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Savor the Wines of the World

Uncork one (or a case) of these bargain-priced bottles from other continents, and enjoy it while watching your favorite show on a high-definition, flat-panel TV.

We live in a global economy, and you should rejoice, if you like wine. Despite the sinking dollar, you can still find bargain prices on some great vintages from other continents.

Start with Argentina's Bodega Catena Zapata Chardonnay Mendoza 2004 ($18 a bottle; www.catenawines.com). That's a mouthful, but so is this golden-hued, delicate Chardonnay that drops notes of apricots and tropical fruits. And you won't be picking splinters from your tongue, as with so many over-oaked American Chardonnays. Stephen Tanzer, editor of International Wine Cellar (and this writer's brother), says that the pleasing acidity results from the exceptionally high altitude of Mendoza's vineyards, where the sharp variation between day and night temperatures lets grapes hold more acid.

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The grapes that go into Italy's Vietti Barbera D'Alba Tre Vigne 2004 ($22; www.vietti.com) grow on the same hillsides as the Nebbiolo grapes that are used to make super-expensive Barolo wines. This outstanding Barbera has a bouquet of violets and cassis and a pleasing cherry flavor.

If Chile's Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Merlot 2003 ($20; www.casalapostolle.com) reminds you of a Bordeaux, it's no wonder. Casa Lapostolle was founded by the family behind France's Grand Marnier liqueur, and the Chilean winery employs world-renowned Bordeaux oenologist Michel Rolland as a consultant. This merlot has pleasant spicy and chocolate flavors.

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Our last pick, Clos Montirius Vacqueyras 2003 ($22), is a true expression of France's southern Rhone Valley soil. When you uncork the bottle, this 50-50 blend of Syrah and Grenache grapes emits a wild barnyard, tobacco odor. Don't be put off. Decant the wine for at least 45 minutes before drinking, and you'll be rewarded with an opulent, concentrated, spicy wine that improves with each glass.

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Getting a case of each (48 bottles total) will run you a little less than $1,000. Head to www.wine-searcher.com for help locating stores near you that sell the wines.

-- Andrew Tanzer

Get the big picture

A high-definition, flat-panel TV for a grand? Yes, if you limit your big-screen experience to 32 inches -- plenty big for a small apartment or bedroom.

Consider the Vizio L32 HDTV ($1,000, pictured above) and the Wal-Mart ilo 32Ó Widescreen LCD HDTV ($897), which are not bare-bones models. Both svelte sets have built-in speakers and an HD tuner for receiving over-the-air high-def channels. Although it's true that you won't need an integrated HD tuner if you plan to use a satellite or cable box, it's nice to have one in case of an emergency, such as when a storm knocks out your pay-TV service.

If you'd prefer an even bigger picture for a true home-theater experience, your patience (and frugality) will soon be rewarded. This holiday season, we'll likely see the price of 42-inch plasma displays fall to $1,000, according to industry analysts.

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