WELCOME to Cheap Buzz, where we eavesdrop as sommelier Marnie Old attempts to teach the joys of wine and fine spirits to Buzz, a guy with no sophistication and not much money. Here's their latest conversation:

BUZZ: Hey, Marnie, my brother-in-law invited me to his house for Christmas.

MARNIE: Will you help him trim the tree?

BUZZ: Naw, he just decorates his pool table. We hang those silvery icicles from the pockets.

MARNIE: Sounds festive. You'll have to take a photo for me.

BUZZ: Trouble is, I have to get him a present and I'm running out of time. I was thinking about a bottle of red wine. Any advice?

MARNIE: Sure. The first thing is to pick your budget. How much do you want to spend?

BUZZ: Normally I'd be bargain-hunting, but my wife says I have to make up for last year. I gave him a coupon for $50 off new tires. I thought it was a great idea, but she's still steaming.

MARNIE: You could get a really nice bottle of Italian Amarone or French Bordeaux for about $50.

BUZZ: Fifty bucks for a bottle of wine? What a rip-off! I can get a double bottle of Citra or René Junot for $12. Why would anyone pay that much more?

MARNIE: High-end wines are made with better ingredients, Buzz, and often require more work, like hand harvesting. Among reds, the best are aged longer in expensive oak barrels, too.

Think about the difference between a hamburger and a steak. Any part of the cow can be ground up for burgers, but only the best cut makes the grade as filet mignon that will benefit from dry aging.

BUZZ: I dunno. Dropping that much would sure get her off my back, but I'd rather get him something made in the USA.

MARNIE: No problem. Pick up a world-class Cabernet Sauvignon from California's Napa Valley. The finest vineyards there produce tiny quantities of some really special juice. The thick skins of Cabernet grapes create deep, dark wines that feel like velvet and resonate on the palate for minutes after each swallow. Making great wine means pruning vineyards back and getting less from each acre, which drives up the price. But the result is noticeably superior.

BUZZ: At that price, the taste had better last till New Year's. But getting him wine will save me a trip. I'm out of rum for eggnog anyway.