Beer is the best drink. That has never been in doubt. But sometimes, you're forced to class it up for a date night or go on a health kick, and this is when wine is your friend. More specifically, this is when cat wine is your friend.
You'll be relieved to hear that cat wine isn't an elitist thing. You can happily forget all that traditional fusty vino talk about things like tannins and bouquets and other enological things that do not really exist, because when it comes to cat wine, the considerations are simple: Is the cat wine drinkable? And does the taste correspond to the personality of the cat on the label?
I bought every bottle in this genre that I could find. Let's find out.
7. Red Cat
First up, this wine is a liar. This lurid tipple is actually called Red Cat, brazenly bills itself as a "Finger Lakes red wine," and the label features a picture of a red cartoon cat drinking red wine in a hot tub, with the red-wine bottle bobbing in the water and a doe-eyed future sex partner batting her eyelids over the fence. But the wine itself is clearly pink, which means it's probably a rose, that most vacillating of drinks. In any event, it tastes like someone in the bucolic Finger Lakes region has poured a vat of MD 20/20 strawberry kiwi into a wine bottle. So sickly sweet it's scientifically impossible to finish the whole thing, this might be the first time alcohol has ever actually annoyed me.
Label Assessment: Cats do not like water! Even the shadiest depths of the Dark Web do not host any footage of cats enjoying a spell in a hot tub! This whole thing is a disaster.
6. Fritz De Katz
Now here we have the pinnacle of cat chintz in a blue wine bottle. The label of this 2013 vintage Riesling teases a bedazzled silhouette of a slinky and nubile specimen, while the twist-off cap suggests an easy ride: "This cat wine is a cheap date party animal," it flirts. Then comes the second sensory step as you breathe in the hazy aroma of Fritz De Katz's concoction and find yourself transported by some olfactory magic to the counter of a late-night Subway franchise. Or maybe it's the waiting ward of a hospital? Nope, here it comes: The smell is McDonald's apple pie. The taste is sweet but drinkable, the irresistible promise of a quick fix of empty calories that you might regret later, but you're powerless to resist in the moment. Pair it with Kanye West's verse on "Niggas in Paris" for premium cat-wine synergy.
Label Assessment: If you've ever spiffed up your cat by attempting to dress it up in a necklace or shimmering cape, then, yes, this is the wine for you.
5. Tussock Jumper
Tussock Jumper's Sweet Cat wine promises a big-cat attitude in the form of a Shiraz and Malbec blend. It's also sugary as hell. Imagine a mix of artificial sweeteners, syrup, and melted popsicle juice, and you'd still be a fair trek from these saccharine climes. Frankly, you should be able to demand a higher level of sophistication from a product claiming the oldest vintage (2011) in this entire batch. However, it also came with a free fridge magnet, which I did appreciate.
Label Assessment: What sort of self-respecting big cat wears a wooly jumper?
4. Gato Negro
So here, you're dealing with a genre powerhouse. History, class, and a pervading sense of refinement are not traditionally associated with this ubiquitous black-cat brand, but it's $5 a pop (and often found with a $2 rebate coupon), and after the first bottle, it'll start tasting like wine worth two or possibly even three times that price. The reds trump the whites, with the Cabernet Merlot blend being the discerning bottle of choice, but at this price point, it's a cinch to collect 'em all. Sure, sometimes you'll twist off the cap, take a whiff and a quick taste, and wonder whether it's actually stale. But after a moment of quiet reflection, you'll decide, "No, that's just Gato Negro." Embrace the movement.
Label Assessment: Just like the black cat on the label, the $5 wine bottle has a burnished reputation. But just as black cats are historically meant to bring good, not bad luck, Gato Negro is a frugal sure-shot. Drink it with pride, if also maybe caution.
3. Fat Cat
The California-based Fat Cat outfit is burdened with a corny image. Behold the blurb on the back of this Pinot Noir's label: "We think wines should be smooth. Smooth as jazz." So, Muzak in a wine bottle? Thankfully, there's a pleasant surprise in store when you boldly go beyond the presentation, with the chewy texture of the vino laying down a sturdy foundation for the rest of its chipper charms to twinkle across the tongue just like the George Costanza-sized feline tickling the ivories on the label.
Label Assessment: This might be a good time to remind you all that feline obesity reflects as badly on the owner as it does on the cat. Feed responsibly.
Clocking in at a whopping $15.99, this Portugieser is the most expensive item on this list and exudes an intriguingly shabby-chic appeal. The blurb on the back label is plastered with typos, and the aroma of this claret brings to mind that first early-afternoon drink in a dive bar whose gaseous membrane reeks of tattered plastic booth covers and last night's shenanigans thereupon. It smells of booze. Yet there's an undeniable appeal in its pungent and peppery taste; it's a wine that lets you know that you're drinking. Serve gently chilled.
Label Assessment: An excellent illustration, the black cat on the label is showcasing perfect arched poise while its fur has a raggedly sheen. This cat can be your friend—but it will also cut you.
1. Nein Lives
Nein Lives—or Suicidal Cat Wine. as those in the know affectionately call it—is best in show. The concept is genius: Cartoon illustrations of cats losing their fabled nine lives in various curiosity-piqued ways (like sticking a fork into an outlet or getting their heads stuck in a bulbous fishbowl). A cursory sip reveals the Riesling itself to be a complicated but rewarding beast: It tastes like apple bubblegum, but it's not fruity; it pairs well with food, but it doesn't smell of basil. Plus, the twist-off cap and refreshing aftertaste means you could sup this as a sports drink. I would tell you that it possessed a balanced acidity if I knew what that meant, but I do know that it just tastes fantastically great. Many cats died in the making of this wine. Salute them all.
Label Assessment: On top of everything else, this product provides a valuable and lasting lesson in responsible cat ownership.
Phillip Mlynar lives in Queens, NYC. When not writing about rappers for Red Bull, NYLON, and the Village Voice, he muses on the feline form for Catster. His Twitter claims he's the world's foremost expert on rappers' cats.
Photos by the author.
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