December 29, 2006

A Fresh Perspective on Champagne

Champagne PoppingNew Year's is just about the only time most people think about Champagne and sparkling wine, because people apparently want to have bubbles tickle their noses as they ring in the new year. We've found an interesting take on Champagne recommendations over at DCist, which has not included your typical label tasting notes but has instead opted to give profiles of different types of the effervescent drink, from Blanc de Blancs to Demi Sec.

We found it interesting, though our Liquor Snob brethren seem to have taken some issue with the author's comparison of Jack Daniel's and Johnnie Walker (see the comments).

All bubbly is not created equal.
This is true both literally – there are numerous methods of getting the bubbles in the bottle – and tastefully. Just as Sunny D does not taste like Tropicana and Jack Daniels does not taste like Johnnie Walker, all sparkling wine does not taste the same simply because it’s all fizzy.

Know thyself.
Before you trek to the wine store to buy bubbles, form an opinion about what you generally like to drink. Do you prefer dry or sweet? White or red? Beer or liquor? Do you always stick to certain brands when you drink? Believe us, this will come in handy when you ask the salesperson for a suggestion. The more specific you can be about what you like (or hate), the better the bottle you’ll walk out with.

Read on at DCist.

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December 20, 2006

Pruno - Make Your Own Prison Wine

Pruno image courtesy of Black TableAs you know, we're always on the lookout for the cheapest tasty wines available - it's kind of our thing. But sometimes you have to stretch your boundaries...exit your comfort zone...leave tasty out of the equation. For those of you who don't know, Pruno is a variety of homemade wine that is usually created in prison, often hidden in the toilet tank as contraband. When you hear the words "prison wine" and "toilet tank" you probably think it's going to taste pretty good.

You'd be wrong - the creator of the recipe we found described it as tasting like a "bile flavored wine cooler." Even so, Pruno creation is a skill that might treat you well some day when you're on lockdown for downloading pirated Justin Timberlake songs or whatever it is you do.

By most accounts, pruno isn't something a normal human would want to drink, so potent that two gallons is said to be "a virtual liquor store," enough to get a dozen people mindblowingly wasted. And while it tastes so putrid that even hardened prisoners gulp it down while holding their noses, they'll go to incredible lengths to make it, whipping up batches from frosting, yams, raisins and damn near everything.
from Black Table

Note: Pruno is nasty crap. Cheap Fun Wines takes no responsibility if you drink it and go blind, have a psychotic episode, or otherwise have ill effects.

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December 19, 2006

Barefoot Bubbly Has Champagne Dreams

Barefoot BubblyWhile we like the occasional sip of the bubbly, we don't lose a lot of sleep at night wondering about the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine. In fact, we thought we pretty much had it dialed - Champagne is from France and sparkling wine is from anywhere else.

But Kevin from The Scotch Blog has posted a story on his side gig Drink Shoot about Barefoot Bubbly, a "California Champagne," that has opened our eyes. In the words of Jennifer Wall, the winemaker at Barefoot Cellars:

We are legally allowed to use the term “Champagne” in the United States – as long as it is used in conjunction with the region that the grapes originated from. For example – if the wine grapes were grown in California, we can legally say “California Champagne” – that’s the agreement that The United States came up with France so that there was no confusion with the consumer.
So it turns out you can make Champagne in the states, and apparently the Barefoot Bubbly is some fine-tasting California bubbly. Read the whole Barefoot Bubbly story at Drink Shoot.

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December 14, 2006

Southern Right Pinotage (2002) Review

Southern Right
Varietal: Pinotage
Year: 2002
Origination: South Africa
ABV: 14%
We Paid: $15.99

Southern Right Pinotage labelWe did a little piece on the appeal of Pinotage wines from South Africa, and it has left us mildly obsessed. We like the big flavors associated with the Pinotages we've tried, and they're usually a great match for spicy foods with equally big flavors, which we love. While we have read people using terms like "old band aids" or "rusty nails" to describe some Pinotages, we haven't encountered those (thankfully) and we wanted to let you know about the one we've tried most recently, Southern Right.

They Say: A wonderfully ripe, voluptuous wine with concentrated dark berry fruit, beautifully balanced wood spice and fine-grained tannins. By fully ripening our Pinotage at low yields in clay-rich soil, we have avoided simple, estery fruit and rustic tannins, while filling out the middle palate and ensuring length and complexity. (from

We Say: This is another big, full-flavored Pinotage, full of berries and plums and spices. One taster called it "Chipotle Wine" because she found it to be so smokey. We thought it was a bit leathery too, which didn't detract from our enjoyment. Drink this one if you need a big, burly flavor to go along with spicy foods and red sauces.

Interesting Note: Southern Right is named after a rare type of whale that visits Walker Bay in South Africa every year, and the Southern Right winery donates a contribution to their conservation for every bottle sold. You know how much of a sucker we are for good wines going to good causes - we're thinking of Big Tattoo Red right now.

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December 13, 2006

Top Wines for $5.99 or Less

Empty PocketsThe holidays are a time for giving, and while that do wonders for your tiny Grinch-like heart, it can make your wallet feel three sizes too small. Luckily, there are easy ways to find passable-to-good wines for under $10 to help stretch your budget. AOL Food has put together a list of wines available for even less than that - they went through 34 wines and found the top five you can buy for $5.99 or less. We knew about the deals Trader Joe's has (though we can't partake in them thanks to the barbaric liquor laws in Massachusetts), but there are a couple on the list that surprised us.

Head on over to AOL Food to see the slide show and check out their list, and tell 'em Cheap Fun Wines sent ya.

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December 7, 2006

The Right States for Shipping Wine

Wine Shipping BoxesWith the holiday season upon us, now is the time when a lot of people are looking to ship presents to friends and loved ones in other states. Of course, we think the best gift you could give anyone is wine, so that got us to thinking - what states can you ship wine to? As you probably know, individual states have their own rules and regulations about who can ship wine to their residents, and there are different categories.

Shipping between some states is perfectly simple and legal, while shipping to others is a felony. That's right...we said felony. We've compiled a list of each state's status after the jump, just to make sure you don't celebrate the holidays with a trip to the Big House.

[Update: So we thought this would be a useful little story for people looking to have wine shipped to another state, but it looks like the whole thing is too complex for our tender little minds. First we put up a list of laws and states, but it looks like the resource we used for this story was a bit out of date - or a lot out of date based on the number of comments we got. The other thing we noticed is that it's a fairly emotional issue, based on the number of people who called us idiots.

This just goes to show how confusing it can all be. So, in honor of us being idiots, we give up. If we include shipping info in our story, it seems like it'll just change in a week anyway. So, instead of giving you the list, we're going to tell you where to look for wine shipping info.

First, check out the Wine Institute's Who Ships Where? page for more up-to-date info. If that's not up to date enough for you, give the Ship Compliant blog a try...they know way more about this stuff than we do. Of course, most of the info is aimed at wineries that do wine shipping, so they probably know all this stuff anyway. Also, if you're trying to order from somewhere like, check their shipping policies before you get out your credit card.

Oh, and if you're living in one of those banned states for wine shipping and you just can't take it anymore, Free the Grapes is a grassroots coalition to try to lift bans and regulations on wine shipping.

Sorry about all the confusion. We hope this has been as much of a learning experience for you as it has for us.]

ArrowContinue reading: "The Right States for Shipping Wine"

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December 5, 2006

Lamborghini Wine on Sale at WinesTilSoldOut

lamborghini-wine.jpgWe just got a hot tip that you can get a great deal on a great wine, but you have to act fast.

The Wine: Lamborghini Umbria Campoleone La Fiorita 2002 Sangiovese Blend - got 91 points from Wine Spectator Magazine, blended by the people who make the cars. If they know half as much about grapes as they do about vehicles, what more could you ask for?

The Deal: This stuff usually retails for close to $65 per bottle, and they're offering it for $ there's free shipping if you buy 2 or more bottles. Not too shabby if you ask us, even though it's three bucks more than our typical price cap.

The Location:

We've reported on Wines Til Sold Out before, but if you're unfamiliar, they run crazy low prices on wine but they only last for 24 hours. That means you have to get your arse in gear if you want to get your hands on the deal.

Like we said above, they offer deals every single day, but this one struck us as one of the better ones so we thought we'd give a shout out. We check them regularly, and if you're looking for expensive wines for cheaper prices, you should too.

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Champagne vs Sparkling Wine

Champagne? Sparkling Wine?The difference between Champagne and sparkling wine was a mystery to us for a long time. Well, that's not true, actually, because we did understand that Champagne could only be made in France, but we weren't sure if there were differences in how it was created, purchased, and enjoyed. Luckily, the folks over at Wine X magazine have put together a little primer for us on the similarities and differences, just in time for us to be a wine boor during the holidays. there's even a glossary - hooray!

Following our Special Tasting in the last issue, we thought maybe, just maybe, you'd be interested in understanding the sparkling wine/Champagne winemaking process. You know what they say: a little knowledge is dangerous. So, here you go.
Wine X - Understanding Sparkling Wine/Champagne

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December 1, 2006

Food and Wine Pairing Wheel

Food and Wine Pairing WheelIt seems that figuring out which wine to pair with what food is the holy grail of wine novices, and the thing that causes them the most stress as they're first learning about wine. No one wants to be called out as having incorrectly paired a strong food with a weak wine, and vice versa. That's why we dug up this swanky wine/food pairing wheel so you can spin it to the food you're serving to find out what types of wine goes with it.

Seems like a great stocking stuffer for the wine newbie on your list, or you can buy a few of them and hand them out as favors for your next party - you'll be the talk of the town.

Amazon - Wine and Food Wheel

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