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What's the weirdest or most awful wine you've ever tasted?

I spent Christmas week in a mountain cabin in Ruidoso, NM - did y'all know they make wine in NM? It was the first I'd heard of it...

While we were milling around the shops in the old part of the town, I came across something so bizarre that I HAD to buy it - "New Mexico Green Chile Wine." And the wine was LITERALLY neon green colored - like a green apple jolly rancher!

I don't even know if I could give real tasting notes, basically this was a really awful, sickeningly sweet bad quality white with some jalepeno juice or something thrown in.... The flavor was so WEIRD, I think it may have actually been worse than the BIG BOX.

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  1. One of our regular attendees at wine dinners works for an events company that organises a lot of long distance running events involving world-class athletes. He once brought a bottle to be tasted blind and it was truly an abominable wine. It turned out to be a red from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. It might have been useful for stripping paint, but not much else.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Al Toon

      I had a glass of honey (white) wine from Ethiopia while dining at an Ethiopian restaurant. It wasn't awful or weird and it was 'acceptable' with food. But the next time I got a beer.

      1. re: Al Toon

        Wow - many of these make my "worst/weiderest" wine seem tame by comparision....Pineapple wine someone brought me a gift from Maui.

      2. My gourmet wine group had a theme once to bring wine from the state you were born. I happened to have been born in Michigan, since I don't live there I had to rely on ordering directly from a winery. The wine though made from Washington grapes was undrinkable. Lucky me they screwed up on the shipping and they accidentally doubled my order. Thankfully one of the wine group members was born in Washington so we had at least one wine that saved the evening. The Pensylvanian wine was actually not that bad and was perhaps saved by it being purchased within Pennsylvania and shipped via a family member.

        The weirdest wine I have had was a Republic of Georgia wine. I can't remember the name but I do remember that one of the tasting notes that I read about it referred to it as something like watery bourbon, which was a very accurate description.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pairswellwithwine

          I don't know what Republic of Georgia wine you drank, but Kindzmarauli and Mukuzani
          are highly drinkable. Basically, they are naturally sweet red wines which have been
          made since antiquity. My worst wine was a chinese wine given to me by one of my
          grad students from China. I could barely take a sip without spitting it all out. I poured
          the rest down the drain. A distant second is a wine from Vietnam I drank during a visit
          there. The wine is made in Dalat, which has almost perfect weather for winemaking.
          Unfortunately, the winemaker, who spent an entire week in France learning wine
          making, decided that the "Vietnamese palate is not yet ready fror European
          varieties," so he is making his wine with table grapes. So it tastes a bit like
          fermented sugary water.

        2. The worst: Retsina in Greece about 40 years ago.

          2 Replies
          1. re: PolarBear

            Ugh, Retsina is nasty. That said, it's not as nasty as Mondavi "Private Selection" Pinot Noir. I'd rather drink my own urine.

            1. re: PolarBear

              ditto - how does anyone drink this cr*p

            2. There's weird, and then there's bad.

              I have a fair degree of tolerance for weird. Ethiopian honey wine (tej) is mentioned above. It's made with gesho, which creates bitterness something like the hops in beer. I haven't acquired a taste for the stuff, but can see how some folks might like it. Ditto with retsina. And Georgian wines are their own kind of thing, but I managed to consume a fair amount of sweet reds and шампанское when I was in the CCCP (which should give you a hint as to the time frame).

              I don't know enough about any of those wines to say whether they're good or bad. They're just different. OTOH, I've been to a fair number of art shows / office parties / open houses where the hosts were either clueless about what they were serving or understood that the swill they were offering would discourage people from getting drunk and encourage them to leave early. Most of the times they hide the bottle, so you're never quite sure what it is. But it's a definite step down from Charles Shaw.

              Then there's the confluence of bad and weird. My grandfather used to make dandelion wine. Maybe there's a good example of the stuff, but I've never heard of it. And frankly, I'm not looking to expand that particular horizon.

              But as far as New Mexico wines go, you've got to try Gruet. Not a bad sparkling wine at any price, and a contender for best in the world in the <$15 / bottle price range. Albuquerque's finest.

              1 Reply
              1. A relative gave us some Tennessee tomato wine. It was like the ketchup had gone bad and someone added window cleaner to cover the taste!

                1 Reply
                1. re: garlicvampire

                  LOL! Okay that one is about as weird as the "green chile wine" we had in NM. It was like drinking fermented jalepeno juice and neon green food coloring! One of the few times in my life I actually poured a bottle down the drain...

                2. Without a doubt

                  Sparkling Shiraz.

                  At a wine tasting 2 years ago, everyone took a sip, spit it out and we emptied the bottles in the sink.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Maximilien

                    I'm with you there. Buying wine a while back, I picked a few bottles of sparkling, then blithely grabbed a few from the neighboring bin... dark green bottles, some rather obscure label that I didn't examine closely. So, suspecting nothing, I eventually cracked one of the latter open... oh, the horror. Sparkling shiraz! Unlike you, I had to take 2 sips before dumping it down the sink... couldn't believe how vile the first one was. Thankfully, I was able to exchange the other bottles of it for something drinkable.

                    1. re: Maximilien

                      d'Arenberg sparkling chambourcin, a variety I'd never previously heard of, is what came to my mind when I saw this. It was a high alcohol, sweet, tannic, disgusting mess.

                    2. When I was in high school, back in the 60s, Catawba Pink was my wine of choice. An old friend brought some to a party I had years later, which was a nice thought, but OMG how did I drink gallons of that stuff?

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: coll

                        you know those large plastic water bottles with the built-in straw? i used to dump an entire bottle of Sutter Home White Zin into one, cram in as much ice as i could (the colder it was, the less awful it tasted) and walk around drinking it at frat parties. it was easier than standing in long lines to refill a small plastic cup with warm, flat keg beer!

                        all these years later, the mere thought of it makes me want to hurl.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          I just remembered, I had one of those goat skin bags that you wore over your shoulder, and I filled it with banana wine to take to Lincoln Center for the Nutcracker. Classy, I know!

                          1. re: coll

                            Ah, the bota. We used to see those on the ski slopes in CO quite a bit. One poor chap did a face-plant, and landed squarely on his bota filled with some red liquid (wine?), that exploded onto his white jacket. We all thought that he'd severed an artery, and were calling the ski patrol for emergency action.


                      2. A red and a white wine that my son brought back for us from his travels in India. Bleh.

                        1. worst was Vietnamese 'wine' during my week long visit to Phu Quoc island. vile stuff!
                          also, just as nauseating is 99.9999% of Chinese 'wine'. 3 trips of nice food and foul Chinese 'wine'.

                          1. The most awful wine I've had is without a doubt palm wine. This stuff is incredibly popular throughout the tropical 3rd world, where I did most of my field work from the mid-60s to the mid-80s. For awhile there until my work shifted more to the US, well over 50% of the alcohol I'd consumed in my life was palm wine. It's just downright awful, with a flavor along the lines of an artificially sweetened gasoline and vinegar mixture that's been heavily diluted with grass infused water. In most of the places I've drunk it, the making and drinking of palm wine is the exclusive territory of men, even in otherwise very egalitarian tribal cultures. The attitude the women take toward this is generally, "Of course it's just for the men; men like disgusting things." This really irked my female colleagues, especially at the height of the bra burning era, until they tried the stuff. And I never heard any of the men claim it tasted good either, or even that it's an acquired taste. It's more a taste you learn to tolerate because of the enjoyment from the social and ritual aspect of drinking it.

                            And the weirdest is snake wine. During my doctoral studies, which started just as the Vietnam War was really picking up steam and ended around the height of the war, I did a lot of work with the US government that required long stays in Vietnam. By the end of this work, we were more or less confined to military bases, "For our own safety," but towards the beginning we had fairly free rein. My first trip there we were quartered with a small and fast dwindling group of French educated Vietnamese academics in Saigon. They liked to play a joke on the American scientists that were new to the country by getting them to drink snake wine, basically rice wine into which has been places a whole, split down the belly cobra. While this is a traditional part of Chinese medicine, it is not the popular Vietnamese celebratory beverage that they convinced me it was. I did not notice the knowing grins of my American colleagues who had been there for longer and been through this already until after I had downed my shot. While it certainly did not taste good in the slightest, it was still far better than palm wine.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: gadfly

                              Yes, snake wine. One night at a friend's house, after drinking the place dry of everything else, he broke out a bottle of something that translated as "snake penis wine". He explained that it was a gift from a Vietnamese official during his stint with the State Department. It was a bottle of black liquid containing what appeared to be reptile parts. Eventhough we were all extremely intoxicated, none of us had the nerve to be the first to try it. We determined the only equitable approach was for each of us to down a shot of the vile stuff simultaneously, though without the reptile chunks. The immediate result was 7 guys projectile vomiting off the back deck for about 45 minutes. I can't speak for everyone else present that night, but it was definitely the most disgusting substance I have ever ingested.

                              1. re: flavrmeistr

                                I almost tried some in Vietnam - my college buddy from Vietnam warned me that the first time he tired it he threw up. We drank some pretty horrible stuff in college, so that is saying something. I was determined to try it, because i thought it would be a cool experience - the smell was so bad that I couldn't bring myself to do it.

                              2. I can't compete with snake wine or green chiles, but in my experience, ChocoVine. "The Great taste of Dutch chocolate and fine Cabernet wine." I can assure you it is neither. Imagine if Yoohoo made a dessert liqueur. Insanely sweet, watered-down chocolate with a surprising alcohol burn for something like 400 calories/glass. Horrifying, but even more so when you read all of the gushing reviews on snooth.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Wahooty

                                  GUESS WHAT MY HUBBY GOT FOR CHRISTMAS FROM HIS COWORKER? This "CHOCO-WINE" is sitting on our buffet. Hubby wanted to "regift" it to a friend - I said NO WAY! I would die of embarrassment. Without even tasting this, I know it's going to be BAD NEWS!!! Glad to read your review, Wahooty!

                                2. Trying the local wine when traveling has always struck me as at minimum educational and often rewarding, locally and wherever in the world we went (well, we have a propensity for wine-producing areas of note).. We have often taken daytrips in the Hudson River Valley, and there are many local wines. Most are drinkable, a few are good (late harvests and such) and one winery, no longer in business, produced the most awful line of wines that ever was offered for sale i n my presence. Instead of terroir, there was the overwhelming taste of turpentine.

                                  Curiously, the place stayed in business for years, maybe because it was a family enterprise. Their three reds and four whites and a rose were even bought at the winery by touring tasters. How could this place survive?

                                  Their secret was that they also had a catering hall, perhaps the only one in the area, and usually offered the public a prix fixe Italian banquet on weekends. I convinced my wife that the food had to be so good that it made up for the awful wine, and we went. The food was excellent. Course after course of family specialities and very well made standards. For two hours. With music. If there only had been some wine to go with it!

                                  1. Weirdest: Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards "Red Cat" (probably).

                                    Worst table wine: Buzzard Lagoon n.v. Strawberry Wine (undoubtedly).

                                    Worst sparkling wine: a Charmat process (cuve close) sparkling wine made in Communist Hungary and sold under the brand name, BUDAFOK . . . as in bu-da-fok cares?!?!


                                    1. The worst - well at least in the last 45 years would have to be the British and Chinese wines at Vinopolis in London. Being from the Deep South, I have had some odd wines down there, but all seemed to be more palatable, than those two "locations." I did not write down either's producer, as I plan on avoiding each place of origin, unless some trusted source insists.


                                      PS - from Cave Creek, AZ, we have a "chili beer," and have to admit that it is a unique and acquired taste. Cool to shock a house guest, but not something that I would drink often.

                                      1. Forgot one. Like others, we often travel to some of the more obscure wine producing regions of the globe, and do try to at least get out and taste the "local" offerings.

                                        Were at a vitacultural event in Colorado once. Tasted some surprisingly good wines, and then some that were being sold just on the name, or the label. Tried three wines from one producer and all three were horrible. Next day, several of the larger wineries hosted a big event, and we noticed that the tent provided for that winery was vacant. I asked the wine maker from the hosting winery to explain the vacancy and also that producer's wine. He paused, and then offered, "he chose to not come, though we provided him with a tent, and even a sign. We're all in this together, and try to help each other. All of us have told him that his wines are awful, but he insists that he has this vision, and keeps making wines that no one can drink. We've tried to help, but he will just not listen, and keeps making that horrible stuff." "Horrible stuff" was fitting. Not sure that I have had much, that was more "horrible," than those three wines.


                                        1. I found "Symphony" to be disgusting.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: twodales

                                            I thought the same thing. The first dozen examples of that varietal were just that. A friend brought a bottle from Volcano Winery, Big Island, HI, and served it with a tropical fruit salad. I changed my mind about the varietal, but not the examples that I had had in the past.


                                          2. As a Missouri resident, I can say - without hesitation - that some of the worst wine I've ever had is from Missouri. Sorry, local economy. :(

                                            Granted I have not had "snake wine!" eek!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: stellamystar

                                              Actually, I have had some excellent wines from Missouri. Then again, Snake wine well and truly sucks! (I forgot about that one.)

                                            2. 1. With great regard for good Canadian whites I'd tried, in Toronto 20 years ago at a restaurant dinner I happened to order a Canadian Pinot Noir (_not_ from the Okanagan region). After all, after notorious failures for decades, California had finally started producing a few consistently good PNs in the 1980s, so I was optimistic. But this particular one was awful. At least it was cheap.

                                              2. The most exotic wine experience I may ever have was around 1980 via an early wine mentor who (as I only gradually came to realize) was a world-class collector since the 1950s and former wine writer whose advice and tasting skills were sought by big names in the industry. He consulted for major auction houses, and as an honorarium for some such duty, had received a big-name fortified wine from one of the Latin countries, vintage 1880 or so. He had a gadget for syphon-decanting very old bottles, a glass tube went down into the bottle and drew wine from multiple holes spaced a cm or two above the bottom, so constructed as to induce zero vorticity (no swirling which would disturb the sediment). Such fanfare and exoticism -- the wine had a huge market value -- was the best part of the experience. Even fortification had left little but faint whispers of flavor or aroma after a century; the experience in the glass could have been mistaken for an over-the-hill cheap domestic white port.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                Ah yes, I have had some dreadful PN's, and one that stood out was the first try by Mondavi. It was served, about 20 years after the vintage, and by the winemaker for that wine. He told the story, and warned us, but we wanted to taste it. It flat ripped the enamel off our teeth! Back then, UC Davis was just really getting up to speed. The winemaker had just completed his studies there, and the feeling was that to produce a really good wine, one needed to heavily extract from the skins, and all other vegetable matter. Wow, was this ever extracted. He did a second vintage, and Mr. Mondavi immediately moved him to marketing, and he never made another wine (maybe at home?) again. Mondavi dropped the PN project, and did not pick it back up for a decade, or so. His estimate was that the tannins might abate by the year 5050, but was not that confident that the wine would smooth out, even by then. Lot of jokes told that night, and most at his expense. Still, glad that I tasted the wine, so I could rank it near the very bottom of the all-time bad list.

                                                Thanks for dredging up the memories,


                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  From the definitive _North American Pinot Noir_ (2004) by John Haeger (incidentally and fortuitously a professional historian): ' Connoisseurs' Guide, a new consumer-oriented publication, reviewed 1970s [California] pinots in 1977 with frequent resort to descriptors like "dull" and "short" ... Three year later, the Guide's assessment had not improved, with numerous references to "volatile off-odors," "pungent" aromas, and "slightly varnishy" and "dirty" notes. / The villain, almost certainly, was a winemaking recipe, applied indiscriminately to all red varieties, [with lots of new equipment and heavy-handed processing]. Cabernet and Zinfandel tolerated this treatment reasonably well.'

                                                  That and other quotations awoke wretched memories of 1970s California PNs, contrasting so sharply from what by then were already decades of world-class Cabernets, as I cited in another wine posting yesterday.

                                                  Among several sharp shifts of US wine-consumer perception I witnessed over the last 30 years is later notions of PNs among wine enthusiasts who experienced none of the dark past, but speak of good PN as if it were a characteristically US wine (even, sometimes, as if unaware that far more PN labels still come from France). Rather than the newcomer it is, with shorter successful history than other major red varietals in the US.

                                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                                    Yes, I can understand why many turned their "noses" up to US PN's, and never bothered to return.

                                                    As you state, the application of techniques that either worked with, or did not totally destroy other varietals, were the death knell for US PN's,as least for a very long time.

                                                    Now, some might argue against US PN's, but I find many (and different regions/AVA's, and different styles) to be very interesting. Still, the judge is the consumer's palate.


                                              2. I received a bottle of white wine (chardonnay) from a coworker once at christmas in '97. I don't remember the winery but it was from Healdsburg, CA. I brought to a friend's for christmas dinner. I was very poor and very broke. I assumed it was drinkable. I was wrong. Even though we'd polished off a few bottles by the time we opened it, we all spit it out immediately. I was VERY smokey. As in "Did they just add liquid smoke to the wine?" smokey. Vile.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: cosmogrrl

                                                  Well, as Sonoma usually does decent Chards, my first thought would be - "corked wine!"

                                                  Of course, I am sure that there have been some horrible Chards, from Sonoma, TCA, or not.

                                                  In my estimation, one can almost never consume enough wine, prior to a corked bottle, that would make it acceptable, but then I am super-sensitive to TCA.


                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    Another possibility is the obvious one - smoke. When there are fires near a vineyard, the grapes can pick up a smoky flavor. Don't know about Healdsburg in '97, but '08s from all over Northern California were distinctly affected by the wildfires here.

                                                2. Back when I was a student (and when we would drink just about anything) I had a foretaste of 'good taste' when sleeping on a beach in the south of France, when we opened a cardboard carton of red wine that was the 'product of more than one country of the EEC'.
                                                  It was the first time in any of our short lives to be faced with booze that was just too foul to drink.
                                                  I think we all moved 3 steps forward in our strive for adult sophistication that night.

                                                  1. Thunderbird .. me and a buddy bought a bottle in college. College students can drink pretty much everything but we could not take more than a few sips of the Thunderbird ... it was vile on a level that we had never encountered before.

                                                    1. Worst one I can specifically remember was the house white at one of the eating establishments on the wharf in Monterey, CA. I admit to not having the most sophisticated palate under the sun, but this one spoke its pedigree clearly: Thompson Seedless.

                                                      Of course in the ancient past i bought some funky reds in the 5-quart (!) jugs for very few dollars, but only a memory of a memory exists for those.

                                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                                          Annie Greensprings "Strawberry Hill" wine and a little Bruce Springsteen..........man, I almost vomit (once again) just thinkin' about it!

                                                          1. re: sedimental

                                                            Now, back "in the day," I rather favored the Annie Greensprings, over the Boone's Farm offerings, as they had lower acid...

                                                            The former was ethanol, fruit juice and water, while it seemed that the latter had "commercial grade" citric acid added.

                                                            OK, I should desist, as arguing the merits of AG vs BF in a semi-serious wine thread is blasphemous, and I apologize. Besides, that was very, very long ago.


                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                              We used to add our own acid to the Boone's Farm, usually Mr. Natural blotter. Didn't improve the flavor, but it sure made for some good times.

                                                        2. When I was in my early 20's I found myself in Prauge, and one evening I wanted to buy a bottle of wine to share with some people I had met there. The shop keeper at the shop near Charles Bridge that I chose to purchase the wine from recommended Franz Kafka wine, and with a mischievous smile on his face he reassured me it was "good wine, good wine." Being naive in life and wine, I took his advice. It wasn't the horrified look on my newly found friend's face, nor the gag reflex I experienced when I took a swig off the bottle, but the jubilant laughter of the homeless guy that asked for a drink of the wine and then took a long drink and declared "AHH FRANZ KAFKA GOOD WINE GOOD WINE" without even looking at the label that alerted me to the fact that I had been the butt of a cruel joke. Lesson learned: refrain from asking for wine recommendations from small shops near Charles Bridge in English.

                                                          1. In the early 80's, stayed a few weeks on Maui. The worst stuff I've ever had was the pineapple wine in Lahaina. I swear even the Spanada that I first drank in high school was better than that stuff.