Wine is very much a matter of personal taste. I am certainly no expert, or connoisseur of the finer wines and I readily admit that I near-automatically pass right by those with a price tag higher than about $35, so forget about any advice on high-end, sommelier-suggested wines.I just know what I personally like, in the more affordable labels that the vast majority of us can find locally. Here are my favorites.A couple of them would fare well on just about anyone�s list, a few of the others are just party wines.


Aussi�res Rouge, by Domaines Barons de Rothchild (Lafite), Vin Pays d�Oc, France � Just a bit of a plum taste to this really great wine that goes well with just about anything, or all by itself. I first tasted this blended red wine (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Merlot ) on a Western Mediterranean, Royal Carribean cruise, and subsequently had trouble locating it in any local store or even finding a shop that could order it and ship to Oklahoma. Finally, I found out that this particular label is a private one restricted for use by Royal Carribean Cruise Lines. However, the wine is available to reatilers under a slightly different name as "A" d'Aussi�res, and is priced at about $18-$20 per label, plus shipping.

Leese-Fitch Merlot,  Monterey, California, USA � This wine tends to pop up at corporate social events as as a good, but affordable Merlot , and is a nice choice for more casual pairing like pizza or burgers, or just cheese and crackers and veggies. Those it the know say it has a hint of strawberry, which I�m not sure I would have ever detected on my own, but can accept, having read that. It seems pretty smooth and not too heavy to me. It tends to be pretty inexpensive, $11-$12, although you may have to have it ordered via your local liquor store.

Yellowtail Reserve Merlot, Australia � This one is my favorite of the Yellowtail label wines, and advertises hints of blackberry, dark chocolate and oak, all of which you will probably recognize after hearing that. Merlots are good social event wines, and this one is not exception, although it too is a good choice with lamb, roast beef and pasta dishes. Easily found in most liquor stores, at about $9-$10.

Yellowtail Shiraz Cabernet. Australia � Hints of plum, cassis and raspberry. Not too tannic. Good with barbecue and other beef dishes, pork, strong cheeses, heavy pastas. $9-10.

Beaujolais Villages � Louis Jadot, Beaujolais, France � This wine is described by those who know wine much better than I do, as a deep red, full-bodied wine with fruity flavors, but don�t let that fool you at all into thinking that this is a sweet taste. To me, the fruity flavors are more like the tannin in the skin of red apples. I would never think of this wine as a social gathering, cocktail party wine, at all, but rather one that I�d pair with a full dinner featuring lamb or a roast with carrots and potatoes. It�s not that expensive; usually in the $13-$14 range.

Kendall Jackson Syrah, California Syrah/Shiraz, Sonoma valley, California, USA - a bit of pomegranate and blackberry. A touch of spiciness, Syrah is the same grape as Shiraz. Shiraz is just what it is called in Australia. ��Goes well with a pulled pork or roast beef sandwich, cheeses, spaghetti Bolognese or lasagna, shepherd�s pie or other lamb dishes, veal, smoked turkey, or a hearty minestrone.

Rudesheimer Rosengarten, Germany � I attended a Weinfest in Rudesheim in 1974, and decided this was a sweeter, fruitier white that I could get used to. The label shown above may not even be available, anymore. You might try the Leitz Rudesheimer Riesling Kabinett label of this wine, instead, as it is reportedly made with grapes from the original vineyard in Rudesheim. . Good with Thai food, or fish, or just by itself, if you prefer white wines.

Philippe Foreau Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray, Vouvray, France - I don�t know that you can find this particular label, locally, and if you can it may well run $45 or more, but the label it is not so important in this particular recommendation. Vouvray is a small region inTouraine, France, and most of the better Vouvray labels taste fairly similar to me, a bit dryer than many white wines. I�m not a huge fan of white wines, but I spent a few days here in 1973, and went to a few wine tastings, which helped me decide this was my personal white wine of choice. I think anything around $15 and up would give you the right idea of what this wine is like. Vouvray goes well with most chicken dishes and when asparagus is on the plate.

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi American Viticultural Area, California, USA � An earthier,dark red with a slight blueberry and black currents flavors, and hints of oak and tobacco. Nice with steak, or just by itself.

White Zinfindel , by Beringer � Okay, yes, this is a considerably cheaper, lighter party wine, with strawberry and watermelon hints that make it ideal for informal finger food type gatherings. It is very neary a �pop� or wine-cooler type wine, but sometimes, that�s exactly what the occasion calls for. About $6-$8.