Charles Bukowski's Favorite Wine Was Rich Red Cabernet Sauvignon

Charles Bukowski holding red wine
Charles Bukowski holding red wine - Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

The enigmatic poet Charles Bukowski was an infamous alcoholic who clawed his nest into the soft, rotten underbelly of modern industrial society — and we love him for it. The man is a polarizing figure, a titan aflame that would have been difficult to watch several decades ago and one who likely wouldn't have survived the shifting cultural dynamics of the 21st century. But, we're not here to judge, we're here to drink.

Talking about what Bukowski liked to drink best is a bit like asking a man with his face blindly buried in the white foam jetstream of a busted fire hydrant what type of water he likes most. More than anything, the guy loved beer and wine — red wine. In his poem "two nights before my 72nd birthday," he starts off with the line, "sitting here on a boiling hot night while drinking a bottle of cabernet sauvignon after winning $232 at the track."

While this hot piece of evidence wouldn't stand up in court, many of his friends have attested to the fact that the man enjoyed Cabernet Sauvignon the most. If you want to learn more about the wine, refer to our Josh Cellars cabernet sauvignon ultimate bottle guide. As to what brands he liked, Bukowski mostly hung out on the bottom shelf. Cheap red wine was the name of the game since he was poor most of his life, and he said it helped him write better.

Read more: 13 Liquors Your Home Bar Should Have

Murky Red Waters

pouring red wine into glass
pouring red wine into glass - StockLite/Shutterstock

The situation gets a little complicated because Bukowski's writing is only semi-autobiographical, yet we know the man best through his poetry and novels. He would often position his poems around a fictional character named Henry Chinaski (who inspired the name of a bar in Glasgow), which he would then use as a literary tool to talk about himself. Charles Bukowski is Henry Chinaski ... sort of. Because of the disconnect, Bukowski was free to exaggerate and otherwise create new details out of whole cloth, which makes it difficult to parse facts about Bukowski himself.

Cabernet sauvignon does make a lot of sense though. Bukowski was filled with a fervor for life even at its grittiest. The big body, bold flavors, and rich tannins all align with the foul-mouthed horse gambler that came to be Bukowski's persona. Downing seven bottles of wine in one night isn't medically advisable, however. Contrary to the age-old wisdom, red wine is not actually good for your heart. For all intents and purposes, alcohol should have been the cause of Bukowski's death. A doctor told him it would be lethal for him to keep drinking back in the '50s, but the man kept drinking and would live until 1994, so maybe he was onto something.

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