The Wino Judges Bottles by Their Labels

Hey, fellow lushes! Ever notice that the cutesier the label, the worse the hangover?

I can just picture high-powered fat cats sitting around the board room, smoking stogies, drinking martinis, and hatching a plan to sell off the bottom-of-the-barrel wines by slapping on awww-inspiring labels? Pickup trucks, garish sunsets, and kittens will move product!

I've learned the hard way to avoid those bottles that scream from the shelf: Buy me! I'm adorable!! But the other day I was shopping at Seafood World, an Asian supermarket at Southcenter that's jam-packed with intriguing stuff. You need beef bile for a recipe? No prob.

Now, what's good to drink with a beef-bile casserole? Hmmm.

My friend Veronica, whose family is from the Philippines, was my culinary guide at Seafood World, and we were on the hunt for that country's version of moonshine. No dice. Probably just as well, because when I drink more than two swigs of shine, I start singing Dolly Parton songs, and nobody wants to hear that noise.

But then what I did spy with my little eye? A bottle of flipflop wine, priced at $5.99. The label of the California Pinot Noir featured a pair of flipflops with flying fish on the soles splashed against the Welch's-grape-juice-purple background. The over-the-top graphics represent everything I abhor about wine labels. Yet I felt compelled to pick it up.

On the back is some useful information about the varietal character of the wine, suggested food pairings (chocolate-chip cookies!), and a bar graph showing where the wine lands on the dry-to-sweet spectrum. It's on the border of medium dry. It also carries the company's trademarked super Zen slogan: To each, their own. I cannot argue with that.

So how did this $6 wine taste? Pretty darn good. It was as smooth as butta, baby, with a bit of spice on the back side. (If you ever want to try and pass for a wine geek, talk about the long, lingering finish like you're describing a scene in your favorite porno. It just goes on and on . . . oh yeah, baby.)

The Wino's going to give flipflop's Pinot four out of five brown bags, awarding a bonus bag for the easy-access twist-top, but shaving off a bag for the hideous label. Come on, guys, lose the purple marlin and you've really got something here. Maybe those fat cats should take a meeting with The Wino, where we could scheme about a classy flipflop reserve label.

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