You've heard of Two Buck Chuck? How about three-buck Wink?
The $2.99 Winking Owl Merlot is found exclusively at Aldi, the deep discount grocery store. Bottled by Gallo, it's a thoroughly respectable little bottle of grape with hints of cherry and other sweet fruits. I dare you to put it on the table with your oenophile friends for a blind taste test against wines three and four times the price. If they don't pick the Winking Owl, they don't give a what-owls-say about a nice, smooth Merlot.
And don't raise your eyebrow at "Merlot." It may have lost its cachet as wine-of-the-moment, but it's bound to make a comeback. Like fern bars. And porn mustaches.
The other Winking Owls on Aldi's shelves, also $2.99, are surprisingly flavorful, too. The Cabernet Sauvignon is smooth, dry but sweet and good with food or for cooking (I'm using it this week to enrich beef stew). I'm not a fan of Chardonnay in general, but this one's medium sweet and not tongue-fuzzingly dry. And it didn't give me a headache. Best of all of them is the Pinot Grigio, which is light, not syrupy-sweet and goes down miles better than its fellow cheapy, Barefoot. (That one's so bad I poured it down the sink.) The Shiraz is light and dry, good with meat dishes or pastas. Like the Merlot, it tastes of black cherry, maybe some blackberry and spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.
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Good, cheap wine -- whoot!