Friday, February 28

Wine About It: Heartbreak grape breaks hearts as it fails to meet expectations

(Pauline Ordonez/Daily Bruin)

Life is filled with moments shared over a glass of wine, whether fueling a gossip session with friends, or destressing after a long day of school. But what are the best options for the average broke college student who can’t afford a $50 bottle of wine? Each week, columnist Susana Alcantar will discuss different wine options for under $15, where to get them in Westwood and which are worth your money.

Winemakers call it the heartbreak grape of the world.

The pinot noir grape is extremely vulnerable to disease and specific weather conditions, making it one of the most difficult grapes to grow. However, the grape creates one of the world’s most popular red wines, pinot noir – a dry medium-bodied variety composed mainly of the pinot noir grape which originates from Burgundy, France. Though the grape is challenging to grow, wineries still cultivate it in many regions across the world including France, Germany and California.

The first wine I decided to purchase was a 450 milliliter bottle of Mark West pinot noir for $9.99 at Ralphs. As I poured myself a glass, it seemed much more rich in color than I anticipated – appearing more dark red than light, with subtle tones of burgundy and brown. Though unexpected, California pinot noirs are commonly darker than those from other regions.

As I smelled the wine, I was not that impressed. According to the bottle, the wine should give off enticing aromas of strawberry and raspberry with hints of caramel, vanilla and baking spices, but I could only detect the spice without any of the sweetness.

In terms of taste, I was expecting a good mixture of natural and sweet flavors but ended up with only the former and a slight, unpleasant bitter aftertaste. I enjoyed the taste of oak and the hint of berry cola but missed the taste of raspberry that was promised. Overall, the wine lacked a well-defined taste and a lasting impression. I felt unsatisfied and could not bear to pour myself another glass.

Barefoot also offers a dark version of a pinot noir which will cost students $5.99 at Ralphs. I grew excited upon seeing the purple hue when I poured myself a glass, hoping its bright color hinted at a strong raspberry flavor like the wine advertised. The bottle also guaranteed the tantalizing flavor of ripe cherry with hints of vanilla and spice to compliment.

Most of the notes came through, but the vanilla was absent and the flavors were not necessarily as tantalizing as advertised. Nevertheless, the wine proved to be better than I expected for its low price. It was not too dry, meaning the wine was sweet, and it did not give off a bitter aftertaste. Instead, the wine offered a decent mixture of natural and sweet, although neither flavor felt particularly rich.

Aside from flavor, the main issue I had with the Barefoot pinot noir stemmed from the thinned-down consistency. At times it felt like I was tasting water instead of the flavors advertised on the bottle.

Though both wines fall short of greatness, the Barefoot pinot noir is definitely the better option. It offers a stronger flavor and a less dry composition than the Mark West pinot noir. The Mark West is an acceptable option if students are looking for a drier wine, but the Barefoot will save $4 and end up comprising a tastier and more satisfying beverage.


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