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World's Worst Wine?

March 18, 1993|DAN BERGER | TIMES WINE WRITER

Just because you love wine doesn't mean you love all wine.

Consider Muscadine, the wines made from the fruit of the native American species Vitis rotundifolia , which is more like a berry than a grape. Muscadine wines have been made in the Carolinas and in the Gulf Coast states for more than 100 years. They are rarely distributed outside of local areas. No wonder.

My first experience with these wines came a few years ago when I was asked to judge a half dozen Muscadine wines at a national wine competition. The server brought out the tray with six glasses and placed them in front of me.

When I took a whiff of the first wine, I thought a decade-old fruitcake, now rotten and covered with mold, had been brought into the room. The aroma was pungent with a kind of moldy earthiness and a top note of petroleum.

The second wine was no improvement; the wines were all equally bizarre and all cloyingly sweet. When I tasted them I literally gagged. A fellow judge heard my feeble cry and said he too had never experienced anything like it.

We struggled on. It was hopeless. In desperation, I finally advised the coordinator of the wine competition that I was so put off by the wines I needed a break. My fellow judge said he couldn't go on.

Just then our server walked past the table and heard the commotion.

"What's the trouble?" he asked.

"The Muscadines," said the coordinator of the event. "The judges don't like them."

"Yeah?" the server said. "Well, my wife used to drink them all the time. Let me smell them. Maybe they're spoiled." He lifted a glass, sniffed and said: "Same stuff my wife used to drink. Used to put a cinnamon stick in it."

"Oh, really?" said the coordinator. "So how does that one strike you? Is it pretty good?"

"Hey," he said, "don't ask me. I wouldn't touch that stuff."

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