The paradox of good, cheap wine

by Beacon Staff • November 9, 2005

While there's no real consensus on the subject, most stereotypically broke college students will profess, when pressed, to preferring cheap beer to cheap wine.

For the reason why, imagine the last time you tasted Bud Light. That is correct. No one has ever tasted the "King of Beers" because it possesses little or no taste whatsoever.,"While there's no real consensus on the subject, most stereotypically broke college students will profess, when pressed, to preferring cheap beer to cheap wine.

For the reason why, imagine the last time you tasted Bud Light. That is correct. No one has ever tasted the "King of Beers" because it possesses little or no taste whatsoever.

And taste is both the character trait commonly associated with expensive wine and the primary reason to avoid the cheap stuff. At worst, an inexpensive merlot can be little better than murky vinegar, clogging the tongue and resulting in a murderous headache. At that point, there is nothing to do but rinse your mouth out and lament a lost five dollars.

But, college students are known for something else in addition to poverty: hope. Magnums of hope. What else would drive a guy to scan the lower reaches of a wine seller's racks, trying to discern the one honest label among the hundreds that dubiously claim class, distinction and quality? To aid such a starry-eyed young (not too young) believer, The Berkeley Beacon took a stroll through several area liquor stores in search of the cheapest, finest reds available.

Why red? White wine is classically drunk chilled, and chilling dulls taste. Reds are served at room temperature, a more common condition at college parties, and must therefore meet higher standards of quality. It's considerably simpler to swig an icy, inoffensive white, of course, but if inebriation were the sole goal of drinking, then we'd only slurp Bud Light, wouldn't we?

Here are five bottom-rung reds, with taste test results, liquor store of purchase and clerks' comments. Wines were tasted by the author, an Emerson junior writing, literature and publishing major and a server at Umbria; Juan Carlos Herrera, an employee at the North End's Wine Bottega; and Darcey Jaclyn, a junior art history major at Boston University, known for its experienced drinkers.

LABOUR