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WINEMAKERS in the northern hemisphere are scrubbing their equipment ready for the 1994 vintage, but already this year's wines are dribbling in from the south. A clutch of excellent value 1994s from South Africa (harvested in our spring) has just arrived at Bottoms Up, Wine Rack and Thresher. **1994 Winelands Cinsault Rose ( pounds 3.69) is dry and delicious, with savoury and ripe redcurranty flavours. **1994 Winelands Cinsault/

Tinta Barocca ( pounds 3.69) is a plummy red with lots of fruit and savoury, meaty concentration. Two not- quite-dry cheaper whites will be changing to the 1994 vintage during the next couple of weeks: the *1994 Winelands Chenin Blanc ( pounds 3.49) is a lovely, crisp, appley wine with hints of honey and toffee (the *1993, at the same price and still on sale in many shops, is also still very good); and the *1994 Winelands Muscat d'Alexandrie ( pounds 3.49) is a lovely, aromatic, pear-droppy wine, really crisp and sparkling fresh (and much better than the 1993). Heading upmarket, the **1994 Viliera Sauvignon Blanc ( pounds 5.49) is one of the best South African Sauvignons around at the moment, with lovely, concentrated grassy and herby flavours and lots of crisp acidity. The ***1992 Viliera Estate Merlot ( pounds 6.99) is also delicious, a soft and velvety red with really intense ripe fruit and hints of raisin, grass and oak.

JAMES Herrick grew up in Suffolk, son of a New Zealand father and an Irish mother. He learnt to grow grapes and make wines for several years in California, Australia and Champagne, finally settling a few years ago near Narbonne in the South of France. There he now has three estates, all recently planted with Chardonnay. Modern equipment and techniques are producing very good wines, and future vintages will probably be even better as the vines mature. Oddbins stocks the still wine, **1993 James Herrick Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc ( pounds 4.99), rich, lemony and honeyed, with a touch of pineapple. Victoria Wine sells the crisp, dry and honeyed sparkling version, **1992 Maison La Motte Chardonnay ( pounds 7.99).

STAR RATINGS: ***excellent; **very good; *good