Putting inexpensive wines to taste test

HOUSTON In your frenzied packing to visit family and friends for the holidays, there's one item you really shouldn't forget to bring, says etiquette expert Melissa Leonard.

"It is a faux pas to arrive at someone's home empty-handed when you've been invited for the holidays," she said. "Bring a bottle of wine to complement the meal."

But which wine should you choose, and what price do you have to pay for a good one?

Leonard said, "Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the biggest-selling red wines. It pairs well with rich foods like red meats that you may eat a lot at the holidays."

Consumer Reports tested 24 cabernet sauvignons hailing from France, Chile, Australia, California and Washington State. Testers poured close to 400 glasses for tasting! Experts did blind taste tests so they had no idea which wine they were drinking.

"We found bottles costing $11 or less that tasted just as good as those costing twice as much," explained Paul Reynolds with Consumer Reports.

Lindemans Bin 45 from Australia costs just seven dollars. It rated 'very good.'

Reynolds said, "It has intense, ripe black-fruit flavors, along with sweet wood notes."

A magnum bottle of Frontera from Chile, at 1.5 liters, is a real deal for eight dollars.

"It has a nice array of fruit, spice, and woody flavors," Reynolds said.

As far as being embarrassed about bringing a less expensive bottle of wine, don't worry.

Leonard advised, "It doesn't matter if a bottle of wine is inexpensive as long as it tastes good."

If you're looking for a bottle of white wine, consumer reports recommends the Mud House Marlborough sauvignon blanc from New Zealand. It costs a bit more at $14, but it was the highest-scoring wine in this category and rated 'excellent.'

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