Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
My husband and I love Carlo Rossi's Paisano jug wine. We love to fool friends into thinking it is a more expensive wine by pouring it into expensive Napa Valley bottles (sadly, most don't know the difference). What grapes are used to make Paisano? The winery seems pretty secretive about it. We would love to know!
—Anjee, Utica, N.Y.
I checked in with Carlo Rossi winemaker Darren Procsal, who explained, “The grapes I choose are blended to assure the wine is in friendly harmony, including grape varieties such as Barbera, Carignane, Carnelian, Ruby Cabernet, Sangiovese and others. Of all the grapes I work with, Barbera is very special to me. It’s the variety that provides the fresh red fruit flavors and structured mouthfeel I am looking for in the Paisano blend.”
But it was something between your letter and Procsal pointing out that “Paisano” means “friend” or “pal” that makes me want to pipe in on the whole deceiving-your-friends part. While I understand what it’s like to share a meal with friends and family with varying tastes and tolerances in wine, it makes me uncomfortable to think you’d mislead them in such a way. Meanwhile, I think you have a real opportunity to show them that one doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to find an enjoyable wine.
How about presenting the wine as part of a blind tasting? Just serve the wine in a paper bag or pour it into a decanter and have them guess what it is or how much it costs. You can serve it against a more expensive wine (maybe find another Barbera-based blend?) to give them some context. That way, if they really enjoy it and find out it’s widely available and very affordable, they might be more likely to become a fan themselves.