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Off The Vine

Bargains in wine still available

Lorn Razzano —

So what about wine prices? I hear people groaning from — time to time about their favorite wines shooting through the roof, prices — going ballistic seemingly overnight.

In some cases it is true, prices of some wines are going — up, while other wines are going down in price. Let's look at what affects — wine prices and where some of the bargains are:

Exchange rates The Euro has knocked the dollar around — for over a year. There has been at least a 30-percent rise in many imported — wines. A wine costing $10 last year may be as high as $13 in today's market. — Once bargains are simply not bargains any longer. Some of the mid-range — French Rhone wines seem particularly hard hit.

Vintage dates Bargains can be found on "off" year wines. — Comparing very good vintages next to not so good vintages on the same — shelf can and do look like good deals. Try vintages that are "closed out" — or on special sales. These can be little gems. The 1998 vintage Chiantis — are stuck between the grand 1997 and 1999 vintages and I've seen them — on shelves for as much as a third off. If you go for the best vintages, — look to pay some real dollars.

Cost of doing business Prices stay high on many wines — simply because the cost of producing the wines stay the same or rise. — Rising cost of water, insurance and property taxes are reflected in the — price of wines, as are hundreds of other small but significant variables — such as label paper and corks.

Don't look for prices dropping on Pinot Noir anywhere — in the world. This grape just seems to be a costly little bugger. French — Burgundy as well as Oregon pinot Noir rarely gets under the $30 mark for — quality juice.

If you are a pinot noir drinker, look south. I've seen — Pinot coming from California at an occasional very nice price - under — $20. California may not be the best place for the grape (with some notable — exceptions) but bargains can be found.

Look for wines from Chile, especially the lovely cabernet — and merlot.

Also look for the very nice Malbec (terrific red wine) — from Argentina. Malbec is becoming one of the new fad grapes and the Argentine — producers are putting out some lovely wines indeed. You should easily — find these wines under the $15 mark with some very nice wines to choose — from.

The Mezzo Giorno from central and southern Italy can be — superb values with broodingly dark fruit and spicy oak flavors. The Italians — are craftspeople in making nice everyday wines that are easy on the pocketbook.

Spain is bringing in some very solid wines with fine character — and many years of fine winemaking under $15 as well.

Keep your eyes open for Australian Shiraz under $10 and — New Zealand sauvignon blanc under $15. These white offerings from New — Zealand are very nice wines and worth a special effort to find.

These are some wines to search for. See you in a couple — of weeks!

Lorn Razzano is a commercial wine and spirits judge and — is a co-founder of KSOR wine tasting. He was on winery staffs of various — Italian and French wineries in the 1970s and has owned Ashland Wine Cellar — since 1980.