If you grew up in the United States, or hey, maybe other countries, too- I can’t say, you have likely had “Mystery Meat.” This is especially true if you bought lunch at the school cafeteria.  Maybe yours was called “Wednesday Surprise” or “Thursday Meatlover’s Special.” I don’t know.

For many reasons, Mystery Meat is the moniker that has stuck with me over the years. It was a brownish mass, sometimes verging into gray. Sometimes it was served with noodles or on a white bun, sloppy Joe style, and sometimes it was alone– sitting in a rapidly cooling unidentifiable pile on the corner of your sectioned tray.  Usually it was the leftover hamburgers from the previous day, or the extra meatloaf, whatever. Just the school lunch ladies trying to stretch a thin budget a bit farther.

Now I don’t mean to disparage the cafeteria. I mean, who didn’t love those tatter tots? I remember pizza and corn dogs being popular, too. Sometimes the identifiable turned out to be quite tasty. No, I turn to the analogy because that is what the new trend in blended table wines reminds me of, particularly the red blends. They are inexpensive, unidentifiable, and sometimes, surprisingly delightfully palatable.

In Europe blends are far more common. Whether you enjoy a Bordeaux, a Burgundy, or a Rhone blend, wine-lovers there follow a region and, usually, a winemaker. The variety of the grapes is a secondary concern. Whereas in the States, we tend to ask what type of wine is it, before wondering where it came from or who made it.  That’s not to say that we don’t care where the wine or its grapes came from or that certain wineries don’t acquire towering reputations for quality, because they assuredly do.  No, it’s simply than when someone asks us what we like we tend to answer by grape.

Now, there are blends in the US, but they mainly follow the European “recipes.” For instance, not all, but many high quality Chateau Bordeaux blends tend to be 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc. The breakdown, whatever it may be, is listed as such on the bottle.  Lately, the US has seen the popularity of red table wine blends emerge which do not disclose the type of grapes contained within.

I think it really started a couple of years ago with Two-Buck Chuck (aka Charles Shaw) at Trader Joe’s. Now, let me digress, the secret to buying Two Buck Chuck is to buy one bottle, take it to the parking lot, and taste it before buying more. Yes, I know this can make even the most respectable soccer mom resemble a deeply disturbed wino/ho-bo, but trust me. It’s worth it. You see, the Charles Shaw that everyone fell in love with came about as a result of the winemaker buying wineries’ left over grapes. Sometimes they were getting very high quality grapes from big name producers which made for a mighty yummy resulting blend. Especially, for $2 a bottle!  The trick of course, is that Charles Shaw agreed not to say whose grapes they were including in their discount wines. I mean, why pay $100 for a bottle of Silver Oak if you could have a wine with the same grapes for 2% of that price. Of course, there would be huge discrepancies in the wine making, aging, etc., but still, what a bargain!

Since the wine comes from leftovers, not every bottling will remotely resemble one another. There is definitely a sweeping range in terms of taste and quality. You could buy a case and get home only to discover that it all needs to go down the sink, or into really bad wine coolers.

Other winemakers saw and adapted. By not having to say exactly what types of grapes were used in the mix, from year to year they could sneak different “leftovers” into their house blend. Not a bad system for all concerned. The winery gets to use up product that it has an investment in and the consumer gets a nice table wine for an even nicer price.  This brings us to this week’s featured wine, the Unruly Red.

I can’t find what types of grapes are in this wine. The internet failed me.  If I had to GUESS I would say in descending order of predominance: Zinfindel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. I opened a bottle the other night when my palate was fresh and this is what I came up with. I could be way off base, but hey, I tried.

In keeping with a Zinfindel, Unruly has a big berry pop of juicy flavor. The Cabernet provides structure and the Merlot gives it a smooth finish.  This makes a great second, third and fourth bottle if you are entertaining. You know, when you’ve all had your first glass of the really GOOD stuff, and now you’ve settled in for a long evening of wine, food and conversation? This is one of those wines.

It retails around $11 a bottle, but Bevmo was doing one of their Five Cent Wine Sales so I got two bottles for $11 (plus tax). Like I said, a good deal for all players.  This wine would be fantastic with a burger, ribs, steaks or mushroom based dishes. Enjoy!


Unruly Red- The Mystery Meat of Wine

Unruly Red- The Mystery Meat of Wine


This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.