By some accounts, nearly 20% of all wine produced have some sort of animal on the label. There are dancing bovines, diminutive penguins, and colorful kangaroos, among others, that now grace wine labels from all over the world. These wines, often refered to as “critter wines” run the gamut of quality, but for the most part, they reside at the lower end of the quality spectrum.
I have tried for a while to figure out a way to determine whether the quality of the wine in the bottle could be determined by the critter that graces the label., and I thought I had it a few years ago when I was watching a football game on T.V. Shortly after kickoff, I was joined by my younger son, Sebastian (who was five at the time). He plopped down next to me and started watching the game.
He wanted to know who was going to win and just after I told him I had no idea, he asked who was playing. Within a minute after telling him, he stated confidently that the clearly the Giants were going to beat the Cowboys. When I asked how he came to that conclusion, he stated matter-of-factly: “Think about it, a Giant would easily beat up a Cowboy.” Thinking objectively, it suddenly seemed obvious to me too, as he bounded right back out of the room.
Some time later, I considered his approach to sporting events when I returned to my critter wine conundrum. Could it be that easy? The more menacing the critter, the better the wine?
I am pretty sure that if I were forced to bet on the outcome of a kangaroo versus a penguin in a steel cage match, I would put a whole bunch of cash on the marsupial. When it comes to the wine? It would likely be a draw and that is only because, technically, they can’t both lose badly.
So I needed another metric.
As many of you know, my family will be moving to Texas this summer, and that has been heavy on my mind. Up near the top off my concerns is just how well my two boys will adapt, particularly when it comes to making friends. Well, actually, I am more concerned about how I will react to said friends and more precisely, how I will react to the parents of their new “besties.”
Like any responsible parent (yes, I am considering myself “responsible”), I feel I will need to make some quick judgments about the relative sanity of any potential friend’s family before I allow my kids to go over for a “play date” (a term that I loathe, but…).
Then it hit me: I figured that, being Texas, many of these families could likely have rather exotic pets and if they did, the type of pet would largely determine whether I would let my kids visit said household.
Coincidentally, that metric applies almost perfectly to critter wines.
Dancing Bull? Um, no.
Little Penguin? In Texas? Wierd if not cruel.
Mad Fish? No. Three Blind Moose? No again. Yellow-Tailed Kangaroo? Definitely not.
Screaming Eagle? Heck yeah! I mean who doesn’t want to see an eagle? I would even invite myself over.
Another such positive response? Wild Horses.
2014 Wild Horse Chardonnay Central Coast: Retail $16. Aromas of pineapple and pear with a touch of vanilla lead to a fleshy mouthfeel that comes off a bit sweet. By the end, the acidity comes in, but paired with that richness, it worked really well with our Chinese takeout. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Wild Horse Winery Viognier Central Coast: Retail $17. I walked in the door from our latest trip to the West Coast and before I even opened a suitcase to unpack, I threw this in the freezer. The basketball game would be starting in minutes and I wanted something cold by my side as I watched. My initial impression? This is quite nice with some typical Viognier floral notes and great fruit and crispness throughout. But the game got going and the Bucks were quickly up a couple of points and in the excitement, I neglected to get more wine. Well, the game turned sour rather quickly and at halftime, I skulked to the kitchen to get another glass, with my team trailing. I brought the bottle with me and sat down for the second half. Very Good to Outstanding (the wine and the game–my team came back and won). 89-91 Points.
2014 Wild Horse Pinot Noir Central Coast: Retail $20. Honestly? This is a tough price point for Pinot–I have rarely seen a sub$30 Pinot that was worth standing on my head. Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice Pinot with a nose of black cherry and a hint of funk (and that’s a good thing). On the palate, it’s all about the fruit initially, but there is some astringency/grip at the mid palate that screams for a bit of grilled pork. This is not for the serious Pinot-phile, but for the price? A solid Pinot for every day. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2013 Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast: Retail $20. At this price point, Cabernet makes a lot more sense. Why? Well, word on the street is that Cabernet is far less finicky than Pinot (i.e., it is easier to grow). Initially some green pepper on the nose with some dark berry fruit. On the palate a bunch of fruit for sure with some intrigue and tons of pepper, black and white. Very Good plus. 88-90 Points.
Perhaps I need a little more research, but I am starting to think my theory is rather sound: if the critter on a label were owned by the family of your child’s friend, would you allow your kid to go on a sleep-over? If not, take a pass on the wine. If so, grab a bottle and rest easy.