photoWant to drink like a millionaire? No problem. Just make your way to the nearest Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Costco or just about any other large retailer and pick up a bottle of one of their house wines, preferably in the $10 to $20 range. Even Dollar General now has its own house wine.

When times get tight, those who get tight by consuming the grape tend to shift down a little. Oenophiles and just plain wine lovers who would normally be guzzling $30 or $40 wines move downscale to the $20 neighborhood.

And what happens then? The wine starts to come back on the top-notch vineyards who normally command a good price for their product. Hey, the stuff is heavy and it takes up a lot of room so you can't let too much of it sit around for too long.

But the snooty vineyards have a problem: they can't suddenly cut their prices. What would happen to their cachet? You think Audi cuts its prices when sales get slow? Nope, they just make more Volkswagens.

Same thing in the wine business. The stuff that normally gets bottled and crated up with the vineyard's oh-so-prestigious name instead gets pumped into tankers and trucked off to an anonymous bottler who slaps on a house label – Kirkland for Costco, 365 Everyday for Whole Foods and so forth.

Trader Joe's seems to make up names at random. Imbibers find wines on the Trader's shelf with names they have never seen before – and most likely will never see again.

The upshot is that you can uncork just about any of these house brands in the $10 to $20 range and be drinking the same dreck that just a few years ago would have cost you big bucks.

We're not recommending you start drinking but if you occasionally have a glass or two of wine, it may be some comfort to know that with the price of everything else going up, the price of a decent bottle of wine has actually come down. And that ought to go down really nicely.