Register Friday | September 29 | 2023

Drinking Monsters

Speculating on genetically modified wine’s delightfully insidious possibilities

I fear the imminent McMerlot as much as anyone. But far more diabolical (and fascinating) a prospect is the potential for monster making. What new wine creations will the relentless hand of genetic technology spawn? The following is a list of possible future creatures—some tragically inevitable (perhaps even pitiable), some to be genuinely feared, and some, surely some, to be welcomed …

The recent realization that women also drink wine has spawned a most unfortunate animal; one that is declawed, pastel-coloured and gutless. Meet the new chick-lit wines, each gauze-swathed bottle awash with tired, winking adjectives about thigh concerns and dreams born in the laundry room. Thus far, atrocities like “Mad Housewife” and “Working Girl” have only compromised the integrity of the bottle (and the intelligence of the female consumer). It’s inevitable, however, that the wine within will soon be endangered … or perhaps polka-dotted.

Enter “V,” a wine reshaped for women. Take the colour—red and white are not only boring, they might be failing to express the whole of your womanly being. Now you can match your mood (and your furniture) with one of several coloured pinot blancs, one for every shade of a woman’s “feeling rainbow.” They’re all here, from yellow with hunger to green with envy. (The latter is a crisp, bone-dry creature of sickly emerald, tasting of crabapples and hate.)

“V” knows women are complicated. What if, perchance, you’re a party girl and a waistline-watcher? “V” offers “Essences,” a sauvignon blanc in which designer yeasts impart the specific flavours of the cocktail you wish you were drinking. Most popular is “I Wish I Were Carrie,” a vapid rosé designed to taste like a Cosmopolitan.

Don’t feel like celebrating or waistline watching? Steps away from social suicide? “V” knows too well that there are nights—lonely Friday nights—when a girl doesn’t know whether to drink turpentine, eat ice cream or buy a gun. Before, one had to choose. Now, have it all with “V’s” “Bleak Truth,” a full-bodied, high-alcohol zinfandel fermented with brownie chunks. Tastes of unyielding despair with a flicker of hope on the finish.

It is an unassailable truth—just as for every poison there is a different kind of death, so for every drink there is a different sort of drunk. The beauty of the wine-drunk, however, is that it tends to be rather unpredictable; dependent on guests, weather and (of course) the wine itself. Sometimes the weary whore is summoned forth, sometimes the aggressive fatalist. While I love the element of surprise as much as anyone, there are nights when I wish to know the size and violence of my pending smirk before I uncork the bottle. Now I can.

Meet “Beasts,” wines that produce a drunk you can decide upon in advance. Whether one seeks a predatory eloquence or an unholy, hyena-like laughter, “Beasts” offers a wine (and a monster) for every possible occasion and circumstance. How? Using the same robust wine-base of a cabernet sauvignon, each wine has a unique chemical formula guaranteed to unleash a specific creature from the cage of your soul. A workhorse of a yeast smothers that metallic before-, during- and after-taste in a blackberry haze.

But what about those occasions when one is not so much interested in a predetermined effect on oneself, but in one’s company? Consider “Beast”’s complimentary series of wines, “Prey.” From baiting a liar to bedding a lover, it’s never been easier to play God (or the Devil) with one’s guests. Most controversial in this line of already highly controversial wines is “Without Your Consent,” a chocolate-heavy, roofie-laced wine designed to lift the skirt—and lower the inhibitions—of the even the most grim-lipped virgin.

In the world of wine, choice can seem a daunting, even existential, prospect; particularly when dinner is involved. Particularly when dinner guests are involved. Particularly in an era when the pairing of food and wine has become its own sport. There have been many times when even I have cracked before the infinite realm of possibilities presented by roast chicken—when, trembling fearfully, I was forced to make a leap either into the dark (French, expensive) or the absurd (Egyptian). Now, however, indecisive consumers need wring their hands no longer.

Think “Swill.” An artificially intelligent wine designed to marry with most foods. Made from a mixed bag of grapes—everything from chenin blanc to bull’s blood—which renders the resulting beverage neither red nor white, neither dry nor sweet and yet both full-bodied and somehow light; chock full of notes, soupcons and essences. Nano-machines determine—sip by sip, bite by bite—which aspects of the wine to unsheathe and which to cage. So, whether you’re about to enjoy an elaborate dinner of coq au vin, or a nice big bowlful of Zoodles, “Swill” will do the thinking for you. And even if it doesn’t, it’s 100 percent proof so, in the unlikely event that it fails to sing with the much-toiled over Fish Helper, your guests will probably be far too ripped to notice.

Inconceivable: Breaking New Terroirs
In the age of the invincible grape, the question of terroir—that je ne sais quoi combination of soil, slope, sun and weather that makes bordeaux bordeaux and Idaho unfortunate—becomes increasingly inconsequential. But for those of us whose drunken visions extend beyond extracting a drinkable Argentinean night from Okanogan mud, terroir continues to offer limitless (and monstrous) possibilities. If indeed the French are right (and they usually are) in saying that terroir flavours have taste, then why not taste new terroirs? If grapes are being made to withstand even the most biblical of weather phenomena, why not go beyond manufacturing a ubiquitous Tuscan sun? Why not, for instance, bottle the moon?

Meet “Inconceivable,” a line of highly exclusive wines made from grapes grown in the most unthinkable and inhospitable of places. Fuck Tuscany. Ever dream of sipping a riesling plumpful of peach-coloured, shivering Arctic suns? What about a merlot that bleeds the parched dark of the desert? All of these wines are grown with grapes that sing of the bleak stars and cruel earths upon which they were they were grown, while withstanding the impossible climate. Their crowning achievement is “Steppenwolf,” a pinot noir grown on the Russian steppes. A testament to what technology (and a bit of drunken dreaming) makes possible, it tastes of bitter cold and a seemingly perpetual night.