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Randall Murray: Define great wine by type, date and region before making a choice
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Bota Box Sauvignon Blanc 2016

The wine: Medium-bodied, dry white table wine.

The grapes: Sauvignon Blanc.

The source: Chile.

The verdict: This is a first! It marks the first time I’ve cited a boxed wine as my Wine of the Month. And this one deserves it. I’m a fan of boxed wines for several reasons. The quality generally is good to very good. And the wine stays fresh inside the box for four to six weeks. Bota Box is the leading boxed wine brand. I tasted this wine and said to the bride, “This tastes like a good Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.” Then I read the small print on the back of the box, “product of Chile.” It is crisp, but with the distinctive flavors that characterize wines made from this versatile grape. As an everyday sipping/food wine, it’s hard to beat the value-for-quality matrix of this 3-liter box — the equivalent of four standard-sized bottles. Boxed wines are rapidly growing in popularity, and this well-balanced white is one good example of why.

The price: About $21.

I just finished up with one of my wine education classes for Brenau University’s Learning and Leisure Institute. BULLI is a great program of continuing education for adults of all ages (must be 21 to take mine, however) and all backgrounds.

These classes are a two-way learning street for me. Whenever a student asks a question I am required to dig around in my memory (what’s left) to come up with a reasonably accurate answer. That helps all of us.

This month I am including a question posed during our classroom sessions, along with queries I received in emails and occasional phone calls. For those last questions, I do answer them immediately, then ask the questioner if I may include her or his inquiry in a future column.

Question: I seem to be seeing more rose wines on the shelves. Is this my imagination? Also how can you tell if one rose is better than another?

Answer: No, it’s not your imagination. Dry rose wines are popping up like dandelions in the lawn. It’s a trend I predicted about two years ago.

Folks are looking for lighter wines, especially at this time of year. But they also want wines that go well with food.

And I believe there’s a mini-revolt against the ever-climbing alcohol content of today’s wines. Roses tend to be gentler or 11 percent to 12 percent vs. 13 percent to 14 percent for many table wines.

American winemakers are challenging the traditional leaders in rose, which are France, Italy and Spain.

One British wine writer said to judge these pink wines, look for paler versions. I disagree. I suggest reading the back label for more information about how the wine is made. Look for wines made from primarily or exclusively red wine grapes, not a blend of red wine and white wine.

Be sure to check vintage dates. Don’t buy a rose that’s more than two years old.

Some of my favorites are Charles and Charles from Washington state; Crios Rose of Malbec from Argentina, and Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses from France’s Pays d’Oc region.

Q: What does the word “Cava” mean on a bottle of Spanish Champagne?

A: First, it’s not Spanish Champagne, it’s Spanish sparkling wine. Only bubbly made in the Champagne region of France can legally be called Champagne.

What “Cava” means, however, is that the wine is made in the same method as Champagne. That means the second fermentation of the wine occurs in that bottle and not in a big tank. That’s the expensive way to make sparkling wine.

“Cava” also lets you know the wine inside is very dry ... like a Brut.

Some American producers label their bubblies “Champagne,” but they cannot sell those wines in European Union countries. Korbel, for example, has to use a modified label to export to Europe.

Q: I was in New York City recently and a friend ordered a German riesling with our dinner at a restaurant. It was Dr. Loosen Red Slate Dry Riesling. I loved it, but don’t know anything about it. I looked for it in local wine shops but did not find it. What can you tell me about it?

A: Your friend has good taste. Dr. Loosen is a well-respected name in the field of German riesling. The Red Slate is a drier and slightly less-expensive version of the classic Blue Slate riesling. Both come from Germany’s Mosel wine-making region.

Red Slate carries the quality rating of Qualitatswein, a step below the Blue Slate, which is a Kabinett wine, therefore, a tad sweeter. Red Slate is a great food wine and is available in Georgia. You may have to search for it, or ask your wine shop to order some for you.

Q: I was told Doug Paul, co-owner of Three Sisters Winery near Dahlonega, passed away recently. I did not see anything in the newspaper. Is this true?

A: Sadly, yes, it is true. Doug was one of the pioneers in making quality wines in Northeast Georgia. He passed away in March at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, a result of a long illness. He will be missed.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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