FOOD & DRINK / Grapevine: Kathryn McWhirter on Oddbins' best buys

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The Independent Culture
A DIFFERENT breed of wine-shop assistant inhabits Oddbins. Casual, intelligent student types, they can point you to the right bottle and tell you everything about it. But even if they didn't it would be hard to buy a duff wine there. Here are some highlights.

The **Terret, Vin de Pays d'Oc, Lurton (pounds 3.39) will inject a change of flavour into your white wine drinking. Made from a grape that has traditionally been sunk into white plonk or vermouth, this is really characterful, with buttery, slightly smoky and savoury flavours. *1993 Oddbins White (pounds 3.49) is also excellent value, a very flavourful Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne, quite intensely lemony and honeyed. On a budget, *1993 Domaine Lannemaison, Cotes de Gascogne (pounds 2.99) is crisp, fresh and lemony-flowery, too. For Sancerre lovers, **1993 Touraine Sauvignon, Renaudie (pounds 4.99) is a lovely, inexpensive substitute. If Sauvignon is your tipple, you must try *****1993 Tim Knapstein Lenswood Sauvignon Blanc (pounds 8.49) - its incredibly concentrated flavour is very unusual for Australia. Other white treats are two excellent-value white Burgundies: ***1993 Saint-Veran Les Chailloux, Domaine des Deux Roches (pounds 6.99), with ripe, pineappley fruit and yeasty complexity, and the more weighty and intense ****1992 Vieilles Vignes, Domaine des Deux Roches (pounds 9.99).

Among the inexpensive reds, the *1993 Grenache Le Radical, Vin de Pays de Vaucluse (pounds 3.25) is deliciously tangy and super-fruity for summer drinking, as is the light and aromatic **1993 Veganueva Garnacha, Navarra (pounds 3.99). The **1993 Cotes de Ventoux, Le Radical (pounds 3.49) is richer and darker with some tannin and savoury, plummy flavours; and **1992 Domaine Villambert Julien, Cuvee Opera, Minervois (pounds 4.49) is dark, concentrated Syrah, with smoky and raspberry flavours. Other fine, affordable reds include the ripely damson-fruity **1992 Cariganissime de Centilles (pounds 4.99), the soft, rich, oaky **1990 Le Paysan, Cotes du Frontonnais (pounds 4.99) and a complex-flavoured ***1992 Costieres de Nmes, Chateau Paul Blanc (pounds 4.99). Stepping up the price, **1993 Catalyst III (pounds 5.99) from California is another good summer swigger, full of juicy fruit; and another Californain, ***1993 Bloody Good Red (pounds 5.99) is indeed bloody good, rich and plummy, with hints of almond and vanilla. Also yummy are the rich and soft, oaky ***1991 Domaine Villambert Julien, Minervois Cuvee Trianon (pounds 6.99), and ***1989 Chateau de France, Pessac-Leognan (pounds 7.99), very fruity claret that's absolutely at its peak now.

***** outstanding; ****complex, exciting; ***excellent; **very good; *good

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