Penfolds 2002 "Rawson's Retreat" South Eastern Australia Merlot ($7.49)
The low-end price tag suggests a crowd-pleasing wine, and this one proved popular with a group of friends whose interest in wine varied from slim to enthusiastic. Clear ruby in color, not overly dark, its aroma is focused on spicy, perfumed red fruit. Its fresh, appropriately tart cherry flavor may be just imperceptibly off-dry, enhancing its juicy, soft fruit. (Rawson's Retreat, by the way, is the old family cottage of Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfolds, who established the company's first vineyard and winery in 1844.) US Importer: PWG Vintners USA Inc., Napa, Calif. (Apr 20, 2003)

FOOD MATCH: Easy to sip and fine with buffet fare from ham to turkey to deviled eggs.



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