Cheap-o Vino

Summertime wine buying often leads to an irksome game tug-of-war between your mind and your wallet. You love your friends (well, most of them anyway; at least you want to be nice in hopes you'll get something out of them someday), and you don't want to serve them swill until they've had a few and can't tell the difference.

But we're not talkin' high-end entertaining here. Vacation days and impromptu gatherings call for something cheap and chic, and we've found a few bargain bottles available around town right now that fit the bill.

Good thing for you we're willing to down a few glasses in the name of research. Some of the drinkable cheap wines after the jump.

Chard-on-Yeah! 2006 Chardonnay: $5.97 at World Market
Nice name. Makes you wonder if the grapes are stomped by packs of perky cheerleaders. Whatever the case, this light, fruity unoaked Chard is great for warm-weather drinking.

Bogle 2007 Petite Sirah: $7.94 at Goody-Goody
For red wine lovers, this is a great choice when you don't want to do a big ol' Cabernet (which means you're not originally from Texas). Just be sure and chill for 10-20 minutes before service--"room temperature" does not mean 80 degrees.

Rex Goliath 2008 Chardonnay: 2/$12 at Albertson's
The inevitable rooster jokes will abound will abound when you serve this cheap yet reliably drinkable bottle with a fighting fowl on the label. Hey, we know your friends. (p.s. Albertson's is a great source for bargain-basement wine deals.)

3 Blind Moose 2008 Pinot Grigio: $6.99 at Target
Pinot Grigio is a sure bet when you want to refresh a crowd on a tight budget. In fact, experts will point out that spending more for this variety is almost always unnecessary, as the quality level doesn't usually increase with the price tag. Many fall in the $10-15 range, and this crisp, clean PG rings in a few bucks cheaper.

Wine Cube 2007 Chardonnay: $11.99 at Target (equivalent to two bottles)
Imagine our surprise when this "premium" boxed wine totally didn't suck...although, granted, we'd sampled several by this point. Given a few minutes to breathe after being liberated from its plastic bladder, it developed pleasant pineapple and green apple notes with a hint of rich vanilla. As an added bonus, it'll stay fresh for up to four weeks in the fridge.

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Lisa Petty