Worst Wines of the Year (so far...)

I sample over a thousand wines a year (yes, I spit many, for the sake of my health and liver), and very few wines are what I deem undrinkable. My dad, for example, loves his Tisdale Merlot, which is usually on sale at Morelli's in St. Paul for $2.00. I consider it drinkable, especially for the price.

Every once in a while I come across a wine that is truly hard to swallow. Here are four reasons why I consider a wine undrinkable, and four wines that deserve a nomination for Worst Wines of the Year.

So what makes a wine undrinkable?

1. No taste 2. Not balanced 3. Sweet with no substance 4. Too expensive and lacks quality

(Note: All Try this instead wines are on sale at all Haskell's locations until Labor Day.)

No taste To quote a wine drinker I met once, "I love this Italian White because it tastes like spring water." Well, to me, if it tastes like spring water, then drink spring water. It's cheaper and won't give you a headache. Cavit is on every shelf and is a recognized name, but the 2008 vintage lacks a lot.

2008 Cavit Trentino-Alto Adige Pinot Grigio Italy Tastes like water with a hint of lemon. 80 points

Try this instead: 2008 Columbia Crest Columbia Valley Pinot Grigio $8.99 Refreshing wine with apple, pear, minerals, and floral notes. Not meant to cellar, so buy and drink. 87 points

The best Italian pinot grigio wines are over $20 a bottle with few exceptions. Everything Columbia Crest makes is solid for the price. Also try pinot gris from Oregon and Alsace, France, as they are more consistent than Italy.

Not balanced Inexpensive wines often are not balanced. What is balanced? It's when the alcohol, acid, fruit, tannin and strength of a wine is in check with one another and nothing stands out. Also, a balanced wine has a nose and palate that are similar. It's a bit unfair to say that all high-tannic wines are not balanced because some, especially expensive wines from Bordeaux and Napa Valley, are designed to age. However, you should be able to detect fruit or earth character in the wine. This wine was highly recommended by a fellow wine educator, and I'm not sure why.

2008 Mark West California Pinot Noir The nose is not too bad, with some fruit, but the palate falls apart. Weak profile with little substance. It is too bitter, and finish is short. 78 points

Try this instead: 2008 La Crema Sonoma Pinot Noir $16.99 Spend the extra $7 and you will get a better example of pinot noir from California. This wine features cola, strawberries, cedar, and raspberries. Good acidity and medium finish. 89 points

Sweet with no substance By design, many of the corporate wineries in America will create a wine with some residual sweetness to appease the Coke and Pepsi generation. Other than some German rieslings, sweetness is not a key characteristic of most grape varieties. The 2008 Barefoot Pinot Grigio is one of the worst wines I have tasted in a long time. Starling Castle was going to get this spot, but along came Bigfoot, I mean Barefoot. 2008 Barefoot California Pinot Grigio No nose. Sweet with what might be a floral note. Sampled a few times to try to verify, but no such luck. 64 points

Try this instead: 2008 Dr. Loosen "Dr. L" Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Riesling $8.99 I may move more Dr. L than anyone in the Twin Cities via my wine recommendations, and Haskell's has the best price on it. Apple, pear, mineral, and a touch of sweetness make up this super wine. Short but pleasing finish. 90 points

Any other Qba Riesling will work as long as it doesn't say Piesporter Michelsberg on the label or come in a blue bottle.

Too expensive and lacks quality Two words for you: Silver Oak. I used Silver Oak as a wine to describe a wine snob who is all about name brands without a focus on quality. If they were in the record industry, the label would have dropped them by now, because they haven't had a hit since the '90s. At $70 retail, the Silver Oak Alexander falls short of expectations.

2005 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon On the nose: oak, vanilla, and cherry. The palate is disjointed with too much oak and not enough balance. Medium finish and very dry. I need some water please. 85 points

Try this instead: 2007 Newton Red Label Napa Valley Claret $15.99 While this is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and syrah, it just blows away the Silver Oak, especially when you can get four of these for the same price as one Silver Oak. This wine is medium in color and shows off aromas of cherry, spice, oak, and vanilla. On the palate it features firm tannins, oak, vanilla, cherry, spice, and floral notes. Medium finish. I would decant two hours before serving. 90 points Of course Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon will work.

(By the way, I did try a few Minnesota wines that were worse, but they are not the Vitis vinifera species of grapes.)


John Glas Wineglas www.wineglas.com

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