Monday, March 15, 2010

Would you like a straw with your wine?

My taste buds awoke to the many wonders of wine after a long weekend in Sonoma, California, almost a decade ago. I still remember my first vineyard, Kunde. It was horrible and almost as bad as Long Island wines. My friends and I more than made up for our unpalatable beginning and discovered the amazing Rafanelli (they offer dark chocolate with their tasting), the delicious Acorn, the classic Simi (my dad's favorite), and a few others I can't recall. After my awakening, I started paying attention to the wine I bought or ordered. I also decided that spending $15 - $35 on one bottle was OK, depending on the occasion. In New York City and Brooklyn it's very common to go to your local friendly wine store and ask for recommendations. I grew to love and most importantly trust UVA Wines. So far I have not been able to find anything like it in Zürich. Tips are very much appreciated.

COOP, a supermarket chain, is good because they do have descriptions of types of food their wines complement. They also carry excellent bottles in the medium range of 15 CHF - 20 CHF. I haven't tried their expensive varieties yet, but did stumble across a small Tetra Pak of French Cabernet Sauvignon. At 1.90 CHF for 25 dl, it's not a bargain, but it comes with a straw so Fabian and I had to try it. The container has French instructions which loosely translate to: "This Cabernet Sauvignon, an intense and fruity wine of a sustained color is ideal for picnics and parties among friends. Serve at 8 degrees Celcius." I could not find a date anywhere but there is a seal proclaiming it to be a "Fine Wine from the South of France". I can imagine U.S. authorities freaking out about presenting alcohol in a package typically used for school lunch box fruit juices.

We decided to do a blind taste test and compare the Tetra Pak with a 7.99 CHF bottle of Spanish red table wine. I wanted to go for the full experience so I first drank the wine with the straw, from the original container. I was impressed to find 4 holes around the tip of the straw. This must help the wine breathe as you drink. Unfortunately the texture of the straw is not user friendly (it hurt my lips and tongue) and interferes with the act of sipping. The taste of the wine was not as awful as I expected. It was harsh and probably very young, but drinkable. Next, I poured the Tetra Pak wine in two glasses and the blind taste test began. We also had a couple of glasses of the Spanish red. Fabian went first and upon sniffing what was the Tetra Pak said "Oh yeah, this is how it smells". He thought it resembles airport wine and tastes better than it smells. After trying the Spanish wine, Fabian declared that it wasn't really good either. Now it was my turn. The first glass I picked smelled like a toilet in NYC. After tasting the second glass, I correctly identified the Tetra Pak. It's clear why you should only drink it out of its container. It stinks with the harshness of nail polish remover and the aroma of a slightly dirty, wet, mangy dog. Throughout dinner we sipped from both wines. With each mouthful, the Tetra wine became worse. I had to hold my breath when drinking it and finally gave up for fear of developing an aversion to all red wine. In conclusion, there is no reason to ever buy the Tetra Pak wine. Ever.