Serious Eats: Drinks

Absolut Tune, A New Sparkling Wine-Vodka Hybrid

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Happy November. Let's talk about pumpkin beer. Oh, you thought that was over now that Halloween's passed? You assumed the beverage industry's entire stock of pumpkin-flavored drinks would magically morph into turkey vodkas and stuffing lattes as soon as the final mini Snickers was doled out last night? You were mistaken. This pumpkin business is year-round now.

Just kidding. It will probably pass soon enough. But I do have one final pumpkin beer anecdote to tide you over until Project Nutmeg starts back up again next July. Last Saturday, the brewery closest to my home and therefore heart held their annual pumpkin festival. A $10 cover charge earned you the privilege of buying coupons for all sorts of pumpkined foods and beers. As one of the world's eleven remaining pumpkin moderates, I was neither thrilled nor enraged by this proposition, but my wife adores pumpkin stuff, so we arranged to meet our pals Katlyn and Extry in front of the brewery at 6:00.

As the afternoon wore on, Twitter kept issuing threats of longer and longer lines. I figured this was just another example of how the Internet lies about everything at all times, but my wife is the type to overprepare, so she wanted to coordinate a contingency plan. The first step was to establish a group consensus on just how much line we were willing to endure to get into this pumpkin party. I can't remember our final number, but it was less than three hours, so we had to resort to plan B. Yup, THREE HOURS. Three is the number of hours that some people were willing to wait to drink pumpkin beer. Three modern American hours, 180 minutes' worth of Saturday night. Pumpkin beer.

So we went to a regular good restaurant and had a regular good time marred by only two heartbreaking misfortunes. The first is that the Cellar in Central Square considers a full order of tater tots to consist of fewer than one hundred tots and therefore not nearly enough to bother splitting four ways. So, apologies to Emily, Katlyn, and Extry. Next time we'll get four orders.

The second disappointment was that I forgot to thank Katlyn for the regal and deadly crystal wine glasses she gave us as a wedding gift, so it seemed disingenuous when she asked, "So, what was the best wedding gift you got?" and I said, "Oh! Those glasses from you and Marcie. For real!" Even though I meant it. Well, I sort of meant it. The glasses were tied for first place with several other awesome and thoughtful gifts; in fact, we loved nearly every gift we received, with the lone exception being the ruinous bottle of Champagne we got from our awful friends Corey and Ali.

I really, really like Champagne. Sparkling wine is one of the very few areas in which I have expensive taste. Emily is happy with any crappy $7 wine Trader Joe can stuff full of bubbles, but I like the real stuff. Corey and Ali know this, which is why they cursed me with a bottle of the high-end Perrier-Jou√ęt, which I have now drank alone and replaced three times in the three weeks we've been married. See, we're saving it for a special occasion, and I have deemed three separate instances of "Well, Em's in bed and my whistle's dry and we're out of beer" to be special enough to justify the next-day emergency replacement cost. I explain the specifics in greater detail in my upcoming personal finance column "How to Go Broke on Free Champagne," but for now suffice it to say that my friends Corey and Ali are monsters who are determined to see me fail.

I have managed to share one free bottle of bubble-wine with my wife, though. Last month Absolut sent me a sample of Tune, their new vodka-spiked sparkling Sauvignon Blanc. We sucked it down quite happily on our wedding night, and we even took notes.

Vodka-fortified sparkling wine strikes me as a strange idea—and an exceedingly gimmicky one—so I was quite skeptical, but Absolut Tune is actually pretty good. The base is a slightly sweet-skewing New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with the customary herbal grapefruit flavors. At 14 percent ABV, it's only slightly more potent than a typical sparkling wine, which suggests there's very little vodka involved—just enough for Absolut to advance their branding strategy, say—but there is indeed a gentle but distinct punch of clean vodka on the back end.

The only real drawback here is the price tag: The suggested retail price of $32 is simply too high for a novelty sparkling wine drink, even one that works better than expected. Absolut Tune is pretty good, but it's not better than plenty of sparkling wines that cost half as much.

About the author: Will Gordon loves life and hates mayonnaise. You can eat and drink with him in Boston or follow him on twitter @WillGordonAgain.

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