FOOD & DRINK / Grapevine: Kathryn McWhirter continues her cross-Channel wine choice

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The Independent Culture
IN most French supermarkets, you need to be lucky to winkle out the delicious bargains from among the poor to dreary lower- priced wine bottles. This week I continue my pick of the best buys, in mixed cases, of inexpensive wines bought recently from the major cross-Channel chains.

LECLERC

There are stores in Boulogne, Caen, St Malo, Dieppe, Querqueville near Cherbourg, 600 franchised outlets all over France but especially concentrated in Brittany. Wine prices are keen. The fairly big range includes a good selection of top Bordeaux chateaux, but the chain concentrates on inexpensive wines. There will be especially good savings during a bulk-buy special promotion from the end of March to mid-April.

***Champagne Pol Carson (Fr42 / pounds 5.06 per half, saving pounds 2- pounds 3) Fresh, fruity, biscuity-malty, a cut above the basics.

**1990 Chateau Labatut Cuvee Prestige, Bordeaux Superieur (Fr23.90 / pounds 2.88, saving pounds 1.40) Scented, very fruity claret.

*1990 Chateau Le Sarrot Vieilles Vignes, Bordeaux (Fr18.90 / pounds 2.28, saving pounds 1.70) Very attractive, easy-drinking claret with lots of raisiny fruit and some oak.

*Domaine Galuval, Cairanne Cotes du Rhone Villages (Fr19.95 / pounds 2.40, saving pounds 2) Lightish, peppery-fruity.

*1989 Chateau Vincens, Cahors (Fr12.90 / pounds 1.55, saving pounds 2.50) Full-bodied, fruity, quite high tannin.

Vin de Pays de l'Herault, Baron de Vairac (Fr5.60 / 67p, saving pounds l80) The cheapest drinkable wine I tasted, very light and a bit tart, but cherry-fruity.

MAMMOUTH

This chain has stores in Calais, Mers-

les-Bains near Dieppe, 89 throughout France but none in Brittany and the South-West. The Mammouth wine range is appropriately elephantine, and I rated my dozen adequate to good. Half the store is household goods and clothes, and the food is good - though not quite a match for Auchan and Leclerc.

**1990 Riesling Medaille, Ernest Weiss, Cave de Pfaffenheim (Fr27.50 / pounds 3.30, saving pounds 2.20) Crisp, really fruity, steely dry white, with flowery-lemony flavour.

*1989 Vieux Chateau Valentin, Premieres Cotes de Blaye (Fr26.50 / pounds 3.19, saving pounds 1.30) Pleasant, light, honey-and-

raisin scented claret.

*Champagne Amarande Brut (Fr49.95 / pounds 6, saving pounds 3- pounds 4) Better than most cheap Champagnes, with not too sharp acidity and rather more depth.

1991 Domaine des Pins Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin de Pays d'Oc (Fr12.50 /

pounds 1.50, saving pounds 1.40) Light, fruity, easy-drinking.

1991 Saint Chinian, Domaine Bourdel (Fr13.95 / pounds 1.68, saving pounds 1.60) Light, cherry-fruity red; tart, so serve with food.

CONTINENT

Continent has stores in Calais, Caen, St Malo, Cherbourg, 70 in all throughout France. These hypermarkets aim to be the cheapest. Their food is fair, the wines we tasted were mixed in quality.

**1991 Chateau de Bourdines, Cotes du Rhone (Fr23 / pounds 2.77, saving pounds 1.50) Full-

bodied, traditional Cotes du Rhone with peppery fruit and tannin.

*Tuile Grenache, Vin de Pays d'Oc, Fortant (Fr14 / pounds 1.69, saving pounds 1.60) Easy-

drinking, fragrant, fruity red.

*1991 Pinot Blanc Medaille Eguisheim (Fr24.50 / pounds 2.95, saving pounds 1.30) Crisp, floral, honeyed and fruity.

Ecaillemer Blanc Sec; Minervois (Fr12.95 / pounds 1.56, saving pounds 1.30) Crisp, fresh and lemony.

INTERMARCHE

There are stores in Calais, Boulogne, Caen, St Malo, 1,700 altogether. Prices here are keen, but the quality of the wines we tasted was mixed, on the whole not very exciting. The food is fair.

*1991 Julienas, Domaine David-Lardet (Fr25.95 / pounds 3.15, saving pounds 2.40) Attractive, cherry-fruity Beaujolais cru.

*1991 Cotes du Rhone, Domaine de la Tuilerie (Fr16.90 / pounds 2.04, saving pounds 2) Full-bodied, raisiny-fruity, smoky red with a little tannin.

*1991 Chateau Combe Loubiere, Corbieres (Fr12.50 / pounds 1.50, saving pounds 2) Pleasant, smoky-fruity young red with tangy acidity and some tannin.

*1991 Riesling d'Alsace, Cuvee Reserve, J Hauller (Fr26.20 / pounds 3.16, saving pounds 2) Crisp, lightly honeyed and lemony.

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