$2.69, that’s right a $2.69 California Cabernet Sauvignon. The Winking Owl Cabernet Sauvignon is a non-vintage Aldi’s exclusive, Aldi’s is the parent company of Trader Joe’s and while Bronco Wines produces their low end wine, Charles Shaw (2 Buck Chuck, actually $2.99 in Illinois), Aldi’s bargain wine, Winking Owl, is produced by E & J Gallo. It is sourced from vineyards through out all of California, Gallo is the world’s largest winery and has access to a vast amount of grapes. The back of the bottle mentions flavors of “toasted oak and a hint of vanilla,” which would indicate some sort of oak aging, at $2.69 per bottle, oak barrels are probably out of the question, so oak chips or staves were probably added to the stainless steel aging tanks to give the Cabernet a little extra flavor. Ten years ago I was wary of $10 bottles of wine, you didn’t know what you were going to get, it was very hit or miss, today the average ten buck wine is a solid and enjoyable. Three years ago, I dreaded drinking $5 wine, there were some strange bottles out there, today I can think of 10 $5 bottles that I would recommend to friends. That takes us to the last cheap wine frontier, the $3 and under wines. This Cabernet Sauvignon has an alcohol content of a relatively mild 12%.
The color is cherry red in the center and it gets progressively lighter as it reaches the sides of the glass. The nose is strawberry fruit roll-ups, spearmint chewing gum and a very faint whiff of baking brownies. A very soft wine, there are no hard edges here. It starts off with strawberry and then blueberry, followed by a little non fizzy cola. There is a hint of chocolate and vanilla on the mid palate, with a late dash of sour cranberry. There really isn’t a finish, the main body of the wine goes on for a while then abruptly ends.
This really isn’t a Cabernet Sauvignon, if Merlot was on the label you wouldn’t notice any difference. What it is, is a very drinkable, very inexpensive bottle of Red wine. It is slightly on the sweet side and the tannins are missing, so there is not a ton of structure, but it has a nice mix of flavors and no “off” flavor or odd textures. I can think of a couple of $5 wines that are far better wines, so the Winking Owl isn’t a home run, but it would make a very useful party wine. A couple of cases would get the party started for a wedding party on a budget or a backyard anniversary party.