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Allias Allias non-vintage Vouvray Demi Sec ($13.99)
Not a Champagne but a sparkling Chenin Blanc from the Loire, this clear, pale gold wine is made by the traditional Champagne-style process. It shows a persistent stream of tiny bubbles that last for hours; on the nose it's earthy, almost funky, with "cheesey" organic notes that my wife likens - favorably - to smoked salmon. Tart, full and prickly, it's not as obviously sweet as the "demi sec" might suggest, although a touch of fresh-fruit sweetness shows along with zingy acidity and earthy notes in a very long finish. Idiosyncratic but appealing, it's a good value. U.S. importer: World Shippers & Importers Inc., Philadelphia. (Dec. 21, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Startlingly good with crème DuBarry, a silken cauliflower-and-cream soup.

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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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