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Allende Allende 1996 Rioja ($16.99)
Inky blackish ruby in color with a day-glo purple edge, this good Spanish red breathes appetizing black-cherry aromas and elusive spicy notes of cinnamon and cloves. Big and ripe, black-fruit and fennel flavors are so fresh that the wine almost seems soft at first, but snappy acidity provides ample structure for balance. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections, Cincinnati. (Jan. 23, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: Marries nicely with a vegetarian entree of "funky" mashed potatoes and turnips whipped with Stilton cheese, milk and butter and a dash of truffle oil.

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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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