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Foodie Rant - Beware of Fake Wine!

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jan 13, 2010 4:20PM

Photo by Teddy Wachholz
Loyal readers, this is a terrifying tale. A tale of a foodie taken in because he didn’t read a label. A tale of a disgusting faux-wine, ingested by accident. A tale of wasting… six dollars. Alright, maybe it wasn’t that bad after all, but the public must be warned!

At a supermarket last week, I was looking for a bottle of white wine to use in a recipe. As should be clear by now to all of our readers, I am a gourmand of the first order; that is why I grabbed the very first white wine I saw, sitting by the checkout counter. I gave the label a quick glance. It was one of those wine labels with fancy edging that looks like a certificate of authenticity, and it had the word “Chateau” in the title. For $6, I figured I was safe.

After I got back to my kitchen and unpacked my groceries, I began to chop things up for dinner. My dining companion decided he wanted a glass of wine, and grabbed the (not-yet-incriminating) bottle and opened it. It had a real cork - no screwtops or plastic for this high-quality product. I gave a little smile as the bottle popped satisfyingly open. He poured a little bit into a glass and tasted it. His face quickly went from happy to... confused.

“I think something is wrong with this wine,” he said. Visions of fungus and mold ran through my head, and I braced myself for the taste of wet newspaper, which is what wine experts say "corked" wine tastes like. I tasted it, and made a confused face of my own. It wasn’t spoiled… but it wasn’t right either. I finally gave the label a closer look, and underneath the fancy “Chateau” label, I saw a tiny line of text that read “Wine Product.” Wine Product? What was that? I looked at the back of the bottle. Wine, like all alcoholic beverages, has no nutritional information or ingredient list, but this did. The first ingredient was California Table Wine - I let out a small sigh of relief. But, after that came water, sugar, ascorbic acid and artificial flavoring. Artificial flavoring indeed! Growing suspicious, I checked the alcohol content. Standard wine runs anywhere from 11-14 percent - this was six percent.

Everyone has tasted a “wine product” - Arbor Mist being the most popular example - and these are usually marketed as such. Colorful bottles, wine spritzers with bottlecaps, cardboard boxes; these are the markers of fake wine. This was a different sort of fake. I’d only encountered things like this in states with very restrictive liquor laws, but apparently these products are branching out.

We discarded the fake wine and went out to buy another bottle, this time a bottle of real Sauvignon Blanc. Let this be a warning to you, wine lovers of the world. Even if you’re just looking for some cheap rotgut to get you through the night - read the label.