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As sommelier at Thomas Keller's new Per Se, opening in February in New York, Eric Lilavois will be in charge of the restaurant's 700-entry wine list. And when not helping diners with their choices ("sans arrogance," he promises), Lilavois will continue to publish his newsletter LilaVine: A Practical Guide for Wines to Drink. Now. Here, a few of his favorites, both practical and divine.

1. More for the Money

Bodegas Txomin Etxaniz Txacoli 2002 ($12) from Spain is loaded with citrus and acidity; there's even a little spritz on the tongue. It's perfect for shellfish and even caviar. A $200 ounce of Beluga with a $12 wine? Trust me, it works.

2. A Fresh Discovery

I tasted the Villa Bucci Verdicchio Riserva 1999 ($26) for the first time at my favorite new restaurant in Italy, Torre del Saraceno, on the Amalfi Coast. This is a wine drinker's wine, rich in minerals and nicely balanced with oak.

3. Blockbuster Bottle

The Quilceda Creek (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 ($80) is a serious wine. Substantial but supple tannins, intense plum and berry, tobacco, caramel, and menthol linger on a long, powerful finish.

4. To Drink in Five Years

The highlight at La Paulée (an annual festival for Burgundy's winemakers) was the Hubert Lignier Burgundy Clos de la Roche 2000 ($180). I went back three times for tastings. This wine is enormously complex right now, but give it a few years to reach its peak.


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