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Wine Without Pretense: Seeking perfect wine to serve with salmon
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The wine: Beach House Sauvignon Blanc 2013.

The grapes: 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc.

The source: South Africa.

The verdict: By now our tongues are hanging out thanks to the heat and humidity of summer in Georgia. It’s time for a brisk, light summer sipper to cool our tongues. I ran across this tasty, satisfying white shortly after a reader contacted me to say she did not like the grapefruity taste of a sauvignon blanc she had tried (see question below). I have no doubt that particular version came from New Zealand, where grapefruit peel is a trademark flavor characteristic. But this one, also from the Southern Hemisphere, is a playful little white that’s just plain good. It’s simple; no wild aromatics or flavors cavorting about. You’ll find hints of lemon and lime, but muted. Beach House is so well-balanced I had to double-check the price. Lay in a case and inform your tongue — and the rest of the parts — that relief is on the way.

The price: About $10.

Wow, it’s good to hear from folks who read this column. I do appreciate the emails with questions about wines. And I want to deal with a quartet of them in today’s edition.

Question: Can you recommend a white or red wine to go with salmon we’re going to marinate with brown sugar/soy?

Answer: Of course, this meal is history, but I did respond immediately when I received this question in mid-June. I thought it might have some interest for others. I’m not overly fond of white wine with salmon. The flavor, texture and oiliness of this fish tend to overwhelm nearly every white wine I can think of. So I tend to focus on lighter reds, rose wines and, of course, bubblies.

So to these folks I recommended a Chandon Blanc de Noirs, a Champagne-style sparkler from Napa Valley, Calif. It’s a great food wine, with a light copper-pink blush, and lots of acidity to stand up to this hearty fish. I also recommended a dry rose, such as the 2013 vintage of Alandra Esporao from Portugal. This is a lovely dry rose, just perfect for something such as salmon. And it’s affordable, with a price tag of $12.

When it comes to poaching salmon, I frequently pour in a generous helping of pinot noir with some fish stock and garlic. Then I will serve that light, fruity red wine with the finished product. I do like the MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir from California’s Central Coast, priced at $20. Enjoy that fish!

Q: You recently recommended sauvignon blanc as a substitute for chardonnay. I tried one and really did not like it. It smelled and tasted of grapefruit peel and I could not drink it. What happened?

A: I’ll bet you tried a sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, whose wines have a trademark grapefruit peel character. (Turned out, in later correspondence, that’s exactly what she had tried). I recommended July’s Wine of the Month (see above) and she loved it.

For those who are not fond of the crisp, austere nature of the New Zealand sauvignon blancs, try the Beach House, from South Africa, or one of the softer, less linear wines from California, such as the Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc, or a Chilean sauvignon blanc.

Q: A friend recently told me if you have some leftover Champagne the best way to preserve it is to put a silver spoon, handle down, into the neck of the open bottle. That will keep the wine fresh, he said. Is that true?

A: In a word, no. That is one of the wine world’s versions of an Urban Legend ... something everyone swears is true, but nobody can prove. Putting a silver spoon into the neck of a bottle of Champagne does absolutely nothing to preserve the wine.

Consider: What makes Champagne special? Right, the bubbles! To keep those bubbles in the bottle, you need something more substantial than a spoon.

Because the pressure built up by the same carbon dioxide that creates the bubbles will shove a regular cork from the neck of the bottle, you must consider something stronger ... something like a Champagne stopper. This little gadget has a strong spring that latches under the lip of the bottle. It keeps the bubbles in and ensures the wine will remain fresh and sparkling for a day, maybe two.

Q: Can you recommend a wine publication that is reputable and provides accurate information for folks like us who like to travel and cook and enjoy better-quality wines?

A: As the author Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “You can’t go home again.” That’s not quite true.

Because I have come home again to Wine Spectator. Years ago I had some problems with how it judged wines. I think it has cleaned up its act, and I now enjoy and recommend this glossy, high-style wine mag, which deals with other topics as well. Whether you are part of the wine biz, or merely a knowledgeable wine drinker, Wine Spectator is the mag to peruse whether in hard copy or online.

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