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A great new Sauvignon from Chile

’04 Veramonte is piercing, fresh, distinctive at just $10. By Edward Deitch
/ Source: msnbc.com

It’s 2005, which means it’s time to try the first of the 2004s. No, I’m not talking about Beaujolais Nouveau or its imitators that represent, in the eyes of their producers, a chance to make a quick franc or buck each fall with gimmicky releases of just-fermented juice. By now we’re beyond that.

What we’ve been seeing in recent weeks (and now getting around to tasting) are the first of the new releases from the Southern Hemisphere, places like New Zealand, Australia and Chile, where, as you’ll recall, their fall is our spring and the harvest is six months earlier. The southern whites are the first “serious” wines of the new vintage and are meant for drinking young.

Chief among them is Sauvignon Blanc, and one that caught my interest was the 2004 Sauvignon from Chile’s Veramonte estate. This piercing, fresh, lime-driven wine is a bargain at $10 or less and rivals or surpasses many more expensive Sauvignons from Chile, New Zealand and South Africa.

Crisp and refreshing, I liked sipping it as an aperitif in the kitchen while cooking the other night; it seems made for simply broiled fish with lemon, as well as all kinds of shellfish, sushi and Asian foods. Tropical fruit, herbal and floral notes add to its complexity. You might also consider it for a stint as your house white — the screw cap makes it convenient for quick closing and placement back in the fridge either upright or on its side.

Those screw caps, by the way, turned out to be something of a tempest in a wine bottle. First introduced a few years ago, they seem to have found their niche, particularly for young, relatively inexpensive wines, although there are notable examples of their use at the higher end.  Besides the convenience, albeit with a little loss of ritual and the occasional need for an old-fashioned jar opener, they eliminate the very real problem of cork taint.

And they seem a natural for Veramonte, a state-of-the-art winery in Chile’s Casablanca Valley and that area’s pioneer less than 15 years ago.  Today, the vineyard is more than 850 acres, one of Chile’s largest, and produced 58,000 cases of the ’04 Sauvignon Blanc alone.

So the wine will be widely available. It’s very good, inexpensive and easy to drink — not a bad way to start off a new year and a new vintage.

Edward Deitch's wine column appears Thursdays. Write to him at @hotmail.com.