$15 or less
WHAT : Gazela Vinho Verde (white) Rating:NNN
WHERE : Vinho Verde, Portugal
WHY : It's 33¡ in the shade and even your teeth are sweating. There's a bowl of almonds, maybe some hummus and pita, and your white pants are, as yet, unstained. It's time for some Vinho Verde. It's cheap, a little fizzy, light in alcohol and tastes good. Gazela is a no-fail choice if you're going for this 21st-century version of the white wine spritzer.
PRICE : 750 ml/$7.90
AVAILABILITY : At most liquor stores (product #141432)
WHAT : Angove's Red Belly Black Shiraz 2003 (red) Rating: NNN
WHERE : South Australia
WHY : The Red Belly Black is a snake, an extremely dangerous snake. So let's name a bloody wine after it! This wan's got a snoot fulla' black peppah and is good and jammy right off the bat. Medium-light, with a pleasing kinda cherry Kool-Aid taste at the top a' the finish. To paraphrase the great Meryl Streep, "Dingo ate my baby!"
PRICE : 750 ml/$16.95
AVAILABILITY : At selected Vintages outlets (product #566877)
Sips and Nips
WHAT : Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch Rating: NNNN
WHERE : Kilmarnock, Scotland
WHY : There was a time before the mania for single malts when blended Scotches were all most people ever thought of when they were going to have a dram. And if they went for the premium Black Label they were doing just fine. Luxuriantly smooth and caramelly, yet with enough iodine to keep everything in line. Lovely.
PRICE : 750 ml/$38.85
AVAILABILITY : At most liquor stores (product #7880)