So here we are: the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when bars are weirdly empty (and/or full of every single person you went to high school with; pick your poison!) and our thoughts turn to a) cheap champagne and b) bad decisions. To wit: The First and Hopefully Only Annual André Taste Test.
In case you grew up Mormon: André is a California sparkling wine that has somehow been grandfathered into being able to still call itself champagne. It comes in a rainbow of flavors, retails for about $4.99 anywhere fine liquors are sold, and is beloved by high-school students everywhere, if that tells you anything. It is objectively terrible, and yet, the best-selling brand of sparkling wine in the United States. It comes in eight flavors, but they all taste mostly the same. André is an enigma, an institution, a way of life; the only way to crack its code is through rigorous use of the scientific method. And thus! Wines were tasted by a panel of twelve, blindly and in random order, though the “blind” part sort of fell by the wayside pretty quickly. Each was scored on a scale of one to ten, with one being the Worst Possible André Experience and ten being the Best Possible André Experience. (It was quickly decided that comparing these to other champagnes would be both fruitless and cruel. Champagne is to André as an organic tangelo lovingly hand-grown by Alice Waters herself is to an orange Otter Pop.) Scores were awarded individually and then averaged. The results:
This, the first specimen, was bubbly, light, and distinctly appley. Subjects, in their first-drink-of-the-night naiveté, declared it “very sweet,” but nonetheless “delicious.” Score: 6.65.
First, the aroma: “There’s definitely a slightly moldy smell to this one,” observed Rina, almost immediately and not incorrectly. “It tastes like your grandma’s candy that was in the candy bowl for forty years,” offered Emma, while Misha said it tasted like its color — a sickly, wholly unnatural bubblegum pink. Everyone hated it. “My tongue itches,” said Emma. Score: 2.72.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this one was the least sweet of the bunch, though calling something the least sweet André is probably just about the most meaningless thing you can say about anything, ever. At any rate, most subjects liked it, though they couldn’t necessarily point out why. “I don’t have any descriptors other than André,” said Express calendar editor Azeen, aptly; really, extra-dry’s quality is the lack of qualities. Indra, an ACTUAL WINE PROFESSIONAL, declared that it “taste[d] legitimately better than the rest — but not like champagne.” Score: A whopping 7.13.
Peach Passion is arguably the platonic ideal of André: Pastel-colored, artificially flavored, unnaturally aromatic, weirdly compelling. “It tastes like if you woke up in the morning after a heavy night of drinking and then had a peach ring,” declared Misha: “stale and boozy.” Which, depending on your opinions of these things could, I suppose, be taken to be good or bad. Otherwise, it was described as tasting “dusty” (by Rina), “painfully sweet,” (by Jono), and “unforgivably terrible” (by me). Subjects were split on where this one fell compared to #2, Strawberry, with most ultimately scoring it slightly higher. “It’s making my teeth hurt, but I love it,” said Robyn, ostensibly as a compliment, while Jono applauded Peach Passion’s “assertiveness,” and ACTUAL WINE PROFESSIONAL Indra said she liked it as well. Others, however, took to simile to express their disgust: “You know how if you wear really bad quality jewelry, your skin gets a rash?” asked Steven. “That’s how my mouth is reacting right now.” Score: 4.07.
Cold Duck is, according to the infinite wisdom of Wikipedia, “a sparkling wine made in the United States,” with a recipe “based on a traditional German custom of mixing all the dregs of unfinished wine bottles with champagne.” Sounds promising! André’s Cold Duck is bright purpley-red, intensely sweet, and imperceptibly alcoholic. Emily likened it to grape soda and literally every Jew in the room immediately made the carbonated Manischewitz connection. “It tastes like purple,” Steven said, while Rina detected notes of blackberry that, it should be stated here with certainty, surely did not exist. Score: 5.88.
This was immediately deemed the mildest, most neutral, and least inoffensive of the lot thus far. Alex suggested that it “taste[d] like real wine,” especially seeing as it was also the least bubbly, while Azeen declared it “versatile,” though Emily was less convinced. “It’s like it tried to be dry but instead it’s just sour,” she said. “Let the record show that I already have a headache,” said Emma. Score: 7.26.
“It’s not that I like it, it’s just that I don’t have any obvious complaints,” offered Misha, apparently at something of a loss for words. Azeen said she didn’t think she’d be able to drink a full glass of it. Jono said it got “progressively worse with each sip.” Steven said he felt like he was being hazed. Score: 6.03
The last wine was also the easy winner, almost as quickly as the subjects tasted it. “It’s not too sweet,” said Misha, before quickly correcting himself: “Well, it is too sweet, but not too too sweet.” Fair enough. Robyn declared it “quite the bubblicious treat,” though I’m fairly certain she was pretty drunk at that point. “It’s inoffensive, is all I can say,” added Ben. Score: 8.88! A winner emerges victorious! A consensus has been reached! A roomful of buzzed and sugar-high André aficionados takes a nap and/or goes out to get a burrito!