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Selwyn River Selwyn River 1996 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($8.99)
Perhaps on sale because of its relative age, this snappy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc offers a lot of the character of the sought-after Cloudy Bay at only a fraction of the latter's price. It's a clear straw color with good green-chile aromas in the characteristic Marlborough "jalapeño" style. Green chiles - not bell pepper but something fruitier and not so vegetal - carry over on the palate with bright, citric fruit. Delicious, and drinking very well 3 1/2 years after the vintage. U.S. importer: USA Wine Imports, NYC. (Sept. 23, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with pan-sauteed sea bass with fresh spinach and bruschetta.

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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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