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MONTECILLO RATES AS A SAVORY BARGAIN IN BLIND TASTING BY WINE WRITERS.

RECENTLY, FIVE wine writers were asked to help determine what a good bottle of wine should cost. In a blind tasting in New York City, the writers tasted four groups of wines in different price categories, wines of the same years from France, Italy, Spain and California.

In a blind tasting, drinkers sample wines without previous knowledge of the wines' identities. Such a tasting often can be a cruel trick on inexperienced friends, but it can be used to judge a wine without glamorous packaging or influential prices.

Some wine buyers tend to ask dealers to recommend the best wine in a particular price range. So six New York retailers were asked to offer suggestions for a 1988 white wine costing between $5 and $10, a 1985 red priced between $5 and $10, a 1981 red costing between $10 and and $20 and a 1978 red wine selling for from $20 to $40.

The wines selected by the merchants included:

White Wines $5 to $10: 1988 Domaine St. Georges Chardonnay,$5.99; 1988 Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, $7.49; 1988 Muscadet Chateau de la Chesnaie, $5; 1988 Breganze de Breganze, $8.99; 1988 Cumbrero Blanco, $5.

Red Wines $5 to $10: 1985 Cotes de Rhone Vidal Fleury, $7.29; 1985 Inglenook Niebaum Reserve Claret, $8.99; 1985 Chateau Siaurac-Lalande Pomerol, $10; 1985 Agamium Cantalupo, $10; 1985 Cumbrero Tinto, $6.

Red Wines $10 to $20: 1981 Les Forts de Latour, $20; 1981 Mondavi Cabernet, $18; 1981 Chateau de Sales Pomerol, $16; 1981 Chateau Moulins des Carruades, $14; 1981 Vina Monty Gran Reserva, $10.49.

Red Wines $20 to $30: 1978 Chateau Latour Haut Brion, $36; 1978 Bourgogne Rouge D'Auverna Y Leroy, $22.50; 1978 Chateau Mouton Baron Philippe, $25; 1978 Cantero Barolo Reserva Speciale, $40; 1978 Montecillo Especiale Gran Reserva, $28.

As I warned you, blind tastings can be tricky. In this case, Bodegas Montecillo from Spain's Rioja district wanted to show its wines against others. Montecillo undoubtedly had a choice of vintages. With other vintages, the results might be completely different.

In all four categories, the majority of the wine writers rated Montecillo wines to be worth more than their regular cost. The Cumbrero Blanco was rated as costing over $9, the Cumbrero Tinto as costing over $8, the Vina Monty Gran Reserva as costing over $16 and the Montecillo Especiale as costing over $30.

Other wines rated at prices higher than their retail cost were the Muscadet de la Chesnaie, rated to cost over $7; the Bourgogne Rouge D'Auverna, to cost over $25 and the Chateau Mouton Baron Philippe, to cost over $30.

Domaine Chandon is conducting an interesting study of Pinot Noir clones. Cabernet Sauvignon is pretty consistent in its behavior but Pinot Noir shows great differences in breeding. Chandon noted that much of the research into Pinot Noir was preoccupied with its use in making still wines.

Aware that some Pinot Noir clones which produce great still wines do not necessarily make good sparkling wines, Chandon has been working on this special clone study since 1985. Test rows of six University of Davis clones and four favorite clones were planted. In-house tasters have been evaluating sparkling wines made from these clones and Chandon's Ken Bernards has been amassing data on his trusty computer.

The results of this experiment are important because Chandon plans to add some 500 acres of Pinot Noir to its vineyards in Carneros. A mixture of clones may bring more complex sparkling wines. Chandon promises future reports on the clone testing.

Wine trade members should start making plans now if they plan to attend Vin Italy, Italy's most famous international wine exhibition, in Verona this April. The Verona Fairs Organization has completed a special VIP group trip to the exhibition which will run from April 5 to 10.

The trip package, priced at $1,199 per person, features five days in Verona including round-trip air fare from New York City to Milan on Alitalia Airlines, four nights at a first-class hotel in Verona, daily continental breakfasts, deluxe private motor coach service, welcome and farewell dinners, an English-speaking hostess throughout the trip and chances for learning more about Italian wines through unlimited tastings and discussions. For information or reservations, write Lucio Caputo, U.S. representative, E.A. Fiere di Verona, One World Trade Center, Suite 1513, New York, N.Y. 10048; or call (212) 775-1050.

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