Before Trader Joe’s 2 Buck Chuck, Carlo Rossi was THE budget wine, defined by an “everyman” ethos and a big jug with a ring. The brand also had an unbelievable ad campaign, in which the man himself starred. It’s kind of like the Winnebago man except there is no vulgarity and a trace amount of perverted, avuncular Woody the Woodpecker. But Carlo pulls off that cute old man thing that girls are always talking about. Or maybe I’m just wasted on the jug the PR girl sent me. Anyway, liek I wass saying, I love you man, I’d take a bullet 4 you. Check out the commercial.
God, he is so earnest. In fact, get rid of that second pretentious, city “e”. He is earnst. Earnst and an appealing life-partner with his no non-sense, less talk, more drink mentality.
Carlo Rossi became iconic, not only to me, but to a whole lot of people because it somehow straddles the markets from college kids, to family dinner tables, to aging, solo winos. Shit, I bet you didn’t know Rossi is the #2 selling table wine in the United States. Still, strangely, busting out a jug of Rossi makes an occasion more special. I think it is the implied community and social aspect of the jug. Rossi occasions are also campy like s’mores; you do it every once in a while and really love it, in part for the ritual, in part for the nostalgia, in part because its good. And because you’re drinking your recommended daily amount of water, in wine form.
I don’t remember my first exposure to Carlo Rossi wine. The two competing stories are so similar that it probably doesn’t even matter. They both involve the broke artist type. Why do artists love wine so much?
On one hand, I think my artsy neighbors, who lived 2 miles away, had it at their house parties when I was growing up in Maine. They, like my parents and their friends, drank mostly wine. They shopped at the food liquidation store that sells things that have fallen off trucks or have expired, but remain non-deadly (now when our neighbor finds boxes of boursin with an expiration stamp the previous year, which sell for an 80% discount, she brings us some).
If it wasn’t there, it was in college at an art kid house party. The jocks ate anything you could put bleu cheese on and drank beer. The hippy artists ate anything you could combine with quinoa and drank jugs, bottles, and bags of wine. Different strokes for different folks. Either way, Rossi emerged robustly plebeian, the only wine where using a plastic cup is acceptable. And there is stays.
Some loose odds and ends:
1. Awards: Surprisingly, like its cheap brewed counterpart PBR, which won its blue ribbon at Chicago’s 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Rossi has won contests. This almost blew my mind.
*Two Silver medals at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (Sangria & Cabernet Sauvignon)
*Two Gold medals at the Indy International Wine Competition (Merlot & Sangria)
2. Variety: I thought Rossi came in 3 colors: red, white, and pink, but it turns out there 12 options. They are: Chardonnay, White Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangria, Paisano, Chianti, Rhine, Chablis, Blush, Vin Rose and Burgundy.
3. Sizes: Rossi comes in different sizes. Beyond the bulbous jug with the little finger ring was the only one, but there are also sleeker sexier bottles, which are soooo less “every man”, and a 5.0L box.
4. Cocktail: mixologist Kim Hassarud, author of the 101 series of drinks, was commissioned to create a drink. It is cocktail equivalent to “ghetto casserole” (can of corn, can of green beans, cans of tuna, shredded cheese) that my friend Maya makes. The result is the Carlo’s Cooler:
1 can of fruit cocktail
2 cups of Carlo Rossi Burgundy
Directions: In a pitcher, add a can of fruit cocktail with the syrup and the Carlo Rossi Burgundy. Add ice and stir well. Just prior to serving, top with lemon-lime soda and ladle servings into glasses (top with additional soda, if desired)
5. Recycling: Carlo Rossi promotes making things out of empty jugs that aren’t bongs. They include a chandelier, a sofa, and a sound system. You can check them out here.