WORST WINE OF THE YEAR: Starla Red Blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Non-Vintage, CA ($28)
by Andrew Chalk
A $28 cooking wine
I was intrigued when I read about Starla, a line of three dealcoholized wines that have just come on the market. The review made it sound as though some kind of breakthrough was taking place. Unlike existing brand Fre (from Sutter Home) which prices around $7/bottle, and Ariel (around $9/bottle), the makers of this wine are so proud they have priced it at $28/bottle. Having tasted it (at $28 a bottle) I have concluded that the breakthrough was into my wallet. Sure, this wine is low alcohol enough that you can feed it to your dog. That is, in fact, what you should do. It may be significant that the inventor’s last product was a dog poo smell remover. That seems not to have been the right sense of smell training to recognize ‘Godawful’ in a wine.
All the wines come from California (the first time this year that I have been proud to say that Texas wine did not get a look-in!). The non-vintage red blend lists its ingredients, but omits the grape types! That is like full disclosure of what your late aunt had for dinner ten years ago - true, but useless! It lists instead de-alcoholized (sic) red wine (made by who, from what, where?), natural flavor (what?), potassium bicarbonate (which, we are told, is to reduce acidity).
The nose has tart red grape juice (must be that ‘natural flavors’) and some kind of Ribena-esque blackcurrant element. No hint of oak, no spices, or herbaceous elements. The palate (a term used out-of-place here) is just that vile grape flavor. I could not finish it. My neighbor turned it down as a gift. And I love my dog.
For the non-vintage Sauvignon Blanc the label waxes lyrical about “Deliciously light and crisp notes of wild honeysuckle, rosemary, pear and lemon balm finished with a sultry white peach blossom parfum.” Peach chemical flavoring, maybe. 'Sultry white peach blossum'? Peach blossum is 'sultry'? The rest must have been left out of my batch.
If the reason you seek dealcoholized wine is a medical condition, it may be less painful to endure the side effects of a 15% ABV California Zinfandel that try Starla. At the risk of violating Dallas’ chemical disposal laws, I poured mine down the sink.
One heads-up: The copious use of pink in the packaging and promo material makes me suspect that this is targeted at the young women demographic that is increasingly important in the U.S. wine market. Ladies, it is a scientific fact that you have the choice of more different wines now than at any time in history. Carpe diem!
Purchased at retail.
Note: This wine has now won this honor for the second consecutive year.