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Wine Without Pretense: Wine suggestions for end of summer, football season
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Summer’s winding down. Time to catch up with some odds and ends floating around the world of wine.

I just finished reading a smart little book the bride bought me for Father’s Day or my birthday. They are about the same time, so I can never keep them straight.

This book was written in the same style I write and teach about wine. It’s called “Is This Bottle Corked? The Secret Life of Wine.” It’s written by a couple of sharp-penned Brits, Kathleen Burk and Michael Bywater, and is great fun to read.

The book is chopped into short chapters dealing with some of the arcane history of wine, unusual wine terminology, myths and mythology and a raft of varying subjects. It is an easy but fun read, rife with British understated humor and wryness. It approaches such questions as “Is this bottle corked?” looking not at what’s stopping up the bottle, but the condition called corkiness caused by a chemical reaction in natural cork that turns the wine undrinkable.

Also, you might want to know what wine Falstaff was referring to when he called for “more sack.”

It was published in 2009 by Harmony Books, a division of Crown Publishing. At the time, it was priced at $20. You’ll probably find it for less somewhere. Do that.

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Summer may be winding down in Georgia, but it’s still hot out there and a good time for crisp, dry, well-chilled white wines. I just discovered one that’s new to my table, Grecante.

Offered by the Italian producer Arnaldo-Caprai, this lovely table wine is made from a little-known white grape, grechetto. This is the 2011 vintage and I’m going to have to find some more. It is one of those versatile whites equally good as a sipping, cocktail wine, and with seafood or light chicken or pasta dishes. It comes across with light fruitiness in the nose and is clean and subtly flavorful in the mouth.

Nice wine at a nice price: About $20.

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Looking for a well-made, full-bodied red that’s just a tad different? Me, too.

Malbec, once a nondescript red-blending grape from Bordeaux, has become one of the 21st Century’s most popular red table wines. And nobody makes better wine from malbec than the hard-working winemakers in the high-altitude region in Argentina called Mendoza.

Somebody sent me a new malbec-type wine from Mendoza that really perked my palate. It’s called Amado Sur (Southern Love), made by the Trivento winery. It’s a blend of 78 percent malbec, 12 percent bonarda and 10 percent syrah. Bonarda is an Argentine red grape that some folks think originated in the Piedmont region of Italy. Syrah is otherwise known as shiraz.

One of the keys to blending is to make sure the combination of grape flavors and textures is better than just one grape. The folks in Bordeaux learned this over the centuries.

Is the Amado Sur better than a 100 percent malbec? Tasted side by side with a traditional malbec, it certainly is different. The other two grapes give a bigger fruit flavor that balances well with the characteristics of the malbec. I like it very much.

I sampled the 2011 version, which is reasonably priced at $16.

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Here’s yet another tasty blend. Charles & Charles cabernet sauvignon blend comes to us from Washington state, a wine-making area too often overlooked. It should not be. Washington cranks out some mighty fine juice, and this offering falls into the category of super-value red.

It contains 72 percent cabernet and 28 percent syrah. It is rich and very full. Lots of dark fruit flavors, such as blackberries. Soft tannins mean this wine is ready to roll out for your next hamburger or steak fiesta. But with warm weather hanging around, remember to chill this red (and all reds) briefly before you serve them — 20 minutes in the fridge.

C&C comes from a warm part of Washington state and, even with a troublesome 2011 vintage, is a lot of fun to drink around the grill. Price: About $12.

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

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