Weeknight: There’s plenty of good inexpensive Bordeaux out there; the problem is finding it in a sea of 8.000-plus chateaux. I can certainly vouch for the 2011 Lafant-Fourcat ($13), a soft, approachable red with friendly fruit flavors but more than sufficient grip and weight. The plum notes make it clear that merlot is the dominant grape here, and the finish is smooth and just hearty enough. Try it with wintry stews and soups, especially if you’re fortunate enough to know someone who makes cassoulet. The smooth, heartfelt work of Mr. Bill Withers provides fab accompaniment.
Occasion: Here’s something timely in two ways. Many of us are cash-poor in January, so a splurge wine needs to come in at a good price. And even with the holidays over, it’s still (and always) time for bubbles. The Mumm Napa Cuvee M ($22) is cool, crisp and downright delicious, with nice, subtle touches of sweetness and a racy mid-palate. It’s been a delight the past few months to come across a slew of swell domestic sparklers, and this ranks as one of the best values amongst ’em. Plate up some fried chicken or just some potato chips to dance with this salt-loving/-absorbing beauty. The king of the sultry sax, Ben Webster, is just the ticket for a soundtrack.