Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.


Last night the Red Sox managed to blow the final game of the season in high style, which means they didn't make the playoffs and thereby allowed my fellow Sox fans to get an early start on writing their epic poems about What It All Means.

Nothing, dummies. It means nothing. It's baseball. Baseball is awesome, but it doesn't have any larger meaning. It's like brown mustard that way. Just enjoy it till it's gone, then turn your attention to football or yellow mustard, which are not quite as good but plenty good enough.

But even though baseball doesn't mean a thing, it can still piss me off mightily. Grumble! Watching your team blow a 9-game lead in the last month of the season is like accidentally painting your pants with the brown mustard that was much better situated on your hot dog or in the palm of your hand. It's disappointing, man. That's why I will spend this interminable baseball winter trying to switch allegiances to a less frustrating team.

Last season I followed the San Diego Padres about as closely as an East Coaster can, because my friend worked for them and I'd met a bunch of Padres during spring training in Arizona. They were all friendly, and it's fun to root for underdogs. But then last winter that friend jumped ship to the Arizona Diamondbacks—who went from last place to first place, due largely to the new assistant to the general manager being my friend, so let's all take a moment to congratulate them and me—and I didn't have the energy to learn a new batch of names and numbers, so I abandoned the Padres, continued to ignore the Diamondbacks, and was stuck with these deeply unlikable Red Sox.

I would be unsportsmanlike to adopt the Diamondbacks now that they're winners, so I'll need a new team of underdogs to root for. Minneapolis looks like my kind of city, and I like the Twins uniform colors. Or maybe Kansas City. I'll think more on that throughout the fall and winter, but right now I need to turn my attention to more pressing matters of loyalty-shifting: My very limited understanding of the Jewish calendar suggests I have between now and sundown to decide if this is the year I sign up in time to celebrate what's left of Rosh Hashanah.

Just kidding. I'm not going to join a religion. But if I had to and my decision were based strictly on the holidays—and it would be—then I think Judaism would have to be a serious contender. A lot of the holidays seem to involve serious repentance and less gluttony than the Christian holidays I grew up with, but I think I might trade all that for the chance at an extra New Year. My favorite secular holiday is New Year's Day, and I have to respect any belief system that builds another fresh start into the calendar.

(It's been brought to my attention that some more observant strains of Judaism ignore the Roman calendar and therefore don't acknowledge the January New Year. Well, I think of myself as more the bacon cheeseburger-eating type of prospective convert, so I'd shop around for a temple that allowed me to double up on the happier holidays.)

If the Jewish grandfather I've never met shows up tonight to mourn the death of the Red Sox and celebrate the birth of the new year, I will serve him kosher wine until he's buzzed enough to switch to something a little less sticky than the Manischewitz Concord Grape I picked up the other day. I'm a sucker for grape-flavored candies and punches, so I can't say that the Manischewitz tastes bad to me, but it doesn't really taste like proper wine, either.

It's very soft and sweet, and if I didn't pour it myself I'd suspect it was the kind of fancy-bottled nonalcoholic grape juice served to children and pregnant ladies. I tend to drink wine a little too fast, so I appreciate the low alcohol content (11 percent) and low price ($6).

If I were really looking to kosher up my liver, I'd explore the wider range of Manischewitz bottlings, many of which are purported to be less sugary than the Concord. I've never had Concord wine, so I'm not qualified to pin the stickiness on the producer; maybe it's just the nature of the grape to taste pretty Welchy. Can any of you heathens point a seeker toward more gratifying baseball teams or kosher wines?