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November 16-22, 2005

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Wine Tasting Room of the Week

Step Right Up: Sideshow Wines

By Heather Irwin


Under cover of night, a curious collection of wines rolled into town for a limited run. Billed as a collection of oddities and novelties from around the world, Sideshow Wines are exotic, under-$10 wines targeted at young wine drinkers looking for something a little more dramatic than your everyday Chardonnay.

Cavorting 'neath Sideshow's Big Top are wines such as a Grenache/Shiraz/Mouvedre blend called the Contortionist, a flexible red from Australia touted as a solid food-pairing wine. The Barker is a big, fruity Spanish Garnacha aimed at drinkers who want something rather untamed in their glass, while the Juggler is a lighter white Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay mix from Argentina. The favorite: La Rosa, Queen of the Spanish Burlesque, a bawdy, over-blown harlot of a rosé that appeals for exactly that reason.

Like La Rosa, it's probably safe to say that none of these wines is particularly refined--nor are they meant to be. Sold exclusively at Albertson's stores (and some restaurants), they're loud, funky, purposefully garish wines that are meant to be a little immature, a little silly, with same relaxed appeal as beer, hard energy drinks and malt liquors. Think barbecue and pizza wine.

This is the first vintage for Sideshow wines, with a small production of only about 3,000 cases for each blend. But because acquisition of the grapes is dependant on such uncontrollable factors as yield and the cost of grapes, producers say each subsequent release will likely take on a slightly different personality--based on the winemakers' whims, wherever they may be in the world. Suffice it to say, we can soon look for more sideshow freaks to join the fray.

For this year's wines, the grapes were sourced exclusively from Spain, Argentina and Australia, according to the wines' Novato-based parent company, Winery Exchange. Sourcing from such trendy wine regions frankly adds quite a lot to the exotic mystique of the wines, along with the award-winning design of the labels, created by a London designer.

Want to get a taste? Sideshow wines will be poured at the upcoming WineX Wine Rave at COPIA on Nov. 19. The event, aimed at the iPod generation of wine drinkers, will serve up hot new wine labels like Sideshow, along with a DJ and a Jelly Belly Wine Tasting Bar. Tickets are $35 in advance, $45 at the door. For ticket information, go to www.copia.org or call 888.51.COPIA.


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