Frei Brothers Reserve Merlot 2005

These are the kinds of wine stores that there are here in San Diego:

  • Supermarkets
  • Liquor stores (bodegas)
  • Small wine shops competing on price (Wine Steals, Vintage Wines, SD Wine Co.)
  • Costco
  • Beverages and more!

I’d argue that there are no high end wine stores in San Diego – we don’t have anything like K&L here, so you’re stuck driving to Hollywood if you’re looking for the expensive stuff.Anyhow, I mention this here to discuss how and why this particular bottle of wine is in my house. Several months ago, friends of friends visiting from the Midwest generously invited me over to their vacation rental near La Jolla and shared their dinner with me. Completely unbidden, they even stopped at a corner liquor shop and bought a bottle of nice wine to share with me over dinner, but someone we didn’t get around to drinking it together, so here it is.This is a wine that you would presumably never, ever find in a “fine wine” kind of establishment. This is factory produce, courtesy of the Gallo family empire. Sure, they’re not mentioned on the label and everything’s been carefully designed that the wine’s produced by a family wine company (true, sort of) in Sonoma County, but between you and me? This is the Wal-Mart of the California wine world staring me in the face. (OK, not so much: Fred Franzia had nothing to do with this, but you get my drift.)So: Tonight’s question is simple: When your average American consumer heads down to the average corner liquor store and buys a nice bottle of wine (read: roughly double what the ordinary stuff costs), what does it taste like? Answer: It tastes like this:The color is very dark for a red wine, nearly black, dark all the way out to a thin, watery rim. Optically, it’s great: this looks exactly what you’d imagine expensive red wine to look at. The nose is decidedly sweet and straightforward, something like Christmas cookies; it’s a sort of low-key, friendly cherry spicebox effect with no real complexity and most assuredly neither funk nor greenness.There’s a noticeable lack of many of the things that make wine work for me as a beverage here. The line of this wine is very strange: it starts sweet, hangs there for a minute, shows a very small amount of tannin, and then finishes quickly and sweetly as well, with a simple berry flavor that isn’t even remotely compelling. I’m at a loss to describe the effect of drinking this, but on some level it seems like a fermented grape juice beverage product scientifically designed to appeal to people that don’t like wine. In fact, even the extremely mild, brief tannins that are here seem present only to announce that this is in fact a Very Nice, Expensive Wine because we’ve come to fear that particular sensation whenever we’re offered wine – if that makes sense. I guess I’m trying to say that there’s a homeopathic dose of nasty here (read: tannins) just to remind the drinker that they’ve moved on into Serious Wine Territory here.All in all, this is vaguely like Chinese barbecued pork in a bottle: slightly sweet, obviously red. Weirdly enough, though, it seems successful at what it seems to have set out to do: provide a wine drinking experience for an aspirational consumer who doesn’t actually like wine… and for that, I do have to respect the winemakers here.Frei Bros.
Price: $18
Closure: Cork

2 thoughts on “Frei Brothers Reserve Merlot 2005

  1. It’s funny; just last night I was having a conversation about wine like this. I feel kind of snobby writing it, but I think there’s a category of beverage that is made like wine but that should exist, aesthetically, half way between wine and West Coast Cooler. As you say, it’s wine that exists for people who don’t like wine, and seems to be made in a style as far away as possible from what one generally understands as wine.

    You’ve articulated the style (and curiously cynical intent) much more clearly than I managed to!

  2. Ah, what an evocative tasting note (even if it is wasted on a crass commercial endeavour).

    I’ve had a few of these, I suspect they are the same regardless of the country you’re in.

    Not what wine is about for me. Perhaps not what wine is about full stop?

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