Economic news a touch depressing? The size of your 401K passing your credit card balance in the opposite direction? Have no fear. There’s plenty of more-than-decent wine available for even the most pinched of budgets.


That’s because wine prices — thanks to a grape glut in California , pressure from Australian and South American imports, and the recession-like economy — have been flat to lower over the past 18 months. And they’re expected to stay that way for another 18 months or so


          In fact, one of the biggest wine stories of the year is Two-Buck Chuck, a $1.99 bottle sold under the Charles Shaw label and produced by a well-known California bulk house. The wine has received credible, even rave reviews, in the wine press, but it’s not available in Texas (for a variety of reasons, one of which is the dreaded three-tier distribution system, but that’s a rant for another day).


          Still, there are plenty of values in Dallas . Consider these the next time the only thing that comes in the mail is a bunch of bills:


          • Tin Roof Sauvignon Blanc 2001 ($7). This is an astounding value from Murphy-Goode, most of whose wines start at $15-20. It’s not as citrusy as some sauvignon blancs, which means it pairs well with pork or even lighter beef dishes. Serve chilled. By the way, it’s called Tin Roof because it has a screw cap.


          • Black Swan Shiraz 2002 ($7). A shiraz for people who don’t like the varietal or don’t know much about it. It’s fruitier and not as heavy as other Australian shirazes (and won a gold medal at this year’s Morning News wine competition). Drink it as an aperitif or with roasted meat or chicken.


          • Rioja Vega Tinto 2002 ($6). This Spanish red is a steal at this price. Serve it slightly chilled, about ice cube temperature, to bring out all of its fruit — it has quite a bit for an inexpensive wine. Goes with everything from red beans and rice to chicken cacciatore.




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