The United States is number one when it comes to the consumption of soda and soft-drinks. A Euromonitor report indicated that last year, global sales of soda grew six percent to $867.4 billion dollars. The Wine Institute’s report on the same year of wine sales in the U.S. paints an entirely different picture—Americans only consumed only $37.6 billion dollars worth of wine. So, let’s be real kids. Let’s have that talk. Come on, sit down.
Soda makes you fat and is killing you and your friends. Go on, stream the documentaries that prove it—Fed Up, The Cost of a Coke, and Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days—and then see how that Mexican Coke tastes with your tacos. But to be fair, who among us hasn’t washed down a quarter-pounder with cheese, super-size fries, six-piece chicken McNuggets, and an apple pie with 24- or 64-glorious ounces of soda?
Eventually, I gave up all soda because I discovered something magical: for every can of positively refreshing, ice-cold can I used to pound on a hot summer day, there’s a bottle of wine out there that tastes just as good, and is about a billion times better for you. Good for the heart, and good for the mind; get out your corkscrew and pour me some wine!
Think of this as a guide for those of you looking to drop one kind of habit in exchange for another kind—the wine kind. So hand off a 24-ounce plastic soda bottle for 25-ounces of glasses-in vino, or put down that 64-ounce Big Gulp and trade up to a magnum.
Here’s your guide to the wines you should be drinking, based on your favorite soda.
If You Drink: Pepsi
Drink this wine: Cleto Chiarli 2013 “Premium Vecchia Modena” Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC
Region: Emilia-Romagna (Italy)
Pepsi is often touted as sweeter than its rival brand, Coca-Cola, and loaded with more “citrus” flavors. Lambrusco—a sparkling purple-hued wine—can sometimes be slightly off-dry (semisecco), and thus a bit sweeter than other bone-dry wines from, say, Beaujolais. (Photo: chiarli.it)
If You Drink: Coca-Cola
Drink this wine: Kunde 2013 Zinfandel
Region: Sonoma Valley, California
Coke is essentially vanilla-flavored crack with hints of lime and caramel. So, you need a wine that has vanilla and caramel character. Aging wine in oak—particularly Zinfandel, which tends to exhibit those vanilla, caramel, and even coffee notes—imparts some ethereal vanilla flavor. This Zin from Kunde delivers on the vanilla front—toasted vanilla and cocao, along with blackberry and raspberry fruit character and spice notes. And just as Coca-Cola blends in caramel for coloring, Kunde mixes in a little Malbec to bring out more purple tones, elevating the body and making for a nice, round, juicy wine. (Photo: deutschfamily.com)
If You Drink: Dr. Pepper
Drink this wine: Mark West 2013 Pinot Noir
Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Because Dr. Pepper tastes definitively like black cherry, we’ve got just what the doctor ordered: pinot noir. And what do you think pinot noir tastes like? Grapes? Don’t be an asshole. It tastes like cherries. Black cherries, bing cherries, ripe cherries, sour cherries, and a Maraschino cherry, of course. This wine is all cherries, cinnamon, and smoke on the nose, with tough-as-nails tannins and wacky acid in the palate. (Photo: markwestwines.com)
If You Drink: Sprite
Drink this wine: Shaw Vineyards 2012 Dry Riesling
Region: Finger Lakes, New York
Sprite’s clarity is deceiving—not as deceiving as Clear Pepsi (remember that crap?). But despite its clear, selzer-like appearance, Sprite is lemon-lime flavored and caffeine free. You, Sprite fanatic, are the ideal candidate for a wine equally as light and refreshing. Pull up to the tailgate party with a six-pack of Riesling because Riesling has some RS (residual sugar) and comes in varying degrees of sweetness. Spring for an “off-dry” variety that offers a touch of sweetness, but boasts green apple and lime-citrus. (Photo: drinkupny.com)
If You Drink: Root Beer
Drink this wine: Cockburn’s 10 Year Tawny Port
Region: Douro, Portugal
Traditionally root beer is made using the root or bark of the sassafras tree. The modern frothy root beer we know and love is thick, creamy, and boasts a foamy head—which looks a lot like the layer of Flor that protects sherry as it ages. Tawny port is almost the color of root beer, but a little lighter and with more orange-reddish hues. Still, with all its savory, nutty, woody, and slightly dried fruit character, this is a match made in soda heaven. And if you carbonate this Cockburn’s 10-year old tawny, hell, you won’t even know you’re drinking port. (Photo: cellar.com)
If You Drink: Cactus Cooler
Drink this wine: Any skin-contact whites from Carlotta Wines like the 2011 Aubrey North Coast White
This soda is sweet and tangy, with a kind of orange-y flavor that is really about as far from the flavor of an actual orange as can be. Cactus Cooler even has hints of pineapple. You’ll need a wine that first and foremost reminds you of all things orange merely from sight, and orange wines are it. Orange wines (white wines produced like reds) were all the rave a couple years ago and the media has since calmed down and backed off on coverage of them—but winemakers haven’t backed off. And though they are called “orange,” typically their color is less orange and more amber with rich, golden hues. However, the winemakers David Grega and Aran Healy’s “Aubrey” and “Charlene” wines are as golden-orange as orange soda. These wines are rich and creamy, loaded with exotic tropical fruit notes. They don’t make much at all, but if you can find it, it’ll be worth two crisp Andrew Jacksons. (Photo: janetallinger.com)
If You Drink: Cream Soda
Drink this wine: Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry
Region: Andalucia, Spain
I could never drink more than one or two cans of cream soda because beyond that, my stomach just couldn’t take it. Coca-Cola? I could drink a 24-pack. But not cream soda. It’s like the Pillsbury Doughboy took one of his white cake mixes with vanilla frosting and blended it with some water and sugar, and maybe some caramel for coloring, then carbonated it. As for a wine counterpoint, this one is obvious: cream sherry. Despite its name, it isn’t actually made with any cream. It’s just sweetened Oloroso sherry. Dr. Vinny, a wine genius who blogs for WineSpectator.com, has said that the name came about after a woman attending a sherry tasting in the 1800s tasted a sweeter, “more unctuous” sherry nicknamed “Bristol’s Milk” and declared, “If that is milk, then this is cream”—an association which “stuck,” explains Vinny. Harvey’s is a good bet because it’s a bit more complex since it is a blend of Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, and Pedro Ximenez sherry. It’s like taking all your favorite cream soda brands and mixing them into one Big Gulp cup. (Photo: thecocktailgeek.com)
If You Drink: Inca Kola
Drink this wine: 2013 Nisia Verdejo
Region: Rueda, Spain
Supposedly created in Peru by a Briton, Inca is flavored using lemon verbena—it’s sweet, fruity, and reminiscent of bubble-gum to many. This Nisia Verdejo is made from old vines and is loaded with crisp, honeyed, tangy, citrus character, particularly lemon and lemon verbena. It’s also imported by Jorge Ordonez, a name to take note of because if you see it listed on the back of a bottle, it’s as sure-fire bet the wine inside is damn good. (Photo: cellar.com)
If You Drink: Big Red
Drink this wine: Underwood 2014 Rose (From a Can)
Price: four-pack for $24
Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Remember 1937? Charlie Chaplin released a “talkie” while FDR tried to enlarge the Supreme Court, and the world found out Babe Ruth was making $25K a year thanks to Quaker Oats. It was also the year Big Red was created, by two wackos from Waco, Texas. Grover C. Thomsen and R.H. Roark are the culprits. What we know about them is this: They were childhood friends who would often run away together, and during one of their excursions (having stolen the Thomsen’s family’s only Model-T), they drove all the way to San Antonio, stopping along the way at soda fountains and playing tricks on the soda fountain girls. They would grab ketchup and mix it into their cream soda floats and claim it was the kitchen’s fault so they wouldn’t have to pay up. The color of the concoction gave both Grover and R.H. an idea, and by the end of that year they had created the first Big Red soft drink. It’s rich and creamy, and it tastes like cherry popsicles, bubble gum, and heavy cream blended together. Typically, I would steer you toward a Beaujolais because the wine is light, fruity, and sometimes has a bubble-gum quality, but frankly, with wine in a can from the Union Wine Company—a rosé wine—that tastes of fresh strawberry, watermelon, and peach, the only thing left for you to do is to pick up a four-pack, climb into a Hummer, and set out over that vast Hill Country. (Photo: unionwinecompany.com)