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Posted by on Dec 19, 2014 in Blog, Restaurant Reviews, Wine Reviews | 64 comments

Bottom of the Barrel: The 10 Worst Wines in My Cellar of Shame




Here are my thoughts on some wines so terrible that, even though they’re cheap, they aren’t worth the money.


There are some really bad wines out there.  Inexplicably, many are quite popular.  That’s a shame because there are many good wines priced cheap that are far better in quality and taste.

Here are my bottom-ten wines to be avoided at any cost:


Worst Wine in the World #10 (Dishonorable Mention):  All “Bum Wines”


This category includes gastrointestinal monstrosities such as Thunderbird, MD-20/20, Boone’s Farm, Manischewitz, Wild Irish Rose, Night Train, and all the other rock-gut toxins pimped mostly at gas stations in a shitty neighborhood in flask-shaped bottles.  However, these aren’t really “wines” in the classic sense (think corn syrup combined with rubbing alcohol).  Be warned that these ghastly concoctions make anything on the list (below) taste like a perfectly-aged Grand Cru, by comparison.


Worst Wine in the World #9 — The Big Kahuna


This abomination was purchased by someone else for me at a hotel bar last month.  The bottle cost $21 (at the bar!).  That should have been a red flag since no full bottle of wine served at a bar is going to run less than $30-35.  I took a sip and my tongue went numb.  I tried washing half a glass down with a Heineken beer kicker, but even that wouldn’t suffice.  As to how I got out of the mess, I feigned “not feeling well,” retired to my hotel room with a full bottle in hand (explaining I wanted to enjoy the generous gift in privacy), then promptly poured the remaining contents down the bathroom sink.  This shit is terrible.


Worst Wine in the World #8 — Most Cheap Industrial-Production Italian Wines

Bolla-Soave-ClassicoItalians are known for greatness in classical music, fine art, romance, fixing soccer matches, and living life to the very fullest.  Unfortunately, that same bountiful spirit doesn’t translate to exported Italian wines.  I know this is blasphemous, especially since Italy is well known as a major wine producer.  It’s just that out of the hundreds of Italian-harvested wines I’ve tasted over the past two decades, few of them have left a positive impression.  Virtually all the reds have such heavy tannins, my mouth usually feels like I’ve just finished chewing a piece of chalk.  I’ll continue my quest for the Holy Gail of drinkable Italian wines, and perhaps someday I will find one suitable.  But until now, I’ve yet to find anything even remotely satisfying.  Yes, I know many of you will stop reading and spew an expletive, but you have to keep on reading, right?

Postscript:  After posting this, it came to my attention that some Italian wines, especially sweeter dessert wines, can be splendid.  The acceptable sub-category includes some variations of Prosecco and Moscato (and others). 


Worst Wine in the World #7 — Most Cheap American-made “Sparkling Wines”

FreixenetCordonNegro_0What a way to ruin a New Year’s Eve celebration!  These garbage pails like Andre, Korbel, Cook’s, and the rest are a cheap sure-fire ticket to a bad hangover.  The very worst of these bubbly moonshines is something called Freixenet, which really sounds French, but it actually manufactured at a chemical plant in Spain.  Freixenet is so bad that the last time I ingested it (okay, lots of it), I missed all the next day’s college bowl games because I was barfing up yellow bile in the shower for the next 24 hours.



Worst Wine in the World #6 — Any White Zinfandel


Shitter Home shouldn’t be on the market.  At the very least, it shouldn’t be called “wine.”  White Zinfandel is a baby step up from the so-called “bum wines” which are known for sweetness and a cheap buzz.  About a year ago, someone with good intentions bought me a case (a case!) of something called Sutter Home White ZinfandelBless his little heart.  I tried to choke down a bottle.  But I gave up after two-thirds a glass.  I still have 11 bottles sitting somewhere in the garage (to be served to future guests who don’t know better).


Worst Wine in the World #5 — Many Merlots


Merlot varietals got a really bad rap when the movie Sideways was released.  It was reported Merlot sales dipped about 30 percent in the United States afterward.  Some growers ripped out their Merlot vineyards and planted other grapes.  In the classic but devastating scene, the star of the film, a wine snob played by Paul Giamatti, rants about his aversion to Merlot.  When I saw Giamatti go on about how much he hated Merlot, I wanted to stand and applaud.  SCENE HERE:

Merlot to wine is what Lite is to beer.  It’s a watered-down, compromising, flavorless waste of time and consumption.  It’s a missed opportunity to enjoy something far better.  Like going into a steakhouse and ordering a hamburger.  It’s a revelation that the drinker doesn’t “get it” when it comes to wine or beer.  Merlot and Lite beer (eg. any light beer) drinkers don’t deserve respect.  They’re amateurs.


Worst Wine in the World #4 — Yellow Tail

YT Shiraz Grenache S-Cap 750mlYellow Tail looks innocent enough.  By the appearance of the bottle, you’d even presume it was drinkable.  Who wouldn’t be tempted by this Australian charmer?  Who doesn’t like kangaroos?  Well, looks sure can be deceiving.  This wine comes from “down under,” alright.  Trouble is, I don’t know from “down under” what exactly?  The kitchen sink perhaps.  Naturally, this is one of the best-selling wines in America, which tells you all you need to know about the current state of the world.


Worst Wine in the World #3 — Charles Shaw


One word review — revolting!  Commonly known as the house wine at Trader Joe’s markets, otherwise, a great place to shop, Charles Shaw bills itself as “2-buck chuck.”  There’s a good reason this fruity gasoline is priced at $1.99.  Because it’s not even worth the bargain basement discount price.  Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot — it doesn’t matter.  They all equally taste horrible.  Some time ago, I made the gross miscalculation of purchasing something called the “Special Reserve,” which was priced at a whopping $3.99 — double!!! the cost of the standard Charles Shaw wine.  It was undrinkable.  That torment made me wonder — if the premium wine costs twice as much and yet is so awful, how bad must the cheaper stuff be?  I don’t know who “Charles Shaw” is or was, nor even know if such a person really exists, but I’d like to meet him sometime.  I will demand my $3.99 back.


Worst Wine in the World #2 — Any “Jug Wine”


Any mega-sized wine served in a big jug with a screw top and a handle is a little more than a dyed liquid infused with sugar.  The very worst (and inexplicably the most popular) of these shit wines is some liquid atrocity called Carlo Rossi.  See, I told you Italian wines are hideous!


The Worst Wine in the Entire World — Any Wine Served at Room Temperature! 

71dFIorXoSL._SL1500_Any wine poured into a glass and served at 75 degrees is a travesty, no matter how good or bad the product.  Any restaurant committing the unpardonable crime of serving what would otherwise be a bountifully aqueous harvest at a temperature close to bathwater should lose its liquor license.  Nothing destroys the taste of a wine worse or reveals the ineptitude of a bartender/waiter/sommelier than serving a great bottle of wine at room temperature.  But I’ve seen this and encountered it many times (often not able to say anything because someone else is paying the tab).  Even some fine-dining establishments commit this sin.  No wine is good enough to withstand such willful neglect and abuse.  Always serve the wine at the proper temperature.

Agree?  Disagree?  Feel free to share your thoughts and leave comments.

Read:  My Recommended Geat Summer Wines for $7 or Less!

TAG: Worst wines for the money
TAG:  Nolan Dalla writings


  1. Sparkling wine: Frex, Andre, Cooks – Agree, terrible. Korbel is undistinguished, but not as toxic as the others. Mumm is actually ok.

    Merlot: Mostly crap. I do like Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot for under $9. Try it you might like it…unless “I am NOT drinking fucking merlot!”

    Italian: Agree re the inexpensive Italian wines I’ve tried. Some of the Barolos and Barbarescos are really expensive, and I’ve never had the opportunity to try one on someone else’s dime.

    Jug wine: Agree…you could also lump Boxed wine into this category.

  2. Ugh. Room temperature wine is my biggest pet peeve also. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve ordered a semi-decent bottle of red with dinner and it came out room temp.

    Looking forward to the top list so I can compare my own.

    • This supposed wine “expert” clearly doesn’t know his arse from his elbow! You don’t chill red wine!! Americans really do have no class at all. I feel sorry for the waiters this guy probably abuses just for doing their job properly. White wine is for chilling. Red wine is for keeping cool, until it is opened and left to breath. By the time you come to drink the wine it should be about room temperature. Bet you this guy is the type of ignorant snob that only buys french wine, even though anyone who knows anything about wine knows that French wines are on the way out.
      P.s. Barolo is a thing.

      • LUKE:

        When you live in Las Vegas, where I do, and temperature routinely reach 115 degrees, it’s blasphemy to serve wines at room temperature. That metric might work in some areas where it’s 64 degrees, but if anyone serves me an 80-degree bottle of wine, I’m sending it back. Huge problem in many warm climates is, the wines are served too warm. Then again, perhaps you haven’t traveled around much.

        — ND

  3. agree with it all except the rossi bit! come on nolan!

  4. agree with all but #2…we used to buy jug fruit wine made by Henry Endres in Oregon City back in the early 70’s, it was electric and had to be enjoyed slowly or you were in trouble. Trouble was, it tasted so good you always got shit faced drunk!

    • When I got out of the service in 1970 and returned to Portland, some of my high schools friends told me about the Dandelion wine out at Henry’s winery in Oregon City.
      So of course I had to sample it. Yes, if you drank it to get hammered – you would. But I enjoyed the taste and I kept it in the refrigerator. That does bring back quite a few memories. I have since moved to the Midwest but the next time I’m back in the area I will look in to seeing if it is still available.

  5. Still waiting for your top 20 under $20! As a working class wine lover, I rarely spend more than $20 on a bottle of wine, so I am really interested in your list!

    • Nolan Replies: Thanks Bruce. I’ll post something in a week or so. Quite a few amazing choices, so it’s difficult to carve down to just a set number. Then, please post your favorite that I missed.


      — ND

    • his LIST is shit!

      Carlos Rossi has the BEST SANGRIA WINE EVER!

      • Carlo Rossi Sangri is sangri-flavored WATER. I usually use it as a mixer though…. takes awesome in a sangri-themed cocktail!

  6. Every holiday my dear elderly mum drags out her jug of Lambrusco and “treats” us all! She stores it on top of her clothes dryer….words cannot adequately describe how awful it is.

    • That is PRICELESS!!

  7. Light beers are acceptable in many situations. I don’t like merlots, but a cold Bud Light on a warm summer day can be a total joy. Then again, maybe that is just something you can’t get.

  8. Aren’t you as self aggrandized bastard.

    If someone likes it so what?

    Go back to your basement and praise your own wisdom.

    • What he said!!!!

  9. Agree with the general sentiment above (“If someone likes it so what?”).

    Regarding point 5. Are you sure you mean ‘any Merlots’? Have you tried all Merlots? Is it not possible that there are some amazing Merlots out there which you have not tried? Indeed you reference Sideways, but it is well known that Miles’s prized 1961 Cheval Blanc is a Cabernet Franc/Merlot.

  10. Chateau Petrus is 100% Merlot. Heard of it? I guess not. Amateur!

  11. These wines are awful but you sound like a noob.

  12. m8 ive got bare $$$ i dont no why u evn try sum of thes its lik u dont evn hav sw@g

  13. Mostly agree. Regarding Italian wines, I think you would enjoy a Barbera or an Amaraone. Steer clear of Barbaresco. Good Barolos and Brunellos can be found for a price.

  14. What temperature do you like red wines served at?

    • Nolan Replies:

      Temperature preference? lightly cooler than normal here in Las Vegas, where wines have to be served slightly colder since they warm up fast. But I have no specific temperature range. My criticism was targeted at some restaurants which serve wine at ROOM TEMPERATURE, which I find appalling. I realize, of course, some old style establishments in Europe still serve them that way, but that’s alright when the high temp. is 68 degrees.

      — Nolan

  15. Room temperature should be 55F.

    That was believed to be the ambient temperature of the old French Chateaux.

    Similarly, white wine or champagne should never be served under 43F as that was the temperature of their cellars (no ice or fridge in those days, obviously)

  16. Obviously none of you have tried Russian wine………… Don’t! Especially not the sparkling (“champagne”) stuff. If you’re there, drink vodka or the beer (Baltika is best). Just don’t even sip any wine.
    Another horror: White wine from the Peoples Republic of China. H. P. Lovecraft in a bottle!

  17. Was surprised to see Yellow Tail on your list #4. Really like it but for the 1st time got a bad bottle. Think their demand is outdoing there ability to produce good wine. Think table wine for the every day use is good. Not every working stiff can pop open a $200.00 bottle every night. Agree with you on the garage type wine. When friends come over, empty the garage. Football, baseball, NASCAR whatever, who gives a shit what it tastes like.

  18. Some of these wines aren’t available here in the UK, and it sounds like we’re very lucky they aren’t. However, the blanket condemnation of Italian wines was unbelievable. They make some superb wine, and if I could just persuade you to try a bottle – any bottle – of Brunello di Montalcini I’m sure you’ll change your mind.

    And if you don’t you need a new tongue!

  19. Agree with all, except #8 and somewhat #5. I’ve found some pretty amazing wines from Italy. As for Merlot, yes they are generally on the “lite” side, however I’ve found a few which were pretty bold and don’t fall into the “crap” category.
    That aside….. Anyone who volunteers to order wine for the dinner party and picks a White Zinfandel should be immediately strangled to death.. it’s the Bud Light of wine..

  20. I agree with you on Italian wines… they are so heavily tannic and often bitter that I have found most to be undrinkable. I’ve had some Barolo’s and Nebbiolo’s that I paid good money for, only to pour them down the sink after just a few sips. Life is too short to drink some of that crap.

    As for Sparkling, I actually like Mumm, so we disagree there. I find less difference between Sparkling wines than any other varietal. A great Cab will blow the doors off a lesser one. A great Chardonnay will actually be drinkable, as opposed to the oaky/buttery crap that I use to induce my gag reflex when needed. But I’d bet in a side-by-side tasting, most people wouldn’t be able to tell a great Sparkling wine from a mid-level one.

    As for Merlot, in my own experience, a great Merlot can stand up to some of the best Cabernet’s. Three examples if you don’t believe me: Darioush, Stag’s Leap, and Duckhorn. Try these and you’ll quickly see where I’m coming from. It’s also important to note that Paul Giammati’s character (who professes to despise Merlot), at the same time worship’s Cheval Blanc, which is around 50% Merlot-based. An inside joke perhaps?

    Finally, I 100% agree with you in regards to serving wine at 75F. Yet it happens all the time because too many people view that as the, “room temperature” that it’s supposed to poured at. What these people don’t realize is that this was based on **Great Britain** room temperature, which is often between 55 and 65F. With few exceptions, I will have to put a small piece of ice in my red wine at a restaurant to taste the wine at the temperature it was meant to be drank at.

    Excellent post! Really enjoyed it!

  21. Chardonnay of any vintage, any source, any price should be banned. Cheap chardonnay tastes like lighter fluid. Expensive chardonnay tastes like paint thinner.

  22. So many people didn’t get the Merlot joke – it was a joke about wine snobs. The Giamatti character rants about Merlot but loves Cheval Blanc – which he clearly doesn’t realise is mostly Merlot.

    There was never meant to be a slur against Merlot but people are so suggestible..

  23. May I offer you a case of our brand new Charles Shaw Italian Sweet Merlot Sparkler, sponsored by Yellow Tail, jug size…? Served at Florida Room temparature for you!

  24. Anyone saying Mumm is a “sparkling” wine is an uneducated imbecile.
    FYI, Mumm is one of the best middle-priced Champagne available on par with Veuve Cliquot, Mercier etc. and even Dom Perignon depending on millesimes.
    You would have to be French to understand anything about wine anyway… Stick to your Bud guys (which happens to be from the Czech Republic by the way, not anywhere near the US) and Coors light effing idiots.
    “New world” wine (from California, OZ, NZ, SA etc.) is like a regular cigarette with all the chemical crap in it designed to kill you, whereas “Old world” wine (French of course, but also Italian, Hungarian, Spanish, Bulgarian, even Moroccan and Algerian, that’s about it) is more like ecigs: tasty but not nasty.
    Of all the new world wines however, my experience is that those from Chile are the best and closest to the French ones.
    Just my two centilitres…

    • No, dope. “Bud” is specifically the American beer, which was formulated as a “Bohemian-style” beer, but otherwise has nothing to do with Budweiser Budvar, the Czech beer.

      You know almost as much about wine as you do about beer (are you French?) I’m sure California wineries like Screaming Eagle whose wines cost $7000 a bottle are devastated that you, a world-famous wine critic, don’t like their product as much as, say, an Algerian wine.

    • In order to be classified as “Champagne,” a wine must originate in the Champagne region of France, similar to how Bourbon can only come from Kentucky. The finest sparkling in the world must be classified as that if it doesn’t originate in the Champagne region of France.

  25. You got here Yellow Tail, agree, is not the best but did you ever try Obikwa wine??? Much, much, much… much worst. Just try Pinotage Rose, have to admit, never had worst wine that this one. Ok, is cheap, is South African, but even $1 a bottle Australian wine will be much, much better than this one. And I’m not trying to do marketing for Australian wine, I’m NZlander, but just try this one, is basically not drinkable, whole bottle went to the drain, it was the best place for it.

  26. wonderful, my thoughts exactly, am waiting for you list of good 20- wines, since that’s what I look for–I have paid $40 for wines that turned out to be awful, so I stick with wineries that I know are good from experience. I had a flight on Air Algerie where they had to close the plane door with a rope, but supplied wonderful free wine the whole trip!

  27. Any Italian Wine?? There are so many great Italian grape varieties and some brilliant wines – Brunello to die for, Bordeaux style super Tuscans, amazing Barbaresco and heavenly Amarone. Some great varieties further south – Aglianico springs to mind as well as some Nero d’Avola. You have clearly not explored this great country and the wine it has to offer. Don’t come out with statement at a dinner party.


      Fair criticism. I’m just not a fan. Certainly, there are some extraordinary Italian wines in the thousands of varietals produced. MY statement was hyperbolic.

      Please do read the most recent listing of TEN SPLENDID SUMMER WINES, written a few days ago, which does list one of my favorite Italian bargains.

      Thanks for the post.

      — ND

  28. Just discovered this brilliant piece of erudition. The truth is out there and this article tells it as it is. I should also mention that I laughed along the way! I would probably swap Shitter’s Home and Yellow Tail around in the ranking order but that is a minor technicality. Anything with E and J Gallo on the label makes me throw up as well. I must confess to loving Italy wines but I am talking about Barolo at rather exorbitant prices. There are, however, some great southern Italian wines at affordable price.

  29. The thing with Merlot wines is that they are not necessarily bad wines. Less good perhaps, but they surprise by being unsurprising. Even the worst is drinkable. God forbid I apply this label to cheap dago red though (I’m Italian, so it’s OK, and I have been called FAR worse. Just talk to my ex wives). Cheap Italian wines are plain bad, but I use the time honored Italian tradition with those. Just water them down. and you can at least drink the stuff.

  30. I agree with many of your points. But all Italian wines are bad? Really??

    Hot-takery for the sake of hot-takery never ages well.

  31. I love your comments!
    Just had a terrible experience with a bottle of Silverado Sangiovese 2015. I could only get past a sip of it, served at room temperature. I think it could have removed paint off my car!😣

  32. This is the most snobby and weirdest post about wine I have ever read. Any Italian wine or cheap sparkling wine taste bad? No, even the specialists disagree with you. America has the worst wine in the history of time.

  33. To say that all Italian wines are trash is the most obviously uninformed judgement of wine. Yes, a lot of Italian wines have are very tannic, but Italian wines have a diverse range of styles. Italians and other European wine producing regions have a different culture when it comes to wine. They let it age, and don’t drink right away all the time. If you had half a basic understanding in general you would know this. I understand the little postscript talking about sweet wines, but that just shows you don’t really like tannic red wines. That is a personal preference. Do some research and be open minded. No all Italian wines are that tannic. Get out from under the rock and try stuff.


      Point conceded. Hyperbole wasn’t my friend in that post. Nonetheless, I’m not fond of Italian wines.

      — ND

  34. Add Mexican wine to your list. Horrible! Discovered that it even existed on a recent trip to Cancun.

  35. bro, 2-buck-chuck was my college boyfriend. Obviously the target demographic is dorm-dwellers scraping together quarters to get drunk on campus. How dare you taint my youth with your snobbery.

  36. I drank 2-buck-chuck merlot like it was my religion in college. Simply because it was the cheapest and had the highest content of alcohol. This list is subjective depending on your priorities in life. Some of us are world-class bargain hunters working towards an education and subsequent success, and some of us are total tools who think knowing shit about wine is a worthwhile personality trait.

    Not sure why I’m trashy list in the first place.

  37. I drank 2-buck-chuck merlot like it was my religion in college. Simply because it was the cheapest and had the highest content of alcohol. This list is subjective depending on your priorities in life. Some of us are world-class bargain hunters working towards an education and subsequent success, and some of us are total tools who think knowing shit about wine is a worthwhile personality trait.

    Not sure why I’m reading this trashy list in the first place.

  38. Funny stuff, but it’s rot gut not rock gut.

  39. I agree this guy knows nothing about wine. To each his own, but don’t make it seem like it’s facts.

  40. I do love wine, but room temperature will kill any sort of existing wine I’m sorry. As for champagne it’s not that bad, though I don’t really like it. Who had ever tried a ουζο from Greece? It has to be the sweetest yet most easily to get drunk wine I’ve ever known….

  41. Really shitty review. In form and in substance

  42. Expert wine makers and sellers do this all the time – put up a higher price for a cheap wine, and it starts selling. There now are millionaires who sold relabeler wines at restaurants at ridiculous prices and no one even noticed what they were drinking. Placebo effect soon takes place and wine lovers begin to try and fine subtle things that make the wine unique and enjoyable. Let’s justify the cost… It must be great if they are charging this much! Your article proves this perfectly.


      Great post. Thanks for sharing.

      — ND

  43. “Who had ever tried a ουζο from Greece? It has to be the sweetest yet most easily to get drunk wine I’ve ever known….”

    The reason you so easily got drunk is that it’s not wine! It’s a spirit, so drinking a bottle of ουζο is equivalent to drinking a bottle of gin or whisky, definitely NOT recommended …


      I second that motion.

      — ND

  44. Surprised Menage a trois wines didn’t make the list. Awful!

  45. Wow! The only thing dumber than that scene in sideways is blaming the awfulness of barefoot merlot. On the varietal merlot. Have fun drinking barefoot cab!

  46. Bottom of the Barrel: The 3 Best Words to Describe Nolan Dalla
    3) Pretentious
    2) Arrogant
    1) Asshole


      Not bad for a first-time post. You nailed two out of three.

      — ND


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