in Astroturf stockings.
The first thing you recognize about the Casa (or as Sam and I like to affectionately call it, “The Big House”) is its rich golden color. It harkens back to memories of Brian Boitano or that Keystone Light you poured down the sink last Saturday when you told everyone you were going to shotgun it.
Bottom of the Barrel: Agua de Piedra Malbec is delicious, perfect for fancy occasions
Lingering outside is impossible in the cold weather that consumes Maine, so we have taken to the comfort of the great indoors.
In the midst of swirling eddies of cold air, we watch Drake shine bright through a MacBook in “Started from the Bottom.” He does not hashtag “polarvortex,” but rather throws his arms wide in the whirling snow, his all-white outfit shining in gaudy defiance. Winter will not shatter his soul. He’s flying low over Toronto in a jet borne on ketamine wings.
Welcome to the new year and the new us. We fancy up here. Who needs a $10/bottle price maximum? We’re moving up in the world.
Bottom of the Barrel: MD 20/20: an adult wine made of Kool-Aid & soap
With the holiday season upon us, we wish to remind you all of the importance of family and friends—those who support, cherish, and most of all love you. MD 20/20 will love you. It will greet you with a gentle kiss, a splash of color. It will whisper sweet nothings into your ear, grab you by the hair, and smash your nose into the sink. You will wake up in a bathtub full of ice, your kidney gone, and the empty bottle of Mad Dog Blue Raspberry faithfully by your side.
MD 20/20 is produced by Mogen “Shield of David” David in Westfield, N.Y. It’s made from Concord grapes, sugar, flavor and, we suspect, Scrubbing Bubbles toilet bowl cleaner for the color. We can only assume that it’s the terrifying love-child of the Kool-Aid man and a demonic bottle of Welch’s.
We sampled both the dragonfruit and blue raspberry flavors. We’ve never heard of wine pressed from Concord grapes, but the blue raspberry bottle was wearing a necklace that said “bling bling,” so we assumed it was a winner. Both pour vibrant neons: a highlighter left to soak in a glass of water. Light moves through the liquids lazily, the opacity hiding smudges on the glass, broken dreams or our dignity.
Bottom of the Barrel: Tavernello Pinot Grigio: getting what you pay for
Trevor comes home from school.
“How was school?”
“Okay. We had a test.”
Bottom of the Barrel: Red Truck wine appeals to chill(ed), easygoing drinkers
The wine had a picture of a truck on it, so we kept it in the car. Wines are best kept in cars. Freshly-chilled pinot noir in hand, we poured two glasses that resembled cranberry juice.
Fortunately, the drink was so cold that we couldn’t tell whether or not it was actually wine. Pinot noirs, like most reds, are not meant to be drunk cold. When cold, a 2011 Red Truck pinor noir tastes like tannic cherry, with a lackluster body. After utilizing traditional warming techniques like clenching the bottle between our thighs and breathing on it very hard (not blowing, that would cool it), our Red Truck was turned on and ready to go.
Pinot noirs are an ancient grape varietal possibly dating back 2000 years, but as of late have become associated with France’s Burgundy region, where they reached their greatest prominence. The grapes—though relatively difficult to cultivate—are grown in most of the world’s wine-producing regions due to their popularity in their production of higher-quality wines.
Bottom of the Barrel: Chief of Lions gifts drinkers taste of summer
We found a corkscrew—good for us. Off to a better start than last time, we poured the bottle-proclaimed “Chief of Lions,” a 2012 Panilonco Chardonnay-Viognier blend from Chile’s Colchagua Valley. The label was pleasant enough, featuring a roaring stone lion with his paw on what appeared to be a little basketball.
The Colchagua Valley lies in central Chile, and is world-renowned for its grapes and relative proximity to the Pan-American Highway. You might recognize it from the postcard that your friend studying abroad sent you. He didn’t actually go there, but his mom read about it in Bon Appétit, so that’s nice.
Chardonnay is one of the most widely consumed wine grape varieties in the world. It originated in France’s Burgundy region, but has since spread to every wine-producing region in the world. Its successful production is often considered a coming-of-age rite for a new region.
Bottom of the Barrel: "Two-Buck Chuck" is easy on the wallet, but hard on the palate
According to an educational YouTube video, there are seven easy ways to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. First-hand experience proved to us that two of them don’t work: the nail and the screw hook.
After overcoming this immediate hurdle and shoving the cork into the bottle, we poured our first wine for this column into two hastily rinsed mason jars.
Charles Shaw, affectionately known as “Two-Buck Chuck,” sells multiple varieties of “extreme bargain wine,” perfect for the college connoisseur looking to whet their whistle without breaking the bank.