This column should have perforated edges so people can tear it out. It answers the no. 1 wine question that echoes in my inbox and phone: What's really tasty and affordable right now? Ever since this recession withered wallets around the world, it's been my quest to find the best deals.
Kim Crawford 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough (New Zealand) This reliably charming wine is thankfully available everywhere, and capped with a screwtop, no less. Its green grass aromas give way to bracing acidity, ripe Granny Smith apples, zingy lime and plenty of refreshing grapefruit. The 2008 trumps previous vintages. Sw=1. $13. 5 stars.
Crios de Susana Balbo 2007 Malbec Rose Mendoza (Argentina) I wallowed in this wine like wrestlers in a kiddie pool and hardly paid for it the next day -- an excellent sign of a well-made wine. Heady with strawberry and candied cherry, but with an earthy, almost smoky flavor on the tongue. Full-bodied and serious, yet lively with tartness and a finish of ripe raspberries. I'm thirsty. Sw=2. $12. 5 stars.
Helfrich 2007 Riesling Alsace (France) I have no idea how they kept the price so low on this semi-dry Alsacian riesling. It smells like Estee Lauder perfume then eases into honeyed tangerine, lemon and luscious honeysuckle. Finishes with crisp acidity and wet stone minerality. Yum. Sw=3. $12. 4 ½ stars.
Clos de Siete 2007 Red Wine Mendoza (Argentina) Crafted by legendary (and controversial) winemaker Michel Rolland, it's rich and jammy with generous flavor like soft leather, blackberry, blueberry, candied cherry, semi-sweet chocolate, perfumey vanilla and coffee. Stunning for the price. Sw=1. $16. 4 1/2 stars.
Dry Creek Vineyards 2007 Fume Blanc Sonoma (California) More elegant and supple than many of its brethren, this sauvignon blanc lacks the grassy, saliva-producing sharpness of others. I could drink this smooth, melon and soft citrus sipper into the night. And have. Mouth-filling gulps of kiwi fruit, lime and nectarine flow into a long-lasting, mellow finish. Sw=1. $14. 4 ½ stars.
Robert Mondavi 2006 Private Reserve Meritage (California) When I blind-tasted this meritage (rhymes with heritage), I was shocked to enjoy a wine from an über-corporate entity. A blend of five grapes, this soft, super-fruity yet well-balanced red features blackberry, vanilla oak, earthy tobacco, chewy tannins, and bittersweet chocolate. Sw=2. $11. 4 stars.
Tres Ojos 2007 Garnacha Calatayud (Spain) Right now, no one delivers more red wine deals than Spain. 2007 was a great vintage there, so you owe it to yourself to pick up a few of these. And at $10, why not? It's a big, bold, hefty red not lacking in fruit. Savor the lush raspberry, roasted cherry with plush yet leathery tannins and balanced acidity. Perfect with grilled beef. Sw=2. $10. 4 stars.
La Freynelle 2007 White Bordeaux Entre Deux Mers (France) This region is a little-known grape area in Bordeaux, so scrumptious sauvignon blanc/semillon blends like this one come cheap. Light, dry and citrusy with invigorating acidity, earthy chamomile tea, green grass, wet stones and an almost nutty character. Sw=1. $13. 4 ½ stars.
Citra 2007 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) Nothing fancy, but great guzzling wine for a weekend afternoon of Scrabble. Belying its grapey, leathery aroma, it's actually a soft, low tannin wine chock full of bright red cherry fruit, plum and cinnamon. Think of it as sangria with balls. Sw=1. $9. 4 stars.
Ravenswood 2007 Zen of Zin Sonoma (California) This red zinfandel backs up its cutesy name with character. It's not bold and alcoholic like many zins but medium-bodied with chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla spice, black cherry and blackberry. Sw=2. $11. 4 stars.