2007 College Student Guide » Managing Money

Cheap drinks

An expert weighs in on bottom-shelf booze

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When it comes to wine, Ian Johnson, wine director of the Trusted Palate on King Street, is no freshman. Johnson has been in the Masters of Wine program for four years, and is one of only four Masters of Wine candidates in the Southeast. Plus, he has a British accent, which immediately tells you he knows what he's talking about.

City Paper wanted him to get a taste of what college students on a slim budget might guzzle. We gathered the cheapest, foulest spirits to be found on the Peninsula. Let's see what our expert had to say:

Boone's Farm Flavored Citrus Wine

Ian Johnson: What the hell citrus wine is, I have no idea ... if you get a Starburst candy that's strawberry-flavored and smell it, it smells exactly like this. It certainly doesn't smell like wine. There's no real texture to the wine itself. It's as if it's a flavored water. There is nothing "wine" about this. Quite frankly, kind of dangerous. ($2.99/liter)

Andre Champagne

IJ: They are guilty of something that I think is despicable in the wine business, which is to [mis]use the word "champagne." It is certainly ripping off the brand of Champagne. The bubbles aren't too energetic ... when you swallow the wine, it disappears quickly, with the exception of kind of a strange bitterness that's left in the mouth. ($6.99/1.5 liters)

Franzia boxed wine

IJ: It doesn't smell fresh. It smells like something cooked. It smells like cooked fruit or cooked vegetables, maybe even asparagus in there. I'm actually almost scared to taste the wine. It smells worse now. It now smells like sweaty socks ... pretty awful stuff. It tastes like grape juice that's been sitting around for a while. It tastes like cranberry juice. ($13.99/five-liter box)

King Cobra malt liquor

IJ: I don't think I've ever had King Cobra before, but if you smell it, it kind of smells like beer after it's been spilled on the floor and is sticky the next day in the bar and you're cleaning up. It also smells dirty. It has a slightly dirty aroma. You're left with almost a rancid butter taste in your mouth ... almost a nutty, buttery taste. ($1.39/32-oz. bottle)

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