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Arbor Mist: White Zinfandel (Exotic Fruits)

I was looking for something sweet, fruity, and alcoholic, and the colorful frosty bottle of Arbor Mist White Zinfandel caught my eye so I decide to pick it up.

Flavor

I’m no wine expert so I cannot tell you if this is a true ‘Zinfandel’ or not, but judging from the cheap price I doubt it is on any wine connoisseur’s top ten list.

This wine’s flavor is what I call very… moderate. It’s moderately sweet, moderately fruity (both smell and taste), and tastes moderately like wine (this is probably because there is only 6% alcohol).

It goes down smoothly and it’s quite easy to drink down a whole bottle in a matter of minutes. However if you had other alcohol products available its hard to say if you would choose this one.

Nutrition/Ingredients

There are 3 servings per bottle, with each containing 15 grams of sugars and 170 calories.

In my rush to pick up something at the grocery store I was fooled by the “Exotic Fruits” labeling and led to believe there is actual fruit inside. That is not the case – there is exactly 0% fruit juice present. The fruit-like flavor comes from various natural sources, which is nice, but not likely to be any real “exotic fruits”.

The sweetener is HFCS which is something I try to avoid, but frankly I haven’t yet seen any evidence that proves for certain this is any better or worse than other sweeteners (including non-calorie sweeteners and natural fruit juices). Still, I consider this a minor weak point and plan on looking for a sweet wine that uses real fruit juices in it. If you know of one, please let me know.

There is a trio of preservatives I’ve seen used in other wines before, obvious not ideal but probably a necessary evil for most wines.

Ingredients: white zinfandel, water, high fructose corn syrup, natural flavors, carbon dioxide, citric acid, potassium sorbate, potassium benzoate, and potassium metabisulfite (to preserve freshness).

Price/Availability

I purchased this 750ml bottle for $14.99 at Winn Dixie supermarket.

Ratings:   Flavor:   7.0 Nutrition/Ingredients: 6.0    Price:  8.0   Overall: 7.0

Summary

This is an OK sweet, fruit-flavored wine if you are buying on a budget, but there is nothing great about it worth going out of your way to pick it up.

References

http://www.arbormist.com/exotic_fruits_white_zinfandel.asp

Product Review: Realbeanz Iced Coffee made with coconut water

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I was looking for a sweet coffee drink and this seemed to be different than the usual bunch, so I thought I would try it.

Flavor

The flavor is very reminiscent of Starbucks Frappuccino beverage, with a strong milk flavor over a light coffee taste. The sweetness is quite subdued, no surprise considering the relatively small amount of sugar.

Although 20% of this drink is coconut water, there is little to no taste of it. To me this is a good thing since I’m not too fond of it’s taste.

To be honest, the Starbucks drink tastes better, but for the lower calories and sugar (see next section) the minor compromise in flavor is worth it.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In one bottle (281 ml), there is 70 calories, 10 from fat. There is also 9 grams of sugars and 5 of sugar alcohol. There’s 2 grams of protein as well.

When compared to a similar Starbucks drink, this one has less than half the calories and sugar, even if you include the sugar alcohol, erythritol.

Stevia is also used as a (nearly) zero-calorie sweetener. Though there have been some controversies regarding this additive, it seems that currently there are no major known health concerns with it. It may even have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits.

The crypticly named ingredients at the end of the ingredient list are all vitamins. For example, niacinamide is Vitamin B3. There is 25% of the following vitamins in this product: Vitamin A, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Panthothenic Acid.  There are divided opinions on how healthy adding vitamins are, but for those who believe they are beneficial, this drink is a good supply of them.

Ingredients: Brewed Coffee (water, coffee solids, coffee extract, reduced fat milk, coconut water concentrate, erythritol, dried cane syrup, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, sodium bicarbonate, natural flavor, ascorbic acid, stevia rebaudiana leaf extract, di-alphatocopheryl acetate, calcium, d-pantothenate, niacinamide, vitamin a palmitate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, cyanocobalamin.

Price/Availability

I got this for only $1.99 at Whole Foods Market.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7.0   Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.5   Price: 9.0   Overall: 8.2

Summary

This product succeeds in its goal: making a product with low calories (70), low sugar, and a reasonably good taste. Add to that a little bit of coconut water and a load of different vitamins and you have a very well-rounded drink.

References

http://realbeanz.com/products

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevia

Myx Fusions Moscato & Coconut Wine

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On a late night during a recent New York business trip, I was looking for something alcoholic to drink without resorting to products where there is no ingredient list. This product had nice bottle design, potential for great taste, and above all a fully disclosed ingredient list, so I decided to try it out.

I am not a big wine drinker, but a little research indicates that moscato wine is a popular white wine which is sometimes used as a “dessert wine” and typically has a pronounced sweet floral aura.

This is my first time drinking moscato wine, and also my first post to feature an alcoholic beverage.

Flavor

This drink has a light, sweet flavor, with subtle overtones of coconut. Usually when drinking a product with alcohol the question is how much can I bear the bad taste (including most beers), but this drink left me pleasantly surprised with its drinkability and practically no taste of alcohol. It really goes down smooth and I quickly polished off all four bottles in a few minutes.

Overall, I feel that both wine lovers and those with a sweet tooth will enjoy this well balanced beverage.

Nutrition/Ingredients

There is 140 calories and 17 sugars in a 187 ml bottle. Its hard to compare this since many alcoholic drinks don’t advertise these numbers, but they seem reasonable to me.

There are various research studies which claim either good or  bad effects of wine on health. I am not going to pick a side now, but for those that feel wine is healthy (in moderation) I suggest this product. It has 5.5% alcohol, a bit low for moscato wines, though it is in league with wine coolers which are conceptually similar to this drink.

Nutritionally, this product is much better (or at least less riskier) than those which do not list their ingredients of nutritional information. This is a wide majority, including personal favorites such as kahlua or Irish cream. Myx uses no artificial flavors or colors, which surely can’t be said about many other liquor products.

Natural flavors are present but since this is an alcoholic dream I’ll be a bit more forgiving. This includes the main coconut flavor since there is no actual coconut list. My biggest concern is the three preservatives used which could have negative effects on the body. Potassium sorbate, for example, can contribute to nutritional deficiencies by impairing absorption of nutrients in certain cases.

A nice plus is that much of the sweetness is achieved by grape juice and its concentrate, and sugar is only used in smaller proportions.

Full ingredient list: moscato wine, water, grape juice, grape juice concentrate, sugar, natural flavors, citric acid, carbon dioxide,  potassium sorbate, potassium benzoate, and potassium metabisulfite (to preserve freshness).

Price/Availability

This product is sold in 4 packs of 187 ml bottles. I purchased it from the Walgreens in Times Square (not your average Walgreens for those who are interested) for $11.99.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7.0   Nutrition/Ingredients: 6.0   Price:  7.0  Overall: 6.66

Summary

A nice sweet wine-based drink with healthier ingredients that many wine-coolers and alcoholic beverages out there. For lovers of wine and sweet alcoholic drinks this is a must-try.

References

http://www.newhealthguide.org/Potassium-Sorbate.html

Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino Blended Beverage – a true love/hate relationship

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Intro

There is almost no sweets from my college days that I still enjoy now in my 30s. Our subject this time, a sugary chilled drink, is one of the few that has passed the test of time and taste. It’s also very high on my list of guilty, unhealthy pleasures to quit. In that way I have a true love/hate relationship with this drink.

For those easily-addicted types with a sweet tooth, I highly recommend stopping here and moving on to my next report. It will save you innumerable calories and pounds.

Flavor

Chocolate chips, coffee, and milk, blended smoothly with ice, topped off with a very generous spray of whip cream, further layered with a criss cross of chocolate syrup. This is a good objective summary of the basic ingredients and flavor of this decadent dessert-lovers dessert.

Being a long time Java Chip junkie, I perceive things more as  succession of sensations and stimuli. First, the welcome chill as near-freezing liquid passes through a wide straw, into my mouth, through my esophagus into into my stomach. In passing, the sugar gives my taste buds a jolt and I start to feel the high coming on. Not long after the caffeine kicks in, sending me to a state of near-enlightenment – a true altered state of consciousness (*). Occasionally I use my straw as a spoon, scooping up swaths of fluffy whipped cream for a mild dairy intermission, or snipe up gobs of rich dark syrup for a burst of extra sweetness.

Alas, things aren’t always this blissful. A combination of badly trained employees and differing recipes makes this drink more like a roulette wheel of chance. The amount of caffeine, chocolate, ice, and mostly importantly how well blended the beverage is, varies considerably even within a single store. Around 20% of time it’s a perfect ten, and in rare cases the drink will get totally botched.

This reminds me of the time I glanced at the cafe counter and caught sight of a snowy white drink which had just been placed there. A moment later the barista said my Java Chip was ready. My eyes blinked in disbelief. When I asked the barista if he put coffee the drink, his returned answer put me in a state of shock.

“There is no coffee in Java Chip Frappuccino”.

Nutrition

A “grande” (medium) size is 16 ounces and, with whipped cream added, has the following key nutrition facts: 460 calories, 66 grams of sugar, and 110 mg of caffeine. The calorie count is comparable to two servings of ice cream, if not less, but the sugar concentration is a bit extreme. The caffeine is roughly equivalent to two shots of espresso.

Sometimes the problem nutritionally with foods is not with what they do contain, but rather than what they lack. It’s true that chocolate, coffee, and milk all have benefits according to nutritionists, but there isn’t much here to supply the body with needed vitamins and minerals. My gut confirms this when I down these 16 sugary ounces on an empty stomach. Hunger is suppressed for a short time but then renews with even greater vigor, leaving me starving with a stomach full of junk my body doesn’t need.

Sugar and caffeine are both strong stimulants in the right dose, and while this drink is good for a quick pick-me-up, I can’t help but feel that frequent usage has the chance for adverse long-term effects. Another problem with this drink is that the full ingredient list isn’t published, which means there is bound to be all sorts of scary things like artificial flavor in the syrup used.

Which is why I do plan to kick the Java Chip habit. Eventually.

Price and Availability

The “grande” size goes for $4.25, which isn’t too bad for a dessert of this type. Those of you watching calories can go for the “tall” 12 ounce size, but with a price of only 50 cents less its a hard sell. There is also a “light” version for the same price with roughly half the number of calories, but I haven’t tried it.

These are available at Starbucks Cafe, or at Barnes & Noble Bookstores Cafe. I tend to use the latter, which may be why I have had such an inconsistent experience.

Ratings

Flavor: 8.0 (varies between 4.0 – 10.0 depending on the person making it)

Nutrition/Ingredients: 4.0

Price: 7.0

Overall: 6.3

Summary

A serious drink loaded with enough sugar and caffeine to keep you up for hours. Not recommended for anyone too concerned about nutrition.

References

http://www.starbucks.com/menu/drinks/frappuccino-blended-beverages/java-chip-frappuccino-blended-coffee#size=11002666&milk=67&whip=125

(*) This sort of sensation is a good (though slightly exaggerated) account of what I felt when drinking this product until recently. Since I started drinking coffee on a daily basis several weeks ago, my caffeine tolerance has increased so my body responds less readily to the stimulation.