There are more wines to choose from than just about anything else, except, perhaps, books--and most authors don't revise their titles every year. Among the bewildering array of bottles are some that, according to certain connoisseurs, taste like gardenias, cigar boxes, marmalade or even wet paving stones caressed by August moonlight in Les Baux-de-Provence. Fortunately, from this great welter of wines and their cacophony of flavors, you'll also find a few labels that are consistently dependable and affordable. They are the vinous equivalents of comfort foods like mashed potatoes and meat loaf, easy to come by and good for cheering you during a lonely meal in a strange city or rewarding you for a Tuesday well spent. The following are my 10 favorite comfort wines: reliable in all recent vintages and readily obtainable, with most priced at around $10 a bottle.
Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Juliénas (flower bottle) from France ($9). "Beware of those who drink their glass of Juliénas in one gulp," say the villagers where the wine is made, alluding to its legendary kick, which was said to have been much appreciated by the old bohemians of Montmartre. But it's hard to believe that such a polished, food-loving, berry-perfumed beauty could do you any real harm. It's among the most seductively rich of Duboeuf's well-priced flower-bottle series of Beaujolais, and it operates on a decidedly higher plane of pleasure and flavor than any Beaujolais Nouveau.
Jaboulet Parallèle 45 Côtes du Rhône from France ($9). Jaboulet's reputation rests on wines made only from Syrah, like its great Hermitage. Indeed, the Jaboulet Parallèle 45 owes its extra intensity and complexity to the healthy portion of that noble grape that the winery allots to this wine rather than the smorgasbord blend of grapes allowed by law. It's juicy and rib-sticking, shot through with notes of pepper, spice and raspberry. The name, incidentally, refers to the latitude of Jaboulet's vineyards, where a marker notes, "Ici commence le Midi."