Thursday, May 2, 2013

Weird new spirits: green sparkling wine, prison liquor and Vodquila

I just spent three days at the Wine & Spirits Wholesaler Association convention in Orlando, Florida, where I was a judge for their wine competition. I got an immediate hint at what I was in for when the first flight of wines arrived. See that second glass from right? The photo is unretouched: that's what it looked like.

How to judge it? It was the best green sparkling "wine" I've ever had, though after the competition I learned it's not wine, it's Zider, presumably made from zapples, maybe with added zugar. We gave it a silver medal, and you could argue that we were penurious, as it was the best of its class.

Wine is only a small part of the WSWA convention, though, as some of the forlorn-looking foreign wine producers learned. Spirits are what people there care most about, and particularly new products, which are driving most of the growth of the industry.

Producers pay thousands of dollars to attend, rent hospitality suites at the Ritz-Carlton -- that's not cheap -- and hire hot young women to walk the halls in as little fabric as possible, promoting their brands. It's hard not to be impressed by the endless parade of babes; I wondered often where they find them all, and if the Orlando area, in marketing mouse ears, is missing its true selling point(s).

Vodquila was actually a 19-year-old girl's class project.
This will not surprise you: Almost all wine and spirits distributors are men, mostly middle-aged, mostly wearing dark suits even on 93-degree Orlando days, although the outside temperature doesn't matter if you never leave the Ritz-Carlton. The WSWA convention has, literally, unlimited booze. That said, I'm not sure I saw anybody drunk -- these people are professionals. But still: give a man even a little booze, and a buxom woman's smile becomes even brighter.

If a booth was peddling aged Calvados or wines made from Portuguese native grape varieties, the spokesman was most likely an older man in a checked suit. But if the product was called something like Booze Cupz, you could count on two women in swimsuits and high heels handing out sample cups. (Lots of weird product photos after the jump.)

Sex appeal works, including on me. I wasn't planning on trying a product called Short Mountain Authentic Tennessee Moonshine, but I couldn't help it: she smiled at me, then looked so disappointed when I said I wouldn't. I had to turn that smile back on. And actually, the moonshine was very smooth, although I wonder if it would have been as delicious if the pourer looked more like Mags Bennett from "Justified."

Balls vodka. I don't taste booze named after testes
Most of the weird products pictured here, I didn't actually taste. For one thing, my palate was screwed up most of the time from the weird crap that I did taste: It's really hard to clear cappuccino-wine cream. And for another thing -- ewww. Do you really need to know what some of this stuff tastes like? Isn't it enough to know that it exists? If the answer to that is no, please look for these quality products to appear at your local spirits dealer soon.
Now you can drink pruno without doing time! "It tastes like Tang," I said of the orange flavor. "Do you want to taste the grape?" she asked. "Not while I'm free," I said.

Tastes more like pipe tobacco than kissing a smoker. I once dated a smoker and was ready for nostalgia. That didn't work out either.

Marijuana may taste better than tobacco, but hemp-flavored vodka does not taste better than tobacco-flavored vodka. It tastes like an old straw floormat in a hippie crashpad. Don't ask me how I know what that tastes like.

Didn't try it. Neither meaning sounds tasty. And ...

I wonder if she knew what her photo would be used for

I tried this and said, "If I were living in a doorway, it might help me get to sleep." DJ Paul smiled at me. I didn't know he claims to have been arrested a bunch of times. But I stand by my review. 

The Chevy Nova ("doesn't go" in Spanish) of wine. At last, a wine named after Volatile Acidity!

Hard to imagine who would buy this for themself, but I can think of a few people I'd like to ship it to anonymously. That's not a rating on the bottom, by the way, although wines for dummies, lower case, do tend to score very well in the Wine Advocate.

I like this product: You pull the pin, the top pops off, and you have a shot of strong but well-made and delicious blanco Tequila. I brought one back in my checked bag and got a note saying the TSA had opened my bag for inspection. No wonder: it's a Tequila grenade, and was in a bag with a bunch of other small bottles of liquid. I'm probably on a watch list now. Thanks a lot, Flashbang.

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rapopoda said...

At once funny and grim...

Robert said...

My moment of Zen.

Unknown said...

On that Purple Drank poster it should really say "DJ Paul - Academy Award Winning Three 6 Mafia"

John M. Kelly said...

Ouch. This shows me a slice of how many demographics we never can hope to reach with our feebly inadequate packaging and marketing. I need to go get ma drank on.

Man About Wine said...

I often think that at Proctor & Gamble, they use this kind of stuff as lessons on how many mistakes can be jammed together.

Patrick Frank said...

Thank you, Blake. You drink this stuff so that we don't have to!

jo6pac said...

Thanks JMK for the laugh and this is sad at the same time.

So true PF and thanks Blake

Lisa said...

Missed you, but I'm glad to hear your gallows (Gallos?) humor remains intact.