2010 Redux: Bottom of the Barrel

Wink White Zinfandel1.jpg
Erica O'Neil
Wink, a flirty little wine that exceeds its three buck price point. Which other bargain wines made the cut?


In the spirit of tying up loose ends, we're recapping some of our favorite food-related finds of the year. We've already recapped the Best Books, Battle of the Dishes, Just Offal, and several of the Best Recipes posted in 2010. Today we're scraping the Bottom of the Barrel to bring you the best swill five bucks can buy.


Boozing on the cheap is a risky endeavor, and we've downed plenty of bottles over the past year to find the cubic zirconias in the rough. (Ain't no diamonds in this bunch.) Even if we're not steering you down the epicurean path of good taste, at least we're helping to lead you to the a bottle that lessens bitter-wine-face and leaves you with a couple bucks in your pocket. And if you're looking to do some serious damage to your internal organs and sense of dignity, here's a short list of the Top Five Lighter Fluid Alternatives at the end of this classy bunch. 

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Erica O'Neil
Rex Goliath: Cock of the walk.
1. Rex Goliath Cabernet Sauvignon
Do not question the will of Rex Goliath, the namesake 47-pound circus freak of a chicken gracing the label. This kickin' chicken is one of those rare success stories in the bottom of the barrel circuit, where a cheap price point doesn't necessarily translate to notes of furniture varnish and shoe polish. It's a respectable, robust red wine that would pair well with any red-blooded entree, and promises not to embarrass you if you present it as a hostess gift.

2. Foxhorn Chardonnay
Foxhorn definitely knows what that the first rule of selling cheap wine is having an adorable little mascot that stares out at you from amid a sea of cheap wines. Thankfully, this cute little fox managed to be an inoffensive tankard of cheap wine that was an excellent party starter around the holidays. We sustained no lasting scars from our battle with this wily fox, and in the bottom of the barrel world, that's high praise. 

Cape Peak was one of the more respectable red wines we encountered at the old Fresh & Easy, home to some of the best BoB finds on the market. This syrah had a rich blackberry flavor that flirted with sweetness but managed to stay well away from wine cooler territory. Notes of cherry and earthiness (sounds better than saying tree bark) rounded out the palate and added complexity. It's dirt cheap, but it doesn't taste like dirt.

Oenophiles need to look away, because we're throwing a white zinfandel on the list of best cheap wind finds. It looks like pink lemonade if pink lemonade gotcha drunk, and it kind of smells like Zebra Stripes fruity gum, but the smooth and fruity palate was flirty and would pair well with any other guilty pleasure you have on the agenda. We'll take a girls' night out and honeyed goat cheese, minus the blistering sugar-induced headache that follows these frou frou wine selections.

A deep, jewel-toned reddish purple that smells just like summertime in a berry patch, with strawberries, blackberries and a hint of exotic razzleberry to round it out. The Big Kahuna may have wiped out on the rutti tutti fresh and fruity aroma alone, but a spicy earthen profile barreled through the pipeline to deliver a light, refreshing red that was complex but not overpowering. Mahalo & g'day, Fresh and Easy!

Top Five Lighter Fluid Alternatives
Night Train Express close up.jpg
www.angelfire.com/mi2/sfroad/page1104.html
Leaving the station en route to a drunk and disorderly.
In short, it tastes like poverty. Ignore Wild Rosie's siren call and promises of a warm embrace as you descend into oblivion. It's all a ruse to get you to polish off some of the vilest "wine" ever bottled. This is the true bottom of the barrel. Ain't no going lower from here, in terms of both the vintage and your dignity.

Thunderbird may as well be horse piss fortified and bottled for your convenience. It ill singe off half of your taste buds and host a raucous party in your gut, so it's best to avoid pairing this with anything other than the paper bag wrapped around it. This way you can try and hide the shame of consuming such rot gut and preserve what little is left of your fast diminishing dignity.

This is a deceptive wine that's a bit on the sugary side and doesn't have the rubbing alcohol profile of its other bum wine brethren. The finish is smooth and doesn't scorch your esophagus to dust in the process, although you may be able to get high on the fumes of this alone. Night Train Express will put a fire in your belly and have you making bad life choices in record time. You will smell like a wino the day after consuming this and will do so with a raging headache and a sense of shame that can't be showered away. All aboard the train to extreme drunkenness and degeneracy!

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flickriver.com
A fitting analogy for what any of these bum wines will do to your dignity.
Nothing positive can be said for this wine, aside from the fact that it will get you fall-down, pants-pissing drunk in record time. If you consider that a plus. Cisco acts like a brillo pad on your brain, buffing away all recollection of the foulness from the night before and leaving a blank slate in its wake. A dangerous side effect that may lead to unintended consequences, you know, like waking up naked in a gutter with no recollection of the night prior.

It's a saccharine watermelon soda pop that will fuck your night straight up. There's a reason people you don't see people slamming a shot of tequila and chasing a double shot of espresso. Upper and downers don't generally play nice with one another. It was good while it lasted for doing some stupid stuff with tons of energy.

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