The product and promotional item were provided by Barefoot Wine & Bubbly for this review.
Lately it seems that everyone is sick. First JP got sick, and then we worked at a high school college fair together and went to dinner after – so I got sick. Then his wife, my good friend Blake, got sick. Each of us was feeling crappy for nearly a week (but staggered), so we haven’t gotten to see each other almost at all, and I miss my friends! Fortunately, tonight we were all finally feeling well enough to meet for dinner, drinks, and a mini-celebration of some good news for Blake.
So what wine did we choose to celebrate? Well, Barefoot Wines recently contacted me about reviewing their newest line – Barefoot Refresh. It’s their new take on a wine spritzer, and is meant to be “flavorful, refreshing, and lightly carbonated.” The winemaker, Jennifer Wall, crafted this series specifically to create a brand new style that could be enjoyed by those who might otherwise have opted out of wine. With such a distinct style and low price point, I was especially excited to share them with Blake and JP (both of whom are quite sophisticated in their taste in wines) and get their take on whether we thought these were “good value” or just cheap.
Blake, JP, and I all went to college together and took a popular course in the Hotel School, Introduction to Wines. While that may sound like a joke elective, it was actually the most failed class at Cornell! In the first class, we learned how to taste/evaluate a wine by tasting the individual components that make up a wine – acidity (lemon juice), sweetness (simple syrup), fruitiness (which is an aroma, not a taste), and alcohol (yes, pure alcohol. Rather disgusting.) In each subsequent class, we learned about the varietals from one particular part of the winemaking world, and tasted those to make sure we understood the characteristics from both a theoretical and practical perspective. There were only two exams in the class (a midterm and a final), but they were tough! Although they were multiple choice format, the questions got very specific (e.g., “which of the following notes would you expect to taste in a pinot noir from the Pacific Northwest?”). I remember finishing my exam and then counting up the questions I was sure about first those I had to guess between two (or more) choices – and only being confident about something like 40%!
While the exam left me feeling like I knew nothing about wines, the knowledge I picked up in the class has actually been really helpful to me ever since. When I go out to dinner with coworkers or clients, I’m usually called upon to select the wine (or provide a recommendation to someone if we are ordering by the glass). I certainly don’t know every specific vineyard/year/etc (in fact, there are only a few bottles that I know well enough to pick out off a menu), but I know enough about each varietal to select something that will suit the preferences of my dining companions. Knowing the basics of wine is a great skill to have!
I’d say the most important thing we learned in class were the different criteria for evaluating and describing wine. I found the criteria really helpful to create a checklist for evaluation, because if you run down each category, you’ll find plenty to say about the wine to help you distinguish between otherwise-similar wines.
- Appearance – how does the wine look in the glass? This includes color (whites can be pale green to amber, while reds shade from purple red to brick red) and clarity.
- Smell – aroma (smells associated with the varietal) vs bouquet (smells added by the winemaker/developed as part of the aging process)
- And finally, Taste – think about the attack, the evolution, the finish, and the aftertaste. (Yes, you have to drink slowly to do this!)
- When all is said and done, it’s also nice to give the wine an overall rating so you remember how well you liked it – and we learned to use a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best.
So how did the Barefoot Refresh wines stack up with each of those criterion for evaluation?
First, we tried the Barefoot Refresh Crisp White (Riesling blended with Chenin Blanc). We agreed that it was a “light straw” color in the glass, and had a very fruit-forward apple nose. Upon tasting, it had a very crisp and light taste and mouthfeel – enhanced by the effervescence of the bubbles. JP described the flavor as “prickly pear,” which Blake and I agreed was apt. There wasn’t much of a finish – it was rather tart but didn’t leave much of an aftertaste. I liked the lightness of it, but wished it were more complex, and overall, I’d only put it at a 4. Not terrible (especially for the incredibly reasonable price of $7/bottle!), but also not one of my favorite.
Blake cooked an amazing lobster risotto for dinner (update: she posted the recipe here!), and we all agreed that it complimented the wine perfectly. (Perhaps because she used the Crisp White as the base of the risotto? That’s always a great technique to make sure your food matches the wine.) When paired with Blake’s risotto, I actually boosted my rating of the Crisp White up to a 5 – it was definitely a good pairing.
For dessert, Blake actually cooked a bit with the other wine I received, Barefoot Refresh Sweet White (blend of Pinot Grigio and Moscato). She stuffed apples with Trader Joe’s vanilla granola (and some butter for adherence), then steamed them in the oven in the wine. The result was a delicious and yet incredibly healthy treat – and I gobbled mine up along with a glass of the Sweet White.
While I had originally requested the Barefoot Refresh Summer Red, it was so popular that Barefoot ran out of bottles! Instead, the Sweet White was substituted, and after trying it, I wasn’t sorry. This one was a very similar color to the crisp white (albeit slightly more golden), but had a honeysuckle-sweet nose. It was definitely named correctly – it was very sweet, but the sweetness gave it a complexity that I thought the first wine didn’t have. Having had a bit more of the dry white than JP, I simply noted that it was “fruitier,” but Mr. Wine Connoisseur chimed in that it had notes of grapefruit and apricot (not far off: Barefoot says it’s tangerines and peaches. Impressive, Japes!). Overall, I actually really liked this one (rating: 6), which is pretty good for the price point. It would be a great wine for an occasion like watching the Bachelor(ette) with my girlfriends, when I want something sweet and fun!
The Barefoot Refresh wines ended up being perfect for a low-key evening with friends. I thought they were both pretty good for the inexpensive price point, and the effervescence of the Refresh series made them seem very fun and festive. I loved having the opportunity to share them with two of my dearest friends, and I definitely agree with the philosophy behind the series – to work as either a wine or beer replacement by being flavorful, light, refreshing, and simple enough to appeal to all tastes.
To learn more about the Barefoot Refresh series, visit their website at http://barefootwine.com/our-wines/refresh, or look for them at retailers in your local area. Barefoot Refresh provided me with two bottles of wine and a promotion item in exchange for this review, but all opinions expressed are my own and I was not pressured for a positive review.