Can a wine drinker survive on $3 wine?

Probably, given my experiment with five $3 chardonnays from Dallas retailers. The wines weren’t spectacular, but they mostly delivered value — and what more can someone want from a $3 wine? The biggest problem was not quality, but that the wines were boring. By the fourth night, I was ready for something else.

Two-buck Chuck ($2.99), the Trader Joe’s private label. This was the weirdest of the five, with lots of tropical fruit (banana even) and very little chardonnay character. It wasn’t bad in the sense that I had to pour it down the drain, but it wasn’t enjoyable, either.

Three Wishes ($2.99), the Whole Foods private label. I expected most of the wines to be burdened with badly done oak (chips, probably). In fact, three of them didn’t taste of oak at all, and the oak in the Three Wishes was quite well done, assuming you like that style of wine. I don’t, so it wasn’t my favorite.

Winking Owl ($2.89) from Aldi. My favorite — a straightforward, 1990s-style jug chardonnay with apple and pear fruit and varietal character for those who remember Glen Ellen. I would buy it again.

Oak Leaf ($2.97), the Walmart private label. This was sweet, probably a couple of percentage points over the line that separates sweet from dry. Again, not awful, but nothing I’d buy again.

Cul-de-Sac ($2.96), a private label for Central Market. This was sort of sweet, in the way Kendall-Jackson was in the 1990s, but also tasted like chardonnay.

with your wine

Sweet and sour pork
Buy the country-style pork ribs, mix them with the sauce, and cook in a slow oven. What’s better as the weather gets cooler?

Grocery List
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
4 pounds country-style pork ribs, separated into single ribs
1 onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix first eight ingredients together and place in a large Dutch oven with a lid.
2. Add ribs, onion, and bell pepper and mix well. Cover oven and bake for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until ribs are fork tender.
Serves 4, takes about 3 hour

Ask the wine guy

What’s the difference between Old World wines and New World wines?
Wine made in Europe is made in the Old World style — less fruity and more earthy. Wines made elsewhere, including California and Australia, are New World, are fruitier and cleaner. As with all generalizations, there are exceptions, but this is true more often than not.

Ask the wine guy