Fill Your Tank With Pinot Gris

Back in late 2007, I wrote a blog post called The Seventh Sign: $30 Chianti about a predicted rise in the price of European wines. According to the New York Times, the hike was supposed to hit in three to five months. Right about. . . .now.

The exchange rate, oil prices, global economic turmoil: all the factors are there. But so far as I can see, wine inflation just isn’t happening. At least not yet.

As of April 2008, I’m buying the same French, Spanish, and Italian wines I was buying a year ago, for roughly the same amount of money. Low end to high end, everything wine-wise seems stable. Which is, frankly, puzzling to me. . . .because everything else is going up. Gasoline is averaging $3.60 per gallon nationwide. And food prices are going up in a corresponding fashion: milk is up to $4 a gallon and the cost of eggs has risen a staggering 40 percent.

Perhaps it’s time to stop buying such frippery. Omelets! Who needs ’em? Especially when you can get a decent bottle of Borja Borsao shipped to you all the way from the sun-kissed Spain for $5.95.

You see, in addition to the weird and inexplicable stability of the imported wine market, Haskell’s is running its legendary nickel sale until Saturday, May 3. This used to mean that they offered customers one bottle at full price and the second for a nickel. Today, it’s more complicated. But basically, it boils down to this: Everything in their 10 Twin Cities stores that has a yellow sign is 30 to 50 percent off. And I spent enough time in the Minnetonka location today to attest, these deals run both long and deep.

I picked up four bottles for under $7 apiece (including, by the way, a very nice chianti). But there were deals on the higher-priced items as well: Really nice 2005 Bordeaux in the $40 range, a Pouilly-Fuisse for $25. And the really quality wines, those typically in the $250 bracket, are going for about $175.

It’s a strange world we live in, where it’s cheaper to drink fine French wine than to take a Sunday evening drive or heat the water for a long shower or feed an infant. But this is the reality, folks. So we might as well make the best of it. If wine is the only inexpensive luxury that remains — and the only thing merchants are willing to sell at a fair market price — I say go for it. Buy the really good stuff and enjoy.

In fact, if you stop by Haskell’s before this weekend, you may pay less per ounce for your wine than you do for the fuel you use to get there. Ironic, isn’t it?