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Wine and Dine 

This week: Vietnamese

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Matching wine to cuisines it isn't traditionally drunk with--Caribbean, Latin American, Asian--is the focus of this periodic feature, in which we pick a BYO restaurant, sample a few dishes, and recommend some wines.

Pho Hung

1129 W. Argyle

773-278-1112

Saigon Roll

(thin rice-paper-wrapped egg roll with pork and vegetables) 2

$5

Fried Squid With Nam Pla Dipping-Sauce 1, 2

$4.50

Lemongrass Chicken 1, 4

$7

Grilled Prawns, Stir-Fried in Brown Chili Sauce 3, 4, 5

$10

Wide Rice Noodles With Pork 3, 5

$6

This home-style Argyle Street restaurant offers the expected Vietnamese dishes but also many less common daily specials. The food for this pairing comes from the specials menu. It's inventive but retains a classic Vietnamese flavor profile, seasoned with cilantro and lemongrass and served with a dipping sauce made from nam pla (fish sauce), rice vinegar, and lime. The consulting wine expert on this visit is Jason Miller, wine steward at the Peninsula Hotel.

1. 2001 Trimbach Pinot Blanc (Alsace, France), $ 10. Refreshing acidity and a mineral finish make this wine a natural match with Asian food. Made by the 12th generation of one of the longest-standing Alsatian wine families (since 1626), it's bone dry yet fruity. Fermented in stainless steel vats, it's soft and subtle but finishes with a touch of residual sugar. Its acidic notes make it versatile enough to work with the fried squid, cutting through the fat of the breading yet standing up to the strong flavors of the dipping sauce. It's a refreshing palate cleanser with the citrusy lemongrass chicken. (Sam's, Binny's)

2. 2001 Marc Bredif Vouvray (Loire Valley), $11-$15. Pale yellow-green in color, this French white has a nose of ripe citrus that complements dishes with medium to strong flavors. The chenin blanc grape that it's made from has moderate to high acidity tempered by hints of smoke and wet stone. It's wonderful with the squid, which accentuates its fruitiness and acidity, making it taste brighter, and it makes the oily Saigon roll seem lighter and fresher. (Sam's, Galleria)

3. 2002 Kirralaa Chardonnay (Southeast Australia), $13-$14. One in a new series launched by a collaboration between the Robert Mondavi (California) and Rosemount Estate (Australia) wineries, this wine is made from grapes grown in the Hunter Valley and Adelaide Hills of Southeast Australia--two regions known for producing wines of serious complexity. It's considerably lower in oak flavors and aromas than a typical Napa Valley chardonnay. Its mild vanilla and spice notes enhance the taste of the prawns, while its green apple and pineapple flavors stand up to the dish's chili sauce. Its crispness makes it a good match for the noodles and pork. (Wine Discount Center, Sam's, Binny's)

4. 2001 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler Bernkasteler alte Badstube am Doctorberg Riesling Spatlese (Mosel Valley, Germany), $13-$17. Riesling's complexity makes it compatible with a wide range of foods. This vintage has some residual sugar, aromas and flavors of apples, apricots, and peaches, and a clean, steely finish. With its low acidity, it elevates the chicken's subtle flavors, bringing the lemongrass and herbs to the forefront. It also pairs well with the prawns--it's full-bodied enough to stand up to the chili sauce and sweet enough to complement the shellfish. (Sam's, Binny's)

5. 2001 Renwood Zinfandel Sierra Series (California), $9-$10. Aged ten months in American and French oak barrels, this deeply colored red tastes more expensive than it is. Produced by a medium-size winemaker in the Sierra foothills of California, it has a full, fruity flavor with aromas of chocolate and spice. It goes well with the noodles and pork thanks to its hint of white pepper. The pork's saltiness brings up the tannins in the wine, but not so much that it's unpleasant, and its mellow flavor emphasizes the wine's mulberry and blackberry notes. While you might not expect a wine this full-bodied to work with something as subtle as prawns, it actually complements the chili sauce and stops short of overpowering the shrimp. (Wine Discount Center, Sam's, Binny's)

BINNY'S BEVERAGE DEPOT 213 W. Grand, 312-332-0012

GALLERIA LIQUEURS 1559 N. Wells, 312-867-7070

SAM'S WINES AND SPIRITS 1720 N. Marcey, 312-664-4394

WINE DISCOUNT CENTER 1826 N. Elston, 773-489-3454

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