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Some top sellers and good buys on Chardonnays, from various experts: - 2004 Sharpshooter Chardonnay Sonoma, cost around $16. Bright, aromatic, rich and lively. Ripe pear and apple flavors with a hint of nutmeg and vanilla. - San Felipe Chardonnay, cost around $7. Aromas of rich tropical fruit, flavors of citrus, pineapple and vanilla. - Grand Cru Chardonnay, cost around $6. Light and buttery with hints of pear, peach and green apple. - 2004 Falling Star Chardonnay, Argentina, cost is $5. Smells and tastes a bit like Sauvignon Blanc. Its aromas and flavors are grassy and pungent, with pineapple, lime and chalk. - 2003 Turner Road Vineyards Central Coast Chardonnay, cost is $10. Light, simple and pleasant, with aromas of lemon, olive oil, honey and talcum powder and appealing flavors of pineapple, lemon and some honey. - 2003 Tin Roof California Chardonnay, cost is $8. It has more of a lime taste, with notes of pine forest, and aromas of butter, olive oil, lime, nail polish and pine tree.
When you see the French growing region of Burgundy, or Bourgogne, on a bottle of white wine, it likely means the wine is made from Chardonnay grapes. But beware that this isn't always so. If you see a bottle of white Burgundy with the word Aligote written on it, the wine is from the less common Aligote grape.
When discussing the wines of the world, you may hear the common misconception that Italy's best wines are all red. This is not always true. While Italy does make twice as many red wines as white (and some of the famous names such as Chianti, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino are red), don't discount Italian white wines because they can be superb. The region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia makes excellent white wines and so does Alto Adige. Check out Campania's Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo. Piedmont and Tuscany - the red wine capitals of Italy - also make fine whites such as Gavi, Arneis and Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
Five great Cabernets to look for, according to Wine Spectator Magazine:
1. Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Special Selection, 1990 or 1998, cost is $75. Smooth, plush, rich and concentrated, with a long, full finish.
2. Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Reserve, 1991 or 1997, cost is $33. Stylish, packing in lots of ripe, rich flavors.
3. St. Clement Oroppas, Napa Valley, 1992 or 1995, cost is $25. A solid wine with a rich core of flavors. Finishes with a long, full, rich aftertaste.
4. Groth Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Reserve, 1990 or 1994, cost is $45. Distinctive and has a lot of personality. It finishes with a broad range of flavors and firm but supple tannins.
5. Guenoc Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Beckstoffer Vineyard Reserve, 1991 or 1994, cost is $35. Young and a bit austere at first, but it is well focused and concentrated. Shows a measure of finesse and restraint.
Top five best value Cabernets:
1. Shenandoah Cabernet Sauvignon, Amador County, 1992 or 1988, cost is $10. Bright, juicy flavors and nice finish.
2. Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County Domaine du Grand Archer, 1992 or 1987, cost is $9.50. Firm and intense, with a good dose of smoky, toasty oak up front.
3. Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 1992 or 1987, cost is $9.50. Ripe and fruity, with a pretty array of flavors. Finishes with mild tannins.
4. Lakespring Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 1990 or 1987, cost is $10. Firm and chewy, showing a solid beam of flavor shining through the thick veil of tannin.
5. E&J Gallo Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County Gallo Sonoma, 1990 or 1986, cost is $10. Here's a few more great Cabernets for $10 or less: - Monterey Peninsula Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County, 1986 or 1984, cost is $10. A mature Cabernet, with supple herb and currant notes that pick up a chocolate edge on the finish.
6. Mount Konocti Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County Kelsey, 1992 or 1984, cost is $10. Young and still a bit grapey, not to mention firmly tannic. - Napa Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast Oak Barrel, 1991 or 1984, cost is $8. Supple and generous, with pretty flavors. Mildly tannic.
With the increasing world-wide popularity of Spanish wines, the newest darlings of importers are the wines of Rioja, Penedes and other wine-growing regions of Spain. For those of you smitten with Spanish wine and spirits, here is a snapshot of the Spanish wine regions. Ribero del Duero: This region now rivals Rioja as the most exciting wine region of Spain. Its wines are big and bold with lots of chunky fruits. It is the home of the Vega Sicilia - Spain's most famous wine with yields as low as 18 hectolitres per hectare and made entirely from french grapes with a tiny addition of Tempranillo. Rioja: If anything, Spain's Rioja was too successful and the Spanish people are now trying to convince the world that they have other wine regions. The region takes its name from the Rio Oja which is one of the tributaries of the river Ebro. The region of Rioja actually evolved out of its trade with Bordeaux during the time of Phylloxera the disease which destroys the roots of the vines before one realises it has attacked. Jerez: The unique wine that is Sherry comes from an area of Spain called Jerez in the hot dry Southwest of the country. Sherry is a very underrated quality wine and comes in a variety of styles from very dry - 'Fino' and 'Manzanilla', through to the medium styles of 'Amontillado' and dry 'Oloroso' to the ultra rich sweet cream Sherries. Valdepeñas: The name means 'The Valley of Stones'. Again this region has very hot humid summers and cold winters. Some excellent Reserva and Gran Reserva wines using 100% Tempranillo and extremely good value for money. Navarra: Navarra is situated next door to Rioja, and produces 2 different styles of wine: traditional styles using indigenous grapes; and modern styles like Palacio de La Vega and Ochoa using French grapes along with the Spanish varieties. The quality of wine produced in this region has increased immensely . Lots of ripe approachable fruit with intense flavours and firm structure. The best are capable of ageing. Tempranillo has become the preferred variety for red wine production. Penedes: Situated south of Barcelona this region produces elegant light wines, mainly white but the reds are fast gaining popularity. Rueda: Mainly a white wine producing area make from 100% Verdejo grape. Good Sauvignon Blanc made in this area. Costers del Segres: Another newly created wine area situated around the town of Lerida. Alongside the Spanish grapes you will find Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay growing. These grapes have adapted well to the area and are producing some extraordinary good wines, eg Raimat Estate. La Mancha: Situated almost in the centre of Spain with extremes of temperatures - hot summers and very cold winters. Ten years ago La Mancha was producing large quantities of cheap table wine but lately we have seen a cut back in production and an increase in quality. Rias Baxas: Mainly a white wine area produced from the Albarino Grape. Some fantastic wines which taste like some of the good barrel fermented Chardonnay's Priorato: Producing unique and truly Spanish wine, Priorato is one of the great red wines of Spain. Rich, robust wine full of ripe fruit with great body and structure. Delicious. Somontano: Another up and coming wine region situated at the foothills of the Pyrenees supporting lots of young dedicated winemakers . This is an area to watch for the future. Ribeiro: Located in the north-west corner of Spain on the Portuguese border, this region produces fine quality white wines and some very pleasant light reds. Valencia: Large scale production of table reds, whites and rosés plus Moscatel dessert white wines.