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Mango-wine bliss

If you live anywhere near South Florida, you can tell by sniffing the air -- glorious scents, from camellias to honey to spice to peaches. It's mango season.

If you live anywhere near South Florida, you can tell by sniffing the air -- glorious scents, from camellias to honey to spice to peaches. It's mango season.

Nature is generous with its mangoes: 26 million tons of them a year, making up half of all the tropical fruit on the planet. All this bounty energizes us wine lovers to break out our more exotic wines to create wine-mango flavor matches that are downright ethereal.

Picture yourself on your back patio (this is too messy to do inside) with one hand holding a Haden mango, butter-smooth, tasting like peaches, pineapples, apricots and honey all at once, dripping juice down your arm -- and your other hand holding a glass of Inniskillin Riesling Ice Wine, with equally complex flavors of pears and honey, very sweet but very crisp.


Nobody has to feel left out: These days, you can find mangoes in supermarkets from Maine to Albuquerque.


Allen Susser, owner of Chef Allen's restaurant in Aventura, Fla., and an original member of the "Mango Gang" that put South Florida cuisine on the map in the 1980s, today runs his own mango exchange, trading customers a free dinner for two for a 200-pound wheelbarrow of backyard mangoes.

"I make mango chutney, mango salsa, mango mustard, mango ketchup, mango slaw, mango mojitos and mango ice cream," he says. The secret to cooking with mangoes is to consider their sweetness and acidity, he says. The secret to pairing mangoes with wine is exactly the same.

So, if you sliver a not-quite-ripe mango into slaw, add ginger and rice wine vinegar, you have a crisp, tart salad that pairs well with lean, acidic wines like albarino from Spain, muscadet from France or sauvignon blanc from California.

If you make pan-seared scallops with a sauce of mangoes, ginger and curry, the dish is a little sweet, a little spicy, and a fat, rich California chardonnay is a nice match.

Go super-sweet, with cheesecake topped with mango sauce, and an equally sweet, muscat-based dessert wine like the Rhone Valley's Beaumes de Venise completes the experience.

Here are some wines that go very well with the various flavors of mangoes:

Highly recommended

-- 2008 Morgan Highland Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands: big, ripe flavors of ripe peaches, cream and caramel, extra rich, unctuous; $26.


-- 2009 Alamos Torrontes, Salta, Argentina: crisp and intensely fruity, with flavors of oranges and peaches; $13.

-- 2007 Paul Jaboulet Aine Muscat de Beaumes-De-Venise, Rhone Valley, France: sweet and viscous, with aromas and flavors of oranges and spice; $29.


-- Nonvintage Asti Spumante, Italy (moscato): spritzy and sweet, with flavors of oranges and tangerines; $14.

-- 2008 Mirassou Riesling, California: aromas and flavors of ripe apricots and peaches, lightly sweet, very crisp, intensely fruity; $12.

-- 2009 Robert Mondavi Riesling, Calif. (white riesling, gewurztraminer, muscat canelli): just off-dry, with floral aromas and white peach and vanilla flavors, crisp; $12.

-- 2008 Mercer Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Wash.: bright and crisp, with white grapefruit and tart lime flavors; $12.

-- 2008 Paco & Lola Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain: crisp and light, with Granny Smith apple aromas and flavors; $20.


-- 2009 Bennett Lane White Maximus, Napa Valley (sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, muscat): lightly sweet and crisp, with aromas and flavors of ripe peaches and mangoes; $28.

-- Nonvintage Barefoot Cellars Moscato, Calif. (moscato, French columbard, symphony, malvasia bianca): moderately sweet, with orange and apricot flavors; $7.

-- 2008 Fetzer "Valley Oaks" Gewurztraminer, Calif.: moderately sweet, with floral aromas and flavors of honey and apricots; $9.

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