GRAPEVINE

KATHRYN MCWHIRTER ON SOME PARTICULAR FAVOURITES
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The Independent Culture
HOWEVER recommendable a wine may be, it rarely gets drunk in our house. We typically taste 20 or 30 bottles at a go, always at least three or four a day. And the bottles, two nips removed, go to the neighbours, the postman, milkman, friends, the garage, the local Natwest bank... The one we keep to drink ourselves has to be a superstar. After a recent tasting of a score of new Italian wines, the one we kept was the rich, thickly blackberry-fruity 1994 Torre del Falco, Torrevento (pounds 4.99 Odd-bins). This is brilliant, seductive red from Puglia, the "heel" of Italy, made from a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon and the good local grape, Uva di Troia.

Quality from Puglia is still very mixed, but you can be sure of attractive wines from the firm of Cantele, right down in the Salento Peninsula at the tip of the heel. Not only is the owner of this family winery, Augusto Cantele, the head of the Southern Italian Wine-makers Association, but he has been working for three vintages with the British-based Australian Kym Milne and his Italian-Australian winemaker, David Enzo Freschi. The climate is more moderate here than you might expect, cooled by sea breezes from both east and west, and with careful grape selection wines can be far lighter than the traditional soupy reds. The lightest of the Cantele reds is cherry- and strawberry-perfumed, soft and chillable: buy it as Country Collection Puglian Red (pounds 2.95 Kwik Save), Eclisse Rosso, Cantele (pounds 2.99 Morrisons), Country Cellars Puglian Red (pounds 3.19 Safeway), Telero (pounds 3.19 Oddbins). Try the richer, fuller 1987 Salice Salentino Rosso, Cantele (pounds 4.99 Tesco) with Cheddar cheese.

Another brilliant new buy is 1992 Chianti Classico, Uggi-ano (pounds 3.49 Morrisons). If you had paid pounds 2 a bottle more for this, you wouldn't be disappointed - it is rich, ripe and plummy-fruity with a hint of spicy oak. Against this stunning value Classico, the ordinary 1993 Chianti Uggiano (pounds 2.99 Morrisons) looks less of a scoop, but it, too, is good value, easy-drinking and already mature. 1993 San-giovese Cabernet Sauvignon della Toscana, Banfi (pounds 4.99 Marks & Spencer) is also from Chianti country but in a totally different style - a soft, fruity summer blend of the local Sangiovese grape. 1993 Rubilio, Casa Vinicola Cala-trasi (pounds 4.99 Marks & Spencer) also has interesting, complex flavours from a mix of Caber-net Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and an obscure local grape.

THE AUSTRALIAN flying winemaker John Worontschak has notched up yet another country with his Tesco Canadian Red (pounds 3.99). The winery he worked with for the 1994 vintage was near the Niagara Falls in Ontario, just north of New York State, the main wine-making state on the east coast of the USA. Wine-making in south-east Canada is on an even more modest scale than in the north-east US. On both sides of the border, wines were traditionally made with dubious local grape varieties, belonging to a quite different vine species from the one to which the famous Euro-pean vines (Chardonnay etc) belong. The American vines are reputed to have a "foxy" flavour. I have yet to hunt one down to check that out. Half the vines in Ontario are of the "foxy" type, but many are now crosses between American and European vines; the best wineries also grow unadulterated European Chardonnays and Gamays. You can taste the cool climate in the high acidity of the Tesco red, but the fruit is rich and plummy. Chill it for a refreshing summer red. The oaky, quite sharp Tesco Canadian White (also pounds 3.99) is very pleasant but less good.

SOME new Portuguese reds are also scoops. The Austral-ian-made 1993 Monte Velho, Reguengos (pounds 3.99 Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Thresher) - from east of Lisbon towards the Spanish border - is soft and smooth and wonderful value. The 1994 Ponte de Alcorce, Vinho Regional Ribatejo (pounds 3.89 Victoria Wine) has rich raspberry and strawberry fruit, as well as a pleasantly firm streak of tannin.This comes from an estate just north-east of Lisbon. 1994 Alta Mesa Tinto, Estremadura (pounds 2.99 Victoria Wine, pounds 3.49 Unwins) from west of Lisbon has raspberry and plum fruit, and the brightly raspberry- fruity 1994 Pedra do Monte, Terras do Sado (pounds 3.79 Unwins) comes from the Setubal Peninsula, just south of the capital.

IT'S a long time since I recommended a wine at just over pounds 2, but the loss-leader for Somer-field's current Italian promotion costs just pounds 2.19. Somer-field Montereale Sicilian White (back to pounds 2.99 from 30 August) is fresh and slightly almondy, and slips down easily. Another good buy is I Grilli di Villa Thalia, Rosso di Sicilia (pounds 2.95 until 12 Septem-ber, then pounds 3.65), an interesting, really fruity blend of Italian grapes with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

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