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St. Hilaire 1997 Blanquette de Limoux Blanc de Blancs ($9.99)
St. HilaireMade by the "traditional process" in Limoux, a village of Southwestern France near Carcassonne, this sparkling wine claims an even older heritage than the much better-known Champagne. Pale gold in color, with a lasting stream of pinpoint bubbles, it offers a crisp apple scent and a crisp, fresh flavor with a creamy, fizzy mouthfeel. It may lack the depth of a pricey Champagne, but it's a pleasant and well-balanced bubbly, perhaps the best value sparkling wine I've ever seen at the $10 level. U.S. importer: Jack Poust & Co. Inc., NYC. (Sept. 25, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: Demonstrating a good sparkling wine's ability to go with almost anything, it makes a surprisingly good match with a West African peanut and red-pepper soup.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I accept no free samples from wineries or distributors, purchasing all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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