By James Knight
Talk about begging the question! With Slender wine, the question is not even asked; rather, it is implied—occult and unwelcome. But the answer makes a lot of sense, as long as we don't think too hard about it: Where are all the sugar-free wines?It's here, a most helpful innovation. How did we manage without it? Instead of simply rejoicing and reaching for said consumable, restless and overly ruminative persons might ask, who needs sugar-free wine? Never you mind. This concept flies above the noggin yet below the upturned nose, and it aims straight at the waistline.Slender is billed as the world's only sugar-free sweet wine. Somehow (through years of diligent research), somewhere (Plainfield, Ind.), someone (Dr. Charles R. Thomas) conceived of and launched the new, improved Slender (with no aftertaste) in time to be included in the celebrity swag baskets at the 81st Annual Academy Awards in February, 2009. Such choice placement garnered instant buzz.
Slender is sweetened with Zerose® (courtesy of Cargill), otherwise known as the tongue-twisting erythritol, a "natural sweetener" that the winery assures is easily eliminated by the body. That makes me feel all warm inside already. When the Oscar press release announced the swag bag, wine blogs enjoyed a predictable round of sniggering. But these folks forgot Winetasting Rule No. 1: Don't knock it until you try it. So I tried it. The NV Slender White ($10.99) was the clear favorite, with simple fruit-cocktail flavors of pineapple and guava on a sweet, sweet finish. Poured over a mountain of ice in a tumbler, it's certainly tolerable. The NV Slender Blush ($10.99), the color of salmon, with aromas of the leftovers and flavors of strawberry jam served on a wool sweater left out in the rain, is unfortunate. The end.
What with the surplus of quality bulk wine these days, it's difficult to understand the NV Slender Red ($10.99), although the sweetish mélange of blackberries and peanuts repeatedly run over by forklifts on a cellar floor was not entirely unpleasant; with some air, it acquired the somewhat vinous aroma of a DAP addition in fermenting wine, with Superfood notes.
Chateau Thomas also makes dry wine from refrigerated grapes shipped in from California—even Carneros Pinot Noir. They have awards, and that's fine. What's disturbing about the Slender line is its message: This wine will make you thin, like the silhouette woman on the label sashaying toward you like 1980s clip-art decal from the dry cleaner's window. The premise is as vapid and disingenuous, because the majority of table wines contain negligible sugar to begin with. Detectable sweetness may equal less than four calories, from sugar, per glass. Does that even merit a Weight Watchers point? The calories, of course, are in the alcohol: 100 per glass, give or take. Ultra-ripe, sweet German wines might add 100 more calories per glass—but, tut mir leid, Slender is no Trockenbeerenauslese. There might be a place for sugar-free, delicious, late-harvest elixirs, but these don't fill it.
To be fair, I did not taste the bottles blind, wrapped up in a brown paper bag. Perhaps that was a mistake, because the couture would be most befitting.
Chateau Thomas, 6291 Cambridge Way, Plainfield, Indiana. 317.837.9463. Slender is available in California from www.vinoshipper.com.
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