FOOD & DRINK / Grapevine: Kathryn McWhirter on this week's best buys

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The Independent Culture
There's an Australian promotion at Majestic until 16 May, with a large range open for tasting in all stores next weekend, 23 and 24 April. An excellent bargain is the superb ****1990 Lindemans Pyrus Cabernet/Merlot (pounds 8.99 down from pounds 9.99), a big, opulent red with coconutty oak and blackcurrant fruit. Also on offer is the lovely, refreshing, gooseberry-fruity ***1993 Cape Mentelle Semillon-Sauvignon (pounds 6.99, pounds 7.49 from 17 May). Delicious new wines include **1993 Angove's South Australian Chardonnay (pounds 4.99), buttery, flowery and intensely fruity with a subtle flavour of oak, and **1991 Church Hill South East Australian Shiraz-Cabernet (pounds 4.99), medium red with vanilla-oak, raspberry and blackcurrant fruit and a hint of mint.

Best buy on a budget until 28 April is *Leziria Red (pounds 1.99 Victoria Wine, down from pounds 2.59), a light, soft and cherry-fruity glugging wine from Portugal - worth laying in for summer parties. Pinot Noir is usually expensive, but Asda have a soft, easy drinking *1992 Pinot Noir, Vieilli en Futs de Chene, Vin de Pays de l'Aude, Sica des Coteaux Limousins (pounds 3.75). For a white at Asda, the crisp, grassy-fruity 1992 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Vinicola Las Taguas (pounds 3.49) is good value. Majestic Wine Warehouses have a series of good wines on offer until 16 May: characterful, light and limey-toasty *Misty Mooring Australian Dry White (pounds 2.99); a simple, fresh and lemony *1993 Chardonnay Vin de Pays d'Oc, Bessiere (pounds 2.99); and a good, mature, savoury-oaky *1985 Jaume Serra Tinto (pounds 3.59) from Catalonia, but Rioja-like with its touch of wild strawberry fruit and vanilla oak. Another bargain is the *1991 Carey Cellars La Cuesta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (pounds 3.99, normally pounds 7, Majestic), very herbaceous, but richly raspberry-fruity.

Champagne at under pounds 10 is rarely delicious, but the new ***Laytons Champagne Brut (pounds 9.95 Laytons of London NW1, Andre Simon of London W1 and SW1) is nicely mature, soft and elegant, a real snip at this price. But not all excellent fizz comes from Champagne. The new South African ***Madeba Brut (pounds 6.95 selected Sainsburys) is equally good in a softer, creamier way, with subtle buttery flavours; and **Chevalier de Moncontour, Vouvray Brut (pounds 6.99 selected Tescos, on offer for four weeks from 18 April at pounds 5.99) is much softer than most Vouvray, not quite dry and full of honeyed, quincy fruit.

****complex and exciting, ***excellent, **very good, *good