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Having been in the hospital with a stack of Wine Spectators in the dayroom, has given me pause. Namely, who thought it was a good idea to put Wine Spectator, of all periodicals, in a hospital dayroom? A sadist, I tell you, considering that anyone who would read them either a) has no idea what they're talking about, being not that kind of drinker, or b) would feel frustrated, since there's no chance that they might get to taste any of the goodies. Mean of them, I say.

On the other hand, there are some excellent outlets for a frustrated wine drinker. Some new sodas are quite winelike. There's sumac wine, which has a delightfully complex character, despite having not a drop of alcohol. And there's always tea. But, for drinking with a meal, in sips rather than swallows, I tender this recipe:

1 cup Ribena or similar
1/2 cup unsweetened pure cranberry juice
1/2 cup no-sugar-added red grape juice, such as Kedem brand
1/2 cup plain seltzer
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, preferably a lighter, non-syrupy variety
Combine the ingredients in a glass pitcher and let stand for 15 minutes at room temperature.
Divide between two 10- or 12-ounce wineglasses and serve.

This possibility opens a myriad of questions: is it possible to come up with other varietals? Riesling? Zinfandel?

The challenge awaits.

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