Everyday: Since malbec supplanted merlot as the go-to under-$20 red wine for millions of Americans, imports of the Argentinian red have increased mightily. And most of it has been decent enough. But the 2012 Punto Final Malbec Classico ($12) is much more than that, performing like something twice the price with its dusty but ripe dark-berry fruit and beautifully integrated tannins. The grapes are culled from different altitudes and climates around Mendoza, so a master hand is at work in making the blend. The long finish is especially satisfying and ramps up its affinity for grilled slabs of beef or lamb and spaghetti amatriciana or puttanesca.
Occasion: Every time pink bubbles glide through my mouth, I wonder why the #%^& I don’t drink this more often. Part of the reason, of course, is the cost, but the Alfred Gratien Rosé Brut Champagne is a stone-cold bargain at $51. Its glorious red-berry flavors seem to levitate on the palate (that thing we cork dorks call “lift”), and there’s a lively tingle-iness all the way through the near-endless finish. A fantastic accompaniment to appetizers, from chips ‘n’ dip to caviar, this blushing beauty also is right at home with most seafood and chicken dishes. Yum.