Three, Bottom Shelf, Grocery Store Wines

I got to my office early. That bastard was not going to topple me off my perch. What am I saying? I don’t think like this, but I felt threatened and that brought out unusual feelings in me.

I saw the three brown bagged wine bottles, labeled 1, 2 and 3. Of course, they hadn’t been stored properly overnight, ideally, refrigerated in my wine fridge, at a perfect 55 degrees Fahrenheit for reds. If Bello purchased them though, I doubt proper storage at a perfect temperature would’ve mattered. In a way, I felt I should have waited until he arrived, out of politeness. These were his wines, but considering what he was trying to do – muscle me out of my job – I said, “Screw this!” and opened all three bottles quickly.

The first, was a weak Cabernet Sauvignon. I could barely tell, but there was just enough flavor present to allow me to identify the varietal. I tasted the second, another bad example of a Cabernet, even worse than the first. Feeling like someone facing a firing squad, I quickly tasted the third horrifying example of cheap, bottom shelf, grocery store, Cabernet Sauvignon.

I knew what these wines were, their aroma/flavor profiles identified them immediately. Not wanting to waste any more of my time than absolutely necessary, I tore off their brown bags. This was actually the only way wines of this caliber should be consumed, in a brown paper bag and only in a dark alley, by someone who has no other alternative.

Here are my tasting notes on Mr. Bello’s three wine selections.

Quail Oak Cabernet Sauvignon
First, we had a snappy little number from a vintner called Quail Oak. I was concerned when I did not see a specific wine region or date on the bottle. Perhaps it was merely a good week?

Appearance: While the wine was clear, and the color was a beautiful ruby purple, this wine had no perceivable legs, indicating low sugar levels and very low alcohol by volume. When I checked the label, it said 12.8% ABV, indicating a pretty lightweight Cab.

Aroma: The aroma was quite acidic, reminiscent of battery acid. To it’s credit however, the scent did open up after sitting in my glass for a few moments to reveal some subtle florals accompanied by a few hints of red and black fruits that apparently had been forced out against their will. Still, hovering around $3.50 a bottle at Safeway, this was not a terrible wine and was by far the best of this depressing grouping.

Flavor: I was surprised to taste as much fruit as I did, pomegranate, red cherry and a minuscule amount of baking spices were detectable. That was it however, try as I might to discover anything further.

Finish: A short/medium finish with soft tannins left me glad it was over. In summary, this would be a decent wine for weddings and art openings. It’s not a complete embarrassment and it is cheap.


2015 ForestVille Cabernet Sauvignon
Although this bottle went up in price to a whopping $7 per bottle, and included a bottling date, it went down in quality sharply, if that was even possible – it was.

Appearance: The wine was clear, ruby purple in color and also had no perceivable legs, which was a big duh when I read the ABV, a wimpy 12.5%, indicating another lightweight Cab.

Aroma: The aroma was mildly floral and fruity, showing bright red fruit, cherry with a hint of strawberry, kind of like a cheap Beaujolais Nouveau, but even that was giving it way too much credit.

Flavor: What a tease! The aroma promised flavors that the wine could not deliver. Watery and flabby with minimal flavor, slightly floral and little fruit.

Finish: The acidic finish fell off fast, like a teenaged boy’s first sexual experience. This was a very good thing. Similar to my aunt Irma’s culinary experiments, the flavors of this wine were ones you would never want to have lingering in your mouth. Amazingly, there were no discernable tannins, which is impossible to imagine in a Cabernet Sauvignon. Yet, ForestVille pulled it off, more is the pity. In summary, although this was a very inexpensive wine, don’t even bother to bend over, pull it off the bottom shelf and put it in your Safeway shopping cart because these were flavors no tongue should ever have to experience.


Beringer Main & Vine Cabernet Sauvignon
Beringer did a sneaky little thing here. Right under their Main & Vine branding intended to create the feeling of a more exclusive little sub-section within their wine production, there was a date. If you were not careful, you might not even read it and assume it was the bottling date – until you actually read it, 1876. I’m guessing that was the start date for Beringer, which started out as a viable wine producer until they realized the big profits in bulk wine, but that’s for another article. Although Beringer did not include a bottling date, they included a wine region, Napa Valley. Good region so the wine must be good, right? Don’t be fooled.

Appearance: The wine was deep purple in color with minimal legs, despite the 12.5% ABV, yet another lightweight Cab.

Aroma: The aroma was mildly floral and fruity, yet the fruit was so minimal that individual fruits were indiscernible. A hint of baking spice aroma was present, with cinnamon taking the lead at the end of this dismal experience.

Flavor: The flavor – what flavor? This wine was basically watery and acidic.

Finish: The finish wasn’t really even worth discussing and the tannins were harsh. This wine actually caused me to make an involuntary cough medicine face as I pushed out my tongue after swallowing, to remove the flavor quickly, hopefully through oxidation. Against my will, I heard myself say forcefully, “This wine tastes terrible!” What we had here was possibly a good cooking wine, but be careful, it might not even be appropriate for that. After all, you need some flavor to begin with even if you’re just going to dump it into a pot of spaghetti sauce.

The only bright spot in all this? Mr. Bello never showed up that day. Perhaps he was sleeping off the effects of a cheap wine hangover?


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