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Gazela Gazela non-vintage Vinho Verde ($4.99) Best Buy!

Vinho Verde, the light and refreshing "green wine" of Portugal, can be delicious but, like the currently seasonal Nouveau Beaujolais, needs to be drunk up soon after bottling while it's bright and fresh. Since Vinho Verde comes to market in the spring, mid-Autumn already seems a little iffy (and non-vintage bottlings are advised only if you're certain that it's from current stock); but fortunately, this one is holding up nicely. Very pale gold in color ("green" in this context refers not to color but youth), it offers ripe white-fruit aromas with a spearmint note. Crisp fruit flavors are framed by tart, citric acidity and a prickly hint of carbonation on the tongue. U.S. importer: Evaton, Inc., Stamford, Conn. (Nov. 18, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with a platter of very fresh smelts baked on a bed of carrots, celery and onions.

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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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