GRAPEVINE

KATHRYN McWHIRTER ON OLD GRAPES IN NEW WINE GUISES
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The Independent Culture
WINEGROWERS in Navarra in northern Spain can get tempting subsidies from the local government for grubbing up their old, bushy Garnacha (or Garnacho) vines and replanting with more upmarket Temp-ranillo or Cabernet Sau-vignon. If you tasted the old Garnacha wines you'd see why. But a visiting British wine merchant, Simon Loftus of Adnams of Southwold, knew that the Garnacha grape could do better. What was at fault was often the winemaking. Up in the hills, many vineyards of old, gnarled Garnacha vines still survived, and Simon Loftus knew what good, concentrated, fruity wine flavours have been produced elsewhere in the world from mature, low- yielding Grenache (or Garnacha) grapes.

So he did a deal with Telmo Rodriguez, a young, energetic winemaker at the top-quality Rioja wine estate of Remelluri. They would go off together into the hills prospecting for the most promising-looking grapes, Telmo would make the wine and Simon would sell it. A village high in the hills of northern Navarra came up with the grapes. 1994 Baso Garnacho, Navarra, Telmo Rodriguez (pounds 3.95 Adnams of Southwold, pounds 4.20 by mail order, 01502 727222) is full and concentrated, with delicious, soft, raspberry and ripe cherry fruit, and a little tannin, but nevertheless very easy and drinkable.

You can confidently expect new and different wines on each new wine list from Adnams of Southwold, and the latest one, just out, follows the pattern. Apart from the Garnacho, there's a wonderful and fascinating, slightly sweet red wine from the Valpolicella region. 1990 Bertani Recioto Spumante (pounds 11.50 in the shops, pounds 11.75 mail order) has delicious, rich, chocolatey fruit flavours fascinatingly balanced by a savoury, smoky character. It's best served chilled. I'd drink it as a quirky aperitif, but Simon Loftus recommends it with almond tart, creme brulee or dark chocolate. From the Loire, a brilliant, bone-dry 1992 Vouvray Sec, Cuvee Victor, Domaine des Aubuisieres (pounds 7.70 in the shops, pounds 7.95 mail order) - which is named after the vineyard owner's latest son - has complex flavours of quince, honey and nut, with rich, weighty fruit to balance the typically high acidity.

GRENACHE/Garnacha is a more reliable producer of good, fresh dry rose wines than of reds, and the Australian Mount Hurtle Grenache Rose is always one of the best. The 1994 (pounds 4.99 at selected Sainsbury's) is typically super-fruity and softly ripe. Another delicious rose for summer drinking can also be found at Sainsbury's: the crisp, herby and very fruity 1994 Domaine de la Tuilerie Merlot Rose, Ryman (pounds 3.99). And current Safeway special offers include a soft, ripe 1994 Fortant de France Syrah, Vin de Pays d'Oc (pounds 3.99), with rosehip and honey flavours. 1994 Cotes du Luberon, Ryman (pounds 3.19 Safeway), also full of rosehip flavour and good value, is made from Grenache and Syrah.

THREE delicious and affordable new Chilean reds have just arrived at Victoria Wine. The 1991 Marques de la Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, Concha y Toro (pounds 5.99) is the finest: it is richly blackcurranty with quite a lot of tannin and is good both for drinking now or for keeping a year or two. The 1992 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon, Concha y Toro (pounds 4.99) is scrumptiously soft and drinkable, full of fresh blackcurrant flavour and with an attractive grassy edge. And for a delicious change, try the 1994 La Fortuna Malbec (pounds 4.79). Malbec is a minor grape of Bordeaux, where it is blended into Cabernet and Merlot, but it is little planted nowadays because it is prone to crop failure. It produces more reliably in the warmer climates of the vineyards of South America, and there it is most often used in blends with other grapes. But it also turns out some good, easy-drinking reds all on its own, like this soft, raspberry- fruity example from Chile, with its subtle hints of mulberry, grass and smoke.

An even better find along the same lines at Victoria Wine is the South African 1992 Stellenzicht Cabernet Malbec (pounds 3.99), which is soft and quite subtle, with attractively smoky and tobaccoey flavours.

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