There was plenty of excellent cheap wine in 2008 as we celebrate the Advocate’s seventh annual Cheap Wine extravaganza and $10 Wine Hall of Fame.
The Hall added five labels: Yellow+Blue malbec (about $12 for a 1-liter box), which puts most other malbecs in its price range to shame; Meridian’s chardonnay, which can be found for as little as $6; the Les Jamelles wines from southern France, which deliver surprising quality for $10; another Gascon wine, Domain du Tariquet, to join the three that entered the Hall last year; and Lockwood sauvignon blanc, perhaps the most pleasant surprise of any wine I tasted in 2008.
Truth be told, I could have picked two or three times five wines this year. Almost every rosé I tried was worthy. Two Italian wines, Tormaresca Neprica from Puglia and Ajello Bianca from Sicily, were fabulous, but aren’t sold in this area. The same is true for the various Tortoise Creek wines, which also dropped out of sight this year.
In fact, the wines that dropped out this year did so not because of quality, but availability. The Benziger fume blanc (the winery’s version of sauvignon blanc) and Jewell’s unoaked chardonnay and petite sirah weren’t readily available in this area this year, and one of the rules of the Hall is that its wines have to be readily available.
Here’s the rest of this year’s Hall of Fame:
• The $10 wines from California’s Bogle Vineyards, and especially the petite sirah.
• Osborne Solaz, the Spanish red and white blends.
• Italy’s Falesco Vitiano, which produces a solid rosé, an even more solid white blend, and a stunning red blend made of sangiovese, cabernet and merlot.
• Cristalino, the Spanish sparkling wine, which comes in brut (dry), extra dry (sweeter than brut) and rosé.
• California’s Toad Hollow pinot noir rosé.
• The Gascon musketeers — Domaine Duffour, Domaine des Cassagnoles, and Domaine D’Uby.
In the special, “If you can find them for $10, buy them” section of the Hall (thanks to the weak U.S. dollar):
• Chateau Ducla and Chateau Bonnet, white blends from Bordeaux.
• Domaine Pichot Vouvray, a French chenin blanc.
• Cinquante-Cing sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, two French wines. —Jeff  Siegel

Ask the Wine Guy

Q. What is the average price of a bottle of wine?
A. A lot less than you think – about $6, according to Nielsen, which tracks U.S. retail wine sales. Most of the wine sold in the U.S. costs less than $10.

New Year’s black-eyed peas

Eating black-eyed peas for New Year’s is a southern tradition that is supposed to bring good luck. But you don’t have to settle for canned beans. Put this on the stove to simmer after lunch, check on it periodically, and you’ll have dinner without much effort. Serve this with your favorite $10 wine.

Serves 4, takes about 2 1/2 hours

1 lb dried black-eyed peas
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Ham hock, pork neck bones or turkey neck bones

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Add water to cover the beans by an inch or so.
2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until beans are tender. This could take as little as an hour or as long as three or four hours, depending on how old the beans are. You may also need to add water if the beans look dry.