Wine Time: Xplorador Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Chile; Xplorador Chardonnay 2009, Chile

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COST: $7-$9

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WHAT: These refreshing wines are terrific values, offering crisp, clean flavors at less than $10 a bottle. They are perfect for this time of year, when we suffer through oppressive heat.

The Xplorador label comes from the respected Concha y Toro family of wines. The wine delivers at a level far beyond what you would expect at this price. Each wine is typical of its varietal, presenting the more pleasing aspects of the grape.

The Chardonnay is a vibrant yellow with aromas of tropical fruit. It's a medium-bodied wine that doesn't overpower you. The rich flavors are smooth tropical fruit with a crisp, pleasant finish. It's a well-rounded wine, aged for two months in stainless steel tanks.

The Sauvignon Blanc is a sharper wine, green-yellow in color with citrus aromas. There is plenty of acid to balance the lemon and grapefruit flavors. It is a bit lighter than the Chardonnay and works better as an appetizer wine. The wine undergoes a swift fermentation process for two months in stainless steel tanks.

WINERY: Concha y Toro has a proud history, dating to 1883 when a local politician and businessman named Don Melchor Concha y Toro brought French grapevines from Bordeaux to the Maipo Valley in Chile. He brought in a French expert to make his first wines.

The business flourished and became a successful public company, now one of the largest wine businesses in the world.

Xplorador chief winemaker Hector "Tito" Urzua has spent 20 years searching for the best vineyard sites for his wines. He has studied vineyard practices in France and Australia as well as Chile and merges that traditional knowledge with modern practices to produce fruit-forward wines.

The coastal vineyards allow the grapes to ripen slowly as the ocean breezes meet the cool Andes Mountains air, moderating the hot Chilean sun. Calcium-rich soils in the Sauvignon Blanc vineyards bring the refreshing mineral quality to the wine.

GOES WITH: I tried both of these wines with homemade fried shrimp and french fries, and they both worked well.

The Chardonnay should pair with fresh shellfish, roast pork, pasta with a cream sauce, and smooth cheese. The Sauvignon Blanc also will match fresh seafood and shellfish, roast chicken or pork, salads and spicy foods. I like both of them as sipping wines, perfect for relaxing on the porch after a hot, busy day.

WINE EVENTS

TODAY

Third Thursday wine tasting, Wine World , 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta, 5-8 p.m.

FRIDAY-SATURDAY

Tasting, the Vineyard Wine Market , 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, 1-6 p.m. Saturday

JULY 30

Beer tasting, 5-8 p.m. Wine World ; 13 beers and several cheeses, $4, rebate on purchase of six bottles of the featured beers.

AUG. 29

Bus trip to the 14th annual Vineyard Fest at Chateau Elan in Braselton, Ga.; festival runs from 1 to 5 p.m., bus will leave at 10 a.m. from The Vineyard Wine Market parking lot, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; purchase tickets from Chateau Elan before the bus trip and then call The Vineyard to reserve a seat on the bus; Wine Fest tickets are $75 and bus tickets are $30; call Chateau Elan at (678) 425- 0900 and The Vineyard at (706) 922-9463 for tickets.


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