For the Love of Carlo Rossi

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None of that forked-tongue bullshit

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
lemon-lime soda

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.

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  1. AnnaG
    May 9, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Also fun: the California Cocktail, aka Carlo Rossi and coke. Mmmmm…

  2. Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap
    May 9, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I drank SO much of this stuff freshman year of college. I’d get the sangria one and then do what we called the “Carlop Sling” I’d hook my finger through the loop and then rest the bottle on the “L” shape my arm made. Then I’d just chug it down. I think I’m still hung over 10 years later.

  3. March 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    We heart Carlo in every way. He really is such a cute old man. Who gets us drunk. The hole in the wall liquor store next door to our hole in the wall apartments in Boston used to have to re-order the jugs on a weekly basis. Because we would buy them out. We kept that place in business for 2 years running.

  4. June 17, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    My Pop-Pop used to look like Carlo Rossi and as a kid he told me that it was him on the bottle. My personal fave is the sangria. Cut up a little fruit, cut it with some 7-Up, add ice and you’ve got a party. Great website!

  5. name
    January 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    all those idiots who think just because something is cheap its bad? theyre idiots. this is tasty wine and its cheap. i win. 😀

  6. sirflailalot
    April 7, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    here is the way i see it. In today’s world of Modern Technology And irrigation , wines that are inexpensive Like Carlo Rossi or Yellow tail or barefoot are going to be extremely high quality and pure. But of coarse these are going to be virgin wines right. So something that has been aged alot will be more expensive but not necessarily that much higher quality.
    and possibly not as good tasting.
    vintners dont have to rely on the weather as much because of running water now days ,and with modern quality control and irrigation there really isn’t going to be that much variation in how wines are made.
    Most use the tried and tested. crush the grapes , collect the juice, and stick in the oak barrels.
    Keeping it clean and at the right temp is going to be much more across the board consistent because of modern technology.
    so where back in history the finer wines were in far less supply, simply economics demanded that only the wealthy could afford the finer wines because the price was high.
    Supply and demand right.
    In today’s world , great quality wines are mass produced and in great supply so the price can go Down.
    many of the dynasties of old money and wine like to keep the myth alive that only expensive wines are going to be good quality and only snooty french aristocrats will have a discerning enough pallet can truly appreciate them.
    But this is a fiction put forward, so that when you go to the wine shop you turn your nose up at the under 10 dollar bottles , and instead spend 50 on a bottle of chateau Montelena becasue you just watched the movie bottle shock and want to experience and really great wine.. But then you are shocked to discover that this 50 dollar bottle isnt really any different than that 8 dollar bottle of cupcake. They all do it pretty much the same these days.
    So I would say , Get that bottle of inexpensive table wine, let it breath a bit and then enjoy it with a little smile on your face. understanding that it is just as fine and clean as any over priced wine because of modern quality control and technology.
    My favorites are barefoot Cabernet and Carlo Rossi burgundy for a soft fruit forward wine.
    they are awesome with Italian food.
    Yellow tail Chardonnay is also very good. all these have won many blind tastings awards beating
    far more expensive wines.
    if i could recommend a great movie to any of you.
    check out the movie Bottle shock with the late great Allen Rickman. rest in peace.
    and make sure you have a bottle of Chardonnay and a special someone to watch it with.