The fascination — call it a preoccupation — that so many U.S. wine drinkers have with cabernet sauvignon has always surprised me. Yes, there are many fine cabernets from around the world, but it’s not like cabernet produces the only quality red wine the world makes. So why is it not only the most popular red wine in the United States but (depending on the survey) close to the most popular wine of any color?
Call it stubbornness on the part of some wine drinkers, who just aren’t sure what else is out there and aren’t sure whether they should try it. Hence, as you prepare for your July 4 barbecue, three suggestions — only one of which is cabernet (and a cabernet that not many people would think of):
• vini Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($8). This Bulgarian wine (yes, Bulgarian) is a tremendous value, offering berry fruit and zingy tannins. It’s riper than similarly-priced French cabernets, and not as over the top as cheap California wine.
• Layer Cake Primitivo 2007 ($15). Primitivo is the genetic parent of zinfandel, but this is not a very zinfandel-like wine. Instead, it’s Italian in style, which means full in the mouth, not much fruit and softer tannins.
• Concannon Vineyard Petite Sirah Limited Release 2006 ($15). Solid, dependable, value petite sirah from one of the world’s best petite sirah producers. More berry than plummy, and could probably stand to age a bit more.

Ask the Wine Guy

Q. What’s a blind tasting?

A. That’s when you taste the wines without knowing what they are. It’s actually quite common, especially in wine competitions, and is something everyone should do at least once. If you don’t know what the wine is (except for the varietal and color), then you won’t be influenced by the label, the price or where the wine is from.

WITH YOUR WINE: Basic baked beans

Every family has its own version of baked beans, and I’ve made more than I can remember (including the classic Boston version, which includes an apple). This recipe, cobbled together from a bunch of different ones, seems to be the best I’ve found. And, if you want to splurge, put three or four pieces of the best quality bacon on top before you put the beans in the oven.

Serves 6, takes about 1 1/4 hours

2 16-oz cans pork and beans
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp yellow mustard
3 Tbsp ketchup
1/3 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine ingredients, mix well, and pour into a shallow baking dish. Bake, uncovered, in a 375-degree oven for about an hour.