For far too long I've neglected the other beverages that are made from the plump fruit of Vitis vinifera and her American cousin Vitis labrusca. While spirits like grappa, marc, and brandy are derived from the grape, here I focus on the more accessible forms that can be found in a variety of establishments across the nation.
Representing the dehydrated market is Grape Kool-Aid®, introduced in 1927 by Edwin Perkins. Just add water and sugar--I prefer using organic Florida-grown cane sugar or the earthy product of a sugarcane plantation nestled in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. While this is often consumed out of sippy cups and plastic mugs, I find that a crystal brandy snifter helps concentrate the spicy aromas of Red #40 and Blue #1 dyes. Drink this on a regular basis and you'll develop a purplish "mustache" that's quite fetching among the kindergarten crowd. Note that the extra Vitamin C means that this has a piquant, tangy character more often found in white grapes such as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. A good ringer for a blind tasting, eh?
Ah, a sparkler! Don't wait for a special occasion to open Big K Grape Soda. Sparkling Shiraz wines have been the craze in Australia recently, but let's not forget our homegrown bubbly, often packaged in convenient aluminum cans. While the debate over cork versus synthetic enclosures has raged in the still wine arena, many sparkling wines are still plugged up with good ol' tree bark. This convenient 12 oz. serving is ideal for resting in a cooler during a baseball game. Heck, at 35¢ per can, fill up the cooler! Perhaps the aluminum packaging was inspired by Francis Coppola's canned Sofia Blanc de Blancs? A firm fizz takes this can past frizzante and into spumante territory, though as it's a domestic house brand of the Kroger Corporation it cannot carry a proper Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita designation.
The bellini is a cocktail made from Prosecco and a purée of fine white peaches. It was invented sometime around WWII at Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy. An authentic bellini at Harry's will run you €14 (US$22), not to mention airfare and lodging. Instead, you can pick up a whole jug of Welch's White Grape Peach for a little over three bucks! While the company rose to power and fortune on the juice of the Concord grape, in recent years lighter varieties (much less likely to stain the carpet) have been produced using the indigenous Niagara. An excellent match with some prosciutto-wrapped melon, crostini, and marinated squid salad while enjoying a Fellini marathon at home. La dolce vita indeed!
The color blue turns up in wine product names (the internationally-acclaimed "Blue Nun" of Germany), in grape names (the Austro-Hungarian Blaufränkisch), and in fact, some dark grapes do have a bluish tint to them when viewed in the right light. However, this is the first grape drink I've seen which bears the cheerful hue of Windex. Gatorade FIERCE Grape is not for the faint of heart: designed for athletes and those engaged in heavy manual labor, this is fortified with elecrolytes. Like competitor Brawndo, "It's got what plants crave." So when a dainty Pinot Grigio won't cut it, and your wimpy Chablis is quivering in fear of your Hungry-Man Sports Grill frozen dinner, reach for something FIERCE.