The luxurious spread for the wine tasting.
When the idea of doing an article on cheap wine and candy tasting came up at our meeting, I was hooked. Maybe it was because I love wine. Maybe it was because it was my idea. The reason doesn’t matter. The idea was simple and intriguing. Which wine would fit a college budget and pair well with our favorite chocolates? We set the price cap at $10 a bottle, a price only one of the bottles I bought would approach.
Two problems immediately presented themselves. First; although I am an avid wine drinker, I am far from a connoisseur when it comes to comparing wines and pairing chocolates with them. Second, my campus was young and I needed taste testers over 21.
My first problem was solved through a simple Google search. Moscato with white chocolate, champagne with milk chocolate, Merlot with dark chocolate. Got it.
The second problem was surprisingly harder to solve. Even with the allure of free wine and candy, it took multiple texts, Facebook messages, random meetings in Anderson with friends before I was able to round up seven people that were of age and had a Saturday afternoon free on short notice.
With a group ready to go and a vague notion of what wines I needed to buy, I set out on a bargain hunt. I headed to Trader Joe’s chasing the fabled Three Buck Chuck. A magical deal where you could pull any bottle of wine off a shelf in the back for only $2.99!
Bingo, with 4 bottles in hand for only $14 after tax, I headed off for the next stop. Target had two things we needed. Chocolate and more wine. With Halloween approaching, the candy selection was amazing… and cheap! With a basket full of Kit Kats, Snickers and Dark Chocolate Kisses I headed to the get more wine.
Yes, Target liquor stores are more expensive than other stores but pro-tip: THEY PRICE MATCH TOTAL WINE! With screenshots of Total Wine prices in hand, I grabbed two more bottles and save a buck on the Champaign. Hey, every dollar counts.
With the wine and chocolate in hand and the chosen few on their way to taste test, it was time to set the mood. Following another quick google search, I found a music station on YouTube dedicated to wine tasting. The playlist consisted mostly of soft acoustic guitar covers, not the energy I was looking for, but when in Rome.
Everyone was ready. With the chocolates opened, white wines chilled and red wines aerating, it was time to start. Seven college students with minimal wine tasting experience and nine full bottles in front of us, what could go wrong?
As we worked our way through the bottles and chocolate, dabbling with different combinations the whole way through, clear favorites and and “hell nos’” emerged. It became clear early on that red wine and dark chocolate were best friends while bad wine and snickers were frenemies. The strong snicker flavors overpowered the taste of a bad Crianza one of the participants donated.
Our first bottle was a White Zinfandel by Charles Shaw. scores varied across the chocolates but the White Chocolate Kit Kats stood out averaging a score of 6.71 (of 10).
Kaina Zygowicz (senior) and Jameson Kue (junior) trying the champaign and M&M combination.
After working our way through the Zinfandel that we decided the wine playlist had to go. With a healthy mix of Lonely Island, Awkwafina and Start Trouble, we broke into the second bottle. Barefoot Bubbly Moscato Spumante Champagne. The Champaign held a mix of highest and lowest of the scores. Snickers did not agree with a score of 3 while Champaign and M&Ms was a crowd favorite scoring the second highest score of the day with a 6.86
John Kwon (senior) staying classy while trying Charles Shaws Merlot.
Third was the first red wine of the day. Charles Shaw Merlot, a three buck chuck contestant, earned the low scores coming across in the 2-3 ranges no matter what the candy.
Charles Shaws Cabernet Sauvignon was next coming with a strong 6.33 for a Dark Chocolate Kiss combination but a lowly 1 for pairing with M&Ms
Our fifth wine didn’t even make it to the pairing due to being bad. As everyone around the table took a sip of the Shiraz, our darkest most full bodied wine of the day, looks of disgust flowed across almost everyone’s faces. I didn’t mind it, but junior Jameson Kue commented on his score sheet “Just no!”
Solina Nhil, Rebecca Rosario (senior) and Kaina Zygowics (senior) enjoying the next round of pairings.
Next came a Crianza from Monticello, with the day’s lowest scoring for a pairing with white chocolate Kit Kats at 1.5. The Crianza did make up for it with respectable 5 with the Dark Chocolate Kisses.
As we cracked into the seventh bottle of the day, little did we know it would be our last. The Sutter Home Riesling took home the day’s highest score of 7.4 with the White Chocolate Kit Kats.
Following the riesling it was determined that the the group needed a break which turned into a combination of art showing and wine pong (in which I had respectable day record of 5-2) It was during this that the decision to be responsible young adults emerged and decided to be done drinking for the day. It only came to my attention after the fact that you aren’t supposed to actually drink during the tastings and only taste and spit it out, but only quitters spit.
The clear loser for chocolate with wines came out to be Snickers. Averaging a score of just 2.2 with any wine. The salty peanut overpowered most wines leaving a bitter taste.
By the end of a day full of cheap wine, Halloween candy and good times with friends, there was a clear winner for best wine and chocolate pairing on a college budget. The Sutter Home Riesling (a steal at $4.50 a liter) and White Chocolate Kit Kats won the day. My personal favorite was Champagne and M&Ms which Senior Rebecca Rosario commented, “That’s the most college thing I’ve ever had.”
Top Right to left: Gunnar Aas (junior), John Kwon (senior), Ryan Saufferer (sophomore), Rebecca Rosario (senior). Bottom Right to left: Jameson Kue (junior), Kaina Zygowicz (senior), Solina Nhil (senior)