Quoth the Raven, Never Pour: My Crowberry Woes 01/23/14
You may have noticed a lack of updates here at Convicted for Grape lately. Don’t worry, you’re not crazy: I really didn’t do much wine writing in 2013. But along with the new year come new opportunities to get drunk in new ways, and I promise you that even though I haven’t been updating the blog, I haven’t gone anywhere.
Today I’m actually here to discuss something I don’t usually bother with: fruit wine. But as apathetic as I tend to be about these overly sweet, underly interesting libations, I’ve also harbored a lifelong fascination with unusual fruits – and of course, the wines to which they sometimes give genesis. I just so happened to happen across such a wine during my recent trip to Iceland, a country whose entire population is about 1/40 of Pennsylvania’s, but whose country-wide, state-owned liquor monopoly is every bit as infuriating as the one I know and loathe. For example, a bottle of Barefoot Merlot may cost about $5 in the US (and more like $7 in Pennsylvania, thanks to our truly excellent taxes), but if you want one in Iceland you’d better be ready to shell out 1,700 krona – about $15.
I didn’t drink much wine in Iceland for reasons that should now be obvious, but even before I’d arrived in Reykjavik and suffered my first bout of liquor sticker shock, I knew my trip wouldn’t be complete until I’d tracked down a bottle of a certain kind of fruit wine – or at the very least, an example of the fruit itself. Alas, my search for the fruit was fruitless, but I had little trouble finding a bottle of the wine. It was prohibitively expensive, of course, but lo! Alcohol is considerably, mercifully cheaper at the Keflavik airport than anywhere else in Iceland, so I was able to grab a bottle right before I left.
“But wait!” you’re probably saying. “What fruit are you talking about? It’s almost as if you’re intentionally tiptoeing around it for dramatic effect or something.” And you’re right. Sorry. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about crowberries.
But what is a crowberry, really? For starters, they pretty much look like blueberries. They’re supposedly pretty common in Iceland but I searched a few grocery stores and couldn’t find any in their raw form (though there were plenty of crowberry jams). As for what they taste like, I’m afraid my only reference point is the wine, so here we go!
Produced by Reykjavik Distillery, this bottle cost me a bit under $20 at the airport (but would have been more like $30 anywhere else in the country [these estimates are rough because I didn’t save receipts, so deal with it]). It poured a deep purple color in the glass, with brighter red around the edge; judging from sight alone, this really wasn’t too different from a red wine. But then I smelled it…and everything changed.
Once I overcame the initially overpowering odor of alcohol, which I admit was more than a little disappointing, I was surprised to find that despite the strong visual resemblance of crowberries to their bluer, less airborne cousins, blueberry was not a note I detected in this particular victual. The most pronounced aroma was blackcurrant, a pungent and unmistakable scent that really can’t be described unless you already know what it is (pick up a bottle of crème de cassis if you’re curious). There was also a hint of blackberry, and possibly some fig in the background, but don’t quote me on that last part.
But of course, sight and smell matter little compared to that most essential of sensations: taste. Unfortunately, this wine didn’t differ much from the nose to the palate, and blackcurrant reigned supreme once again. It’s true that at times I did feel that I was drinking a certain brand of inexpensive blackberry schnapps, admittedly a staple of my college years (although I’ve certainly outgrown such things); but for the most part, this wine was pretty much akin to drinking a big glass of crème de cassis. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I award the Reykjavik Distillery’s Crowberry Wine a shameful thumbs up. Whether the raven quoth “Never pour” or the raven quaffed nevermore, I’d probably pass on this one if, like me, you’re a human.