Wine of the week: Robert Skalli South of France Chardonnay 2006

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French wine, regardless of quality, has become ridiculously expensive. (Think weak dollar.) So when I tasted this chardonnay last week at a Skalli wine lunch, I could hardly wait to write about it.

It's well-made. It combines classic French style with a touch of New World green apple fruit. And, at $18, it's not ridiculously expensive.

How does winemaker Laurent Sauvage do it? He uses grapes from a less expensive region of France, the Languedoc, and can pick and choose which grapes to use to ensure the best quality. Because he is French, he understands the proper use of oak. Combine all that with vineyard management techniques that focus on maintaining acid levels instead of getting high alcohol, and you have a winner.

How big a hit was this wine? We had eight wines to choose from for lunch, and almost everyone picked the chardonnay. We ate it with chicken breasts in a dill sauce, and it was a smash.

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