Avoiding the usual suspects
Invited to a German-style sauerbraten dinner the other night, I was asked to bring the wine. In quest of something a little different, I turned away from the usual French or Italian sources and New World wines to assemble a light, bright trio of affordable wines from countries whose products are a little less familiar on retail shelves: Switzerland, Hungary and Austria.

Dole Albert Biollaz 1997 Dôle du Valais ($14.99)
Clear ruby in color, this Swiss red (a blend of Pinot Noir and the Gamay of Beaujolais, grown in the upper reaches of the Rhone valley) offers pleasant if light berrylike aromas and a fresh, dry cherry-berry flavor. Seemingly simple at first, it wakes up in the glass, as Pinot often does, to reveal more subtle fruit with pleasant smoky and gently bitter notes and a soft touch of tannin. Quite an interesting wine, on the light and fruity side. U.S. importer: Niche W & S, Morris Plains, N.J. (Sept. 1, 2000)

Hopler Höpler 1997 Burgenland Grüner Veltliner Trocken ($9.99)
Pale greenish-gold, this modest Austrian wine shows the characteristic green-pea and citrus aromas and flavors of Grüner Veltliner in a full, tart and dry wine that's a natural with a wide variety of foods. U.S. importer: Niche W & S, Morris Plains, N.J. (Sept. 1, 2000)

Mandolas Oremus 1998 Mandolás Tokaji Furmint Minöségi Száraz Fehérbor Dry Quality Wine ($7.99)
Clear straw color, this Hungarian wine bears little resemblance to the great dessert wine Tokaji with which it shares the grape of origin, but it's pleasant enough and a good value. Fresh aromas of melon and spice and a light, clean and dry flavor make for a snappy aperitif or table wine with spicy notes in a long finish. U.S. importer: Europvin USA, Emeryville, Calif. (Sept. 1, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: A heavy German dinner of sauerbraten with a tangy, traditional ginger-snap sauce is really too much for the Dôle, which doesn't exactly war with the meat but is simply overwhelmed. Surprisingly, the tart acidity of the whites makes them better companions for the main dish.

Clock The Swiss wine was featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor, my free weekly E-mail bulletin of quick wine tips, advice and tasting notes. Click here to join the E-mail list!

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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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