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

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MAJESTIC Wine Warehouse is offering big savings until 28 March on some of its extensive new selection of Rhones. Yummiest among the reds are the intensely raspberry-fruity ***1991 La Petite Ruche, Crozes-Hermitage, Chapoutier ( pounds 5.99 until 28 March, then pounds 6.99) and the more complex ***1989 Cornas, Ogier ( pounds 7.99 until 28 March, then pounds 8.99), a very raspberry-fruity and unusually un-tannic wine for Cornas, with smoky hints and nutmeggy spice. Nearly as good, below three stars by just a whisker, are the **1990 St-Joseph, Ogier ( pounds 5.99 until 28 March, then pounds 6.99), rich and considerably scented, with raspberry fruit and flavours of smoke, malt and thyme; **1991 Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone, rich soft and flavourful ( pounds 4.99); and **1991 Rasteau, Cotes-du- Rhone Villages, Chapoutier ( pounds 5.99), densely fruity, a touch herby, with some tannin. **1990 Clairanne, Domaine de la Presidente, Cotes-du-Rhone Villages ( pounds 4.99 until 28 March, then pounds 5.29) is a softer, lighter red with plum and cherry fruit flavour overlaid by buttery softness. And for a deliciously easy glugger, you couldn't do better than the fresh cherry and almond-fruity *1993 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, Mark Robertson, Carpentras Co-op ( pounds 2.99), made by a New Zealander. The same New Zealander has put his mark on the Carpentras Co-op's whites: **1993 Chateau la Sable, Cotes du Luberon Blanc ( pounds 3.79) is very fresh and appealingly aromatic, reminiscent of apples and almonds; the *1993 Cotes du Ventoux Blanc ( pounds 3.29) is pleasantly lemony-musky and crisp. All the southern Rhone selection will be open for tasting in Majestic warehouses this Sunday.

WAITROSE'S WINE mail order division, Findlater Mackie Todd, is offering the brilliant value **Gorge de Joyeuse Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon 1992, Vin de Pays des Coteaux de l'Ardeche ( pounds 3.25), a lovely, firm, juicy-fruity, perfumed red, with the tarry, raspberry character of the Syrah dominating the blackcurranty Cabernet; the ***1990 Crozes-Hermitage, Cros du Mourier, Cave des Clairmonts ( pounds 5.75) is richer, but elegant and well balanced, with deliciously complex savoury, raspberry, tar and coffee flavours. Neither of these wines is available from Waitrose stores. Instead, contact: Findlater Mackie Todd / Waitrose Direct, Freepost, London SW19 3VY, tel: 081-543 0966.

STAR RATING: ***excellent,

**very good, *good