Indefensible food: Wine product
July 6th, 2010
03:00 PM ET
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This is the first installment of Indefensible Food - a series in which our intrepid team will sample products we all see on the grocery and liquor shelves, yet never quite have the moxie to try.

Don't ever buy a bottle of anything called "wine product." It tastes like sugar juice haunted by grapes. And don't cook with it.

It's illegal to sell wine in grocery stores in New York City. It has something to do with local wine and liquor stores and laws that have helped them stay competitive. I didn't know this. I just grabbed a bottle of something called "Chateau Diana California Merlot" at the grocery.

You see, I was on a mission to make dinner for my girlfriend. I decided to bust it fancy and make her a "Coq au Vin." Which in English, means chicken and wine. In my experience, chicken and anything is a great culinary bet. Chicken and waffles. Chicken and dumplings. Chicken and ice cream (that last one was something I invented with my friends Ben, Jerry and the Colonel.)

I have had my share of gastronomic disasters. I am no great cook, but my mother taught me the basics. What I make isn't always pretty, but it rarely turns out terrible. Coq au Vin in is basically a one-pot dish. But it sounds so fancy, and I was going to serve it with crusty olive bread and a baby spinach, goat cheese and mustard vinaigrette. Scrumptacular.

Everything was going well. Browned the bacon. Removed the bacon. Browned chicken thighs and legs in bacon fat. Threw in diced onions, carrots and garlic. Added chicken stock, a bunch of fresh herbs, salt, pepper and wine product. Then cook until you have a pot of fowl slow cooked in glorified Capri Sun.

My ladypal was very sweet. She ate a bowl of the resulting mess. For a brief moment, I thought she actually liked it and cheerfully said "Seconds?" She winced. Now, "wine product" isn't actually wine. It's cheap table wine diluted with water, sugar, juice concentrate and desperation.

My Coq au Vin was supposed to be a hearty red color. But it turned out a purplish gray, like a dead Barney the Dinosaur. It was bruise soup. It tasted ... bland. The sting of sugar was more present than any tang of wine. That she ate any of it is a testament to either her feelings for me or her excellent upbringing.

That's how I learned a valuable lesson: Always read the label.

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Filed under: Bite • Indefensible Food • Products • Sip • Wine

soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. tammy

    Yeah, wow. Here's a tip: if the ingredient is in the name of the dish, don't cheap out on it. 2: If you don't want to drink it, don't cook with it. 3: Um, taste it first, and then taste the dish before serving to someone you like. 4: When going for inexpensive wine, your best bets, arguably, are French, Spanish and Chilean. When in doubt, ask the folks at the store.

    June 26, 2014 at 11:05 pm |

    Thats some academic article..

    November 30, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  3. Lasik

    This makes perfect sense to anyone!

    November 18, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  4. illusions cigars

    Tremendous post!!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  5. micro penis man

    You couldnt be more correct

    October 4, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  6. Amy

    re: specialty wine and liquor stores

    I have to admit, living in Ontario we have the LCBO – sells all booze in the province – you can't get anything at the grocery store. So yes, you have to make two stops, but there are lots of LCBO's and the selction is AMAZING. Specialty stores give you more options, better pricing (ability to buy in bulk), you can make requests, special orders and you are guaranteed a certain amount of selection at each and every store – you know what to expect at every store and are never disappointed.

    July 7, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  7. Adam A. from Bellevue, Nebraska

    I've cooked with Beringers (Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and Chardonnay) and a Clos du Bois Sauvignon Blanc. You can never go wrong with Beringer, and the CdB was excellent as well.

    July 7, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  8. JPT

    Dammit, I forgot to mention chicken-in-a-biscuit. That's what you would seve along side wine product and cheese product.

    July 7, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  9. JPT

    I'm waiting for a rabid right-wing blogger to blame this on the Obama administration. That being said, I would imagine that wine product would go quite well with pastuerized processed cheese produt.

    July 7, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  10. moondoggie

    I've never heard of a wine product. Wierd.

    July 7, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  11. Sauteuse

    Coq au Vin is always a gawdawful bruised Barney shade, though it is never sweet. Must have been the desperation overpowering the wineish part of the product. Wonder if browning the shredded chix meat and adding a splash of red wine vinegar would caramelize the flesh like a tart-sweet carnitas?

    July 7, 2010 at 5:27 am |
  12. John Cassella

    My wife goes to a spa and they use yellow tail wine in the foot baths! I'm glad they found a use for that swill. Yuk.

    July 7, 2010 at 12:51 am |
  13. Tracy

    I'd cook with "Two Buck Chuck" in a heartbeat, and I had a successful catering business until I got tired of that game. There's a lot to be had that's decent in the bargain wine category, but you should be prepared to taste-test before planning your meal around something! Of course, I stand by that statement for any wine – I don't trust even the expensive bottles if I don't know them.

    July 6, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
  14. TEA

    Wine product, cooking wine, cheese food: three of many things that you should not interpret as the same thing as the item they intend to replicate. Because it's not the same. Ever.

    July 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Also terrifying? Meat food. Saw it as a topping option at 7-11 once. Haven't been the same since.

      July 6, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
  15. Chris in New Mexico

    The first and most important rule for cooking with wine is not to use anything you wouldn't serve and drink on its own merits. A bottle of a decent, perfectly acceptable table wine can be had for less than $10, and there are a number of consistently solid brands available. Using a "wine product" for cooking sounds even worse than using nasty "cooking wine" also found on some grocery store shelves. This sound like a classic case of going cheap ending or cutting corners up costing more in the long run.

    July 6, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
  16. RichinMI

    As a wine drinker I am in shock that the citizens of NY would even buy this swill. It also shows how powerful the liquor store lobby is in NY and how weak the grocers are. Wine product!!! Who knew???

    July 6, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  17. A2

    @Zephyr. Re-read the line again. Look at the punctuation. The author was translating.
    But it's cool that you were 'judgey' about it.

    July 6, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  18. Zephyr

    Coq au Vin is not English – it's FRENCH

    July 6, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Abe Froman


      July 6, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  19. dennis

    -Elizabeth, You obviously don't shop in California grocery stores where you can buy decent wine for $6.99...

    July 6, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  20. Grondahl

    @Richard, very much agree with you. I thought capitalism encouraged competition in the marketplace. States regulating the sale of wine and spirits so harshly is some heavy-handed, post Prohibition-era stuff.

    I'm sure the Wine Product in the articile is on par with Pasteurized Processed Cheese Food in terms of being a comestible. Ewwwwwww.

    By the way, Eatocracy, The Onion AV Club has been doing a bizarro Taste Test for some time now. Cheeseburger In A Can, Durian fruit, Pickled Pig Unmentionables...they've set the bar, so you've got some work to do.

    July 6, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Oh, I have a nasty bits track record: and am a huge fan of The Onion's series.

      Here, though, not necessarily going for the bizarro stuff as the hiding in plain sight so *someone* must buy it territory. Hoping there's room at the table for all of us.

      July 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
      • Grondahl

        This table you speak of, where we sample Brain & Eggs alongside Wine Product...I need to know where it is, so I can avoid it.

        You're right, though, there's room for all sorts of offensive foodstuffs on the Internet. Keep 'em coming.

        July 6, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
      • Kat Kinsman

        Hee! Don't worry - there's a hazmat barrier around the table, but you are indeed welcome any time you'd like.

        July 6, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  21. Elizabeth

    All I have to say to the author is DUH! Did you honestly expect wine that cost 6.99 from the grocery store to be good for anything... This is the most pointless /facepalm article I ever read.

    July 6, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
    • Jason

      If you are using expensive wine to cook with, it's you who deserve the facepalm. True, never buy the stuff labeled as "cooking wine", but a run of the mill $6-10 bottle of wine is perfectly fine for what the author was trying to accomplish. Just not some sugared-up imitation... but to err is human and that label looks convincing enough if you aren't paying attention.

      July 6, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
      • Robert

        The rule is if you won't drink it, don't cook with it.

        July 6, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
      • packysama

        Robert is right on. If it isn't drinkable, it is likely not cookable. Besides, if you aren't drinking a glass while cooking, then you aren't cooking.

        July 7, 2010 at 2:04 am |
      • Jason

        Right, so now you are implying there is no "drinkable" wine in the $6-10 range, and I would also strongly disagree with that. Yes, of course there is swill in this category, just as there is in the categories that cost 3X-10X more. But there is also some perfectly fine stuff.

        July 7, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
    • Todd

      Trader Joe's is a grocery store and they sell a whole line of wines by Charles Shaw for $2.99 per bottle. We call it "Two-Buck Chuck". It is quite passable, particularly the chardonnay and merlot, and excellent for cooking. The value is outstanding when used for cooking.

      July 8, 2010 at 11:51 am |
    • Dave

      Elizabeth is a typical rude New Yorker who is so proud of her crappy sewer of a place. She probably honks at every living thing while she drives and is rude to everyone. I think it has something to do with early age experiences of incest that most of these people go thru as a result of living in cramped up crapholes they call home. All ssholes are not New Yorkers, but all New Yorkers are ssholes

      November 26, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  22. Richard

    I heard NY was going to get rid of all those convoluted wine laws. It's time to get with the program. They're stifling your freedom as a citizen and consumer. Here in California we can wine shipped to our house from wineries, we can buy wine at supermarkets; heck, we can buy wine at gas station convenience stores. I love NY but that's just insane. Maybe your lawmakers are in bed with the "wine product" distributors, keeping those phonies in business. Ha!

    July 6, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
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