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Wine Sipper

Beaujolais

You love red wine, but when the mercury is pushing 100, the thought of a big Shiraz or a heavy Cabernet loses its appeal. There's no need to switch to white wine, it's just time for a paradigm shift. As the temperature rises, seek out softer reds--ones with forward fruit and little or no tannin. We're talking Beaujolais: fragrant, charming French wines that work well when served slightly chilled. They're a great choice on a sultry summer's day. Here are the panel's top picks:

2002 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais, $11.99

Deep, dark, almost Burgundian on the nose, with very rich berry fruit and a hint of nutmeg. Has a nice velvety mouth feel, creamy berry fruit flavors and a soft hit of sour cherry on the finish. A bigger style, surprising for a straight AOC Beaujolais, but the fact that it is unfiltered and made from old vines (vieilles vignes) might explain that.

2002 Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais-Villages, $8.99

Thirty-nine villages are entitled to carry the name Beaujolais-Villages on their label. This one has touches of hazelnut and red licorice to complement the bright cherry and currant aromas. With its forward berry fruit, soft tannins and good acidity, it's a well-balanced, very approachable style of Beaujolais. Lighter than the Vissoux, but bigger than the Duboeuf, it should show well with lighter summer fare.

2002 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, $8.99

Charming cherry and berry aromas with a touch of spice and a nice floral fragrance. The flavors are equally enticing in this soft and fruity wine that begs to be chilled. The lightest of the three yet with a definite grip on the finish, along with subtle notes of pepper and spice. Still, the overall impression is of a light and fruity charmer--the quintessential summer red. :

This week's panel: David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Patrick Sawyer, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kevin Settles, Bardenay.