Dueling Dishes: Walking the Plonk
Well, it's time to put my money, or rather the Weekly's money, where my mouth is. For this week's Dueling Dishes segment, I went out and bought two bottles of 7-Eleven's new Yosemite Road wine ($3.99 each) and two bottles of Trader Joe's Charles Shaw wine, better known as "Two Buck Chuck" because it costs $2.00 a bottle.
Faced with a selection of various types of what the French would call vin de table or vin ordinaire, I picked Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
I then convinced three friends, who will probably never again agree to assist in my research, to come over for a blind tasting. I made some homemade gougères ("yeah, I want cheesy poofs!") to cleanse the palate and chilled the whites.
Charles Shaw Chardonnay
This wine had the most varied comments. One person called it medicine-y, one said it was tart and too sweet, one said it was just boring, and one said it had a fruity smell and a light flavor. When asked if they'd buy the wine, however, the answer was a unanimous "no".
Yosemite Road Chardonnay
Everyone agreed that it smelled terrible ("like an aged cheese"), but that it tasted much better than it smelled. Still, if you're going to drink it, you're going to end up with your nasal passages in close proximity to the liquid. One person thought it was woody and bitter, but the other three thought it was OK.
Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon
Totally undrinkable. One person said it "dried her tongue". It's amazing that a wine can be so cloyingly sweet ("like Manischewitz") and yet still have a bitter, overwhelmingly tannic tang. One person summed it up nicely with, "There is nothing right about this." The number of gougères on the plate declined swiftly after this wine was tasted.
Yosemite Road Cabernet Sauvignon
While this isn't going to win any awards except this one, it was by far the best of the four wines we tasted. Two of the four people agreed that there wasn't much flavor to it. It was a bit sour-tasting, but at least it smelled like Cabernet Sauvignon.
In the Chardonnay battle, the vote was 3-1 for Yosemite Road; for the Cabernet Sauvignon, it was 4-0 for Yosemite Road. Trader Joe's, you ought to be ashamed of that Cabernet Sauvignon. Dégueulasse! (There's some more gratuitous French for you.)
We live in California, the epicenter of the American wine industry. There is not much excuse for drinking wine like this. Unless you're trying to alleviate alcohol withdrawal at 11:30 at night, go to a reputable wine retailer and splurge just a little bit. There are plenty of good, drinkable wines under $10 a bottle.
If you're absolutely stuck with the choice between these two wines, then by all means go to the back of your nearest 7-Eleven and buy the $4 Yosemite Road. It's at least drinkable, even if the best thing that can be said about it is that it doesn't taste like anything.