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Lirac Cuvee de la Reine des Bois 1997 Domaine de la Mordorée Lirac ($14.99)
Lirac, a relatively unknown appellation of the Southern Rhone, is generally better known for its reds than its whites (which must contain one-third Clairette, among other varieties); the critics generally describe it as forgettable at best. But this one is impressive, particularly for those of us who like to find alternatives to the ubiquitous Chardonnay.

Clear, pale straw color, with fresh apple and pear aromas twined with subtle hints of truffles and that controversial descriptor, "minerals." Crisp and tart, fresh fruit flavors follow the nose, with a limey citric snap in a long finish. A really excellent white. U.S. importer: Kysela Pere et Fils Ltd., Winchester, Va. (Jan. 22, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with veal chops pan-grilled with morels.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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