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South America yields value wines for meals

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One of the fast-growing trends carrying into 2011 is an appreciation for wines and foods that are more naturally grown and produced. Organic, bio-dynamic, sustainable?

Makes total sense — after all, what we drink (and eat) affects our bodies. Just be cautious. It is always a challenge to sift through the verbiage and jargon and determine what is real and what is stated more for marketing purposes.

A good idea is to learn who is behind any project. Take, for instance, Catherine LeGoeuil from France’s southern Rhone Valley or Jean Foillard from Beaujolais. Having met them and tasted their wines, I will never have to ask whether they do things organically.

A continuing trend in the U.S. is having wine with meals. To help you along this path, certain grape varieties and wines stand out for their real affinity for foods. Among white wines, for example, consider Riesling, whether dry, off-dry or slightly sweet, especially in the islands because of our warm weather and the flavors of our foods.

Pacific Rim Riesling, for instance, at roughly $12 a bottle, is a good to have around. You will be amazed at how thirst-quenching it can be and the number of foods it can work with.

For Mediterranean-style foods, consider Boutari Moschofilero (roughly $14), a white wine from Greece. I am continually amazed at the diversity of this wine in terms of food pairings. Plus, it is absolutely delicious and won’t hurt your wallet too badly.

On the red-wine side, many professionals recommend pinot noir, and rightly so. Well-made pinot noir works with a wide selection of foods.

Two other grape varieties worth checking out are gamay (the best coming from France’s Beaujolais region) and sangiovese (most notably from Italy’s Tuscany region). The key to food friendliness for all three is finding lighter, more delicious renditions such as Costa de Oro Pinot Noir "Santa Barbara" (roughly $23 a bottle), Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais (roughly $13 a bottle) and, for sangiovese, Monte Antico (roughly $13).

Uncovering value wines will always be a trend. For 2011, check out the cooler nooks and crannies of Chile, such as the Leyda or Casablanca valleys. Leyda Sauvignon Blanc, for instance (roughly $11 a bottle), is a brisk, nervy, tasty, completely refreshing white wine ideal for warm-weather sipping or after a hard day of work.

Also in South America, some real "finds" are being grown and produced in the foothills of Argentina’s Andes Mountains. People have been saying malbec is the right call, but as time goes on — through better plant material farming — there will surely be more sensational chardonnay and cabernet being produced, and both still will be remarkably well priced.

If you are looking to buy American, California’s Lodi growing region is on the fast track to stardom. Our good friend Randal Caparoso (a founding partner of Roy’s Restaurants) has been championing Lodi for its wine for some time.

He recently noted that many families have owned property there for generations, so old vines are in abundance. These families take real pride in their farming — even more so now that they are producing their own wines. For the consumer, the added bonus is price, which value hunters will find is far below what other regions are offering.

Until next time, have a happy and prosperous 2011.


Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the DK Restaurants chain.

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