Look, I’ll be honest here: it was a categorical imperative that I buy and drink this wine. Take a look:
(Credit goes to beth elliott design for these labels. Beth is awesome.)
How could I not? Any discussion of the wine is probably going to be secondary to a discussion of the semiotics of the packaging (and price point). This wine was released for about US $35 by The Grateful Palate, a now-apparently-bankrupt American wine importer that originally made its mark working with Sarah and Sparky Marquis to import super-huge, über-alcoholic wines made by Chris Ringland (and others) and marketed as Marquis-Philips (Dan Philips is the man behind The Grateful Palate). After an apparently-acrimonious breakup, Dan went on to a whole series of occasionally brilliant, always interestingly packaged wines (Boarding Pass was always a favorite of mine) that promised good value, hugely entertaining and highly original graphic design, and at the very least enough alcohol to keep the party going. Some of the wines were duds (Darby and Joan cabernet, Bitch Bubbly); others were as good as anyone could possibly have hoped for (Bitch, First Class, Green Lion).
At some point last year, they came out with Punk Bubbles in both rosé and ordinary variants. These wines were not cheap, being (presumably) traditional method sparkling wines priced at about the same as well-known Champagne such as Piper-Heidsieck and Veuve Clicquot ($30-$40 US). However, what set them apart were the labels: awesome, beautifully ugly cutups of classic punk rock tropes complete with scrawled text that said stuff like FILTH and STENCH. My first thought was damn: how perfect. Expensive Australian sparkling wine with confrontationally ugly labels released just in time for old school punk rockers’ 50th birthday parties.
Then, sadly, apparently no one bought the stuff, even if they even had special variant labels only available at momofuku restaurants in New York City. Oh well, can’t win ’em all, I guess. I bought three bottles of the rosé on closeout for $25 – still well north of high quality California sparkling wine (figure $13 for Chandon or $18 for Roederer in these parts), but with a label that says FOR HUMANS on the side of it, which makes me giddy in a way I probably should be ashamed of.
But: how’s the wine? The mousse is absolutely spot on perfect:a lovely, fine froth around the rim of the glass. The bead is spot on as well, a thin, elegant column of fine bubbles vigorously rockieting upwards from the bottom of the glass. The color is wonderfully vulgar, reminiscent more of a Champagne with still Pinot noir added before secondary fermentation than a blanc de noirs. It does tend towards onionskin, but on the whole it really is tween-pink more than respectably pale, anemic salmon.
The nose is surprisingly bready, with autolysed yeast characteristics, reminiscent of fresh toast. It’s quickly augmented by wild strawberries, pink peppercorns, and a sort of violet-raspberry note. It’s all rather enchanting and much more grown up than the color suggests. Refreshingly acidic, the wine is alas just the tiniest bit of a letdown on the palate, with relatively simple, somewhat wan flavors of strawberry lip gloss and not a whole lot else. The finish is fairly short, with a mild pepperiness tinged with violets and strawberries.
Is this wine worth $35? Frankly no. But is it worth $25? Well… yeah, probably. It’s not the best pink sparkling wine I’ve had, but it’s good enough – and the slight price premium is worth it to me to enjoy the label. Shallow? Or merely cognizant of the fact that not everything that makes a wine enjoyable is in the bottle itself? You decide.
The Grateful Palate