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 Tasty Chilean white A South American take on Sauvignon Blanc.
 Veramonte 2002 Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($7.99) Fresh and fruity, this white from Chile showcases citric fruit and snappy acidity.
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Tasty Chilean white

Let's break a few more wine-industry stereotypes today as we take a taste of a budget-priced Chilean Sauvignon Blanc ... and find it more interesting than you might expect for an inexpensive bottle from a mass-market producer.

But the wine under examination - Veramonte 2002 Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc - isn't just any cheap quaffer.

Although it's a factory-made product from Constellation Brands (formerly Canandaigua), the U.S. wine conglomerate that trails only Gallo as the world's largest industrial-style wine maker, Veramonte boasts a noble wine heritage: Founded by the Chilean and Californian wine maker Agustin Huneeus Sr., it is a property of the respected Franciscan Winery company that Constellation purchased for $240 million in 1999 as part of its effort to grow the company and upgrade its fine-wine image.

Located in the coastal Casablanca Valley west of Santiago de Chile, Veramonte grows more than 700 acres of vineyards and pumps out 250,000 twelve-bottle cases of wine annually; virtually all of it is destined for export, and three-fourths of that comes direct to the U.S., imported and distributed nationally by Franciscan.

A mass-market wine of a popular grape variety, made for U.S. export and priced to sell at well under $10 ... this may sound like a recipe for wine that's boring at best. But, as we see so often in the world of wine (not least with some of Constellation competitor Gallo's products), it doesn't pay to underestimate the quality potential of even modest industrial wines when they're skillfully made from decent fruit.

So it is with this Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh and fruity, bright and snappy and varietally correct, it would be a good candidate for a wine lover's summer "house wine."

If you would like to comment or ask questions about today's topic (or other wine-related issues), you'll find a round-table online discussion about this article in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, where you're always welcome to join in the conversations about wine.

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at wine@wineloverspage.com. I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Veramonte Veramonte 2002 Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($7.99)

This clear, pale brass-color wine shows a greenish hue in the glass. Ripe grapefruit aromas bespeak freshness and fruit, with wafts of floral and grassy notes to add a touch of complexity on the nose. Fresh citric flavors are snappy and tart, with lemony acidity lingering in a clean and surprisingly long finish. U.S. importer: Franciscan Estate Selections Ltd., Rutherford, Calif. (Aug. 16, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: This food-friendly wine will give good service with a range of fare from poultry or veal to pork, seafood or fish. We enjoyed it with an offbeat pasta dish that "fused" Asian and Italian elements: Fine-shredded fresh spinach and kale tossed with a little chopped pork and veal, accented with light Cantonese flavors and served with pasta.

VALUE: A first-rate value for summer sipping at $10 or less.

WHEN TO DRINK: Best drunk up young and fresh. Enjoy it over the next year or so.

WEB LINK: Once you get past the irritating challenge page that requires you to profess to be over 21 to read about wine, Veramonte's Website offers extensive information about the winery and its wines:

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Find vendors and prices for Veramonte wines on Wine-Searcher.com,

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Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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