FOOD & DRINK / Grapevine: Kathryn McWhirter on Portugal's Finest and some Choice Clarets

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The Independent Culture
PORTUGUESE reds were traditionally high on toughness, low on fruit. Many still are, but more and more are being made with fruit-loving tourists and foreign markets in mind. Here are some current fruity bargains. For everyday drinking, *Ramada Red, Almerim, Ribatejo ( pounds 2.39 Waitrose, pounds 2.55 Thresher, Wine Rack and Bottoms Up) has good, rich cherry and plum fruit, with some tannin. *Leziria Red, Almerim, Ribatejo ( pounds 1.99 Food Giant on special offer until the end of March, pounds 2.29 Kwiksave, pounds 2.49 Gateway and Somerfield, pounds 2.59 Oddbins, Budgen, Victoria Wine and Augustus Barnett) is a little lighter and softer, also cherry-fruity. A table wine from the northern, port-producing mountains, **1992 Quinta do Vale da Raposa Red, Douro ( pounds 4.49 Safeway) has lovely, soft, ripe flavours of elderberry and plum. Rather tougher but with plenty of rich, strawberry, cherry and fig fruit to balance it, try ***1989 Borba Reserva Red (Cork label) ( pounds 8.25 Moreno Wines of London W2 and W9). And here's one from the old days that still has enough rich, soft, tobacco and plum fruit to overpower its tannin: ***1980 Garrafeira Caves Velhas Red ( pounds 5.99 selected Gateway and Somerfield) is delicious and worthy of a special occasion. Fruity whites are also much more the norm in Portugal nowadays than they were a few years ago. **1992 Varandas Branco ( pounds 3.95 Village Wines of Bexley village, Kent, pounds 4.50 Lisboa Delicatessen of London W10) is a lovely crisp, creamy example, with plenty of lemony acidity and a hint of Muscat flavour.

CLARET is a speciality of the 28-strong East Anglian wine shop chain of Thomas Peatling. (They also have a shop in London EC1 and supply by mail order.) My favourite in a recent tasting of not-too-expensive clarets was ***1985 Chateau Tanesse, Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux, Cordier ( pounds 6.45), a lovely, intensely fruity wine with honey, cedar and raisin flavours and just a touch of tannin - perfect for drinking now. Slightly more tannic, ***1985 Chateau Goujon Marquette, Fronsac ( pounds 5.85) is still soft, ripely fruity and easy-drinking, and *** 1986 Chateau Haut Milon, Pauillac ( pounds 6.95) is rich and well-balanced, with flavours of cedar, grass and baked blackcurrant.

STAR RATING

***excellent, **very good, *good.

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