Grapevine

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The Independent Culture
"No more Australians!" Eva Keresztury, director of the Hungarian wine business Interconsult, had just opened a beautiful, brand new, modern winery on the banks of the Danube, ready for the 1995 vintage. And British supermarkets, insistent on having their wines overseen by a flying winemaker, would have to lump it. Eva Keresztury had full confidence in the winemaking abilities of her co-director and chief winemaker A'kos Kamocsay. He had spent years working with every Australian wine doctor who had passed their way: Nick Butler and Kym Milne as well as Englishman Hugh Ryman and his team of Australians. (Interconsult were agents for Hugh's Hungarian base, the Gyongyos winery). He had learnt the Australian lesson. No more Australians were necessary.

"We were terribly worried," admitted Liz Robertson, quality and selection controller at Safeway, a big buyer in recent years of Interconsult wines made under the direction of Australian Nick Butler. "In the old wineries, making his own wines alongside Nick, A'kos never overcame that eastern European taste. Nick had finished last year anyway, and we were keen to get in another flying winemaker to make sure we got modern wines. But Eva was adamant. And in the end the wines have proved her right - they are everything we could wish."

It's true - almost without exception, the new A'kos Kamocsay wines are brilliant value. You'd pay much more from the Sauvignon supremos of New Zealand for the lovely, aromatic, zingy tropical fruit of the 1995 River Duna Dauvignon Blanc Special Cuvee Bataszek (pounds 3.99 Safeway). Down a price step, A'kos's 1995 Mecsekalji Sauvignon Blanc Reserve (pounds 3.29 Asda) could also sell for well over pounds l more with its lovely, smoky, gooseberry flavours. There's also a good, fruity, delicately oaky version, 1995 Neszmely Estate Barrique-fermented Sauvignon Blanc (pounds 4.99 Safeway). The Chardonnay has worked well, too. 1995 Mecsekalji Chardonnay Reserve (pounds 3.29 Safeway) is ripe, crisp, honeyed and underpriced.

This is also a very good source of really attractive, lowest-budget whites. The local Hungarian grape Irsai Oliver provides a very aromatic character for the 1995 Badger Hill Hungarian White (pounds 2.59 Asda), reminiscent of lemon marmalade and Muscat table grapes. This one beats the fresh, perfumed 1995 River Duna Irsai Oliver, Neszmely (pounds 2.99 Safeway), but that, too, is still excellent value and very gluggable.

A'KOS stars yet again with one of the best buys from this month's Safeway wine fair (running from now till May 25th), an annual chance for the buyers of Safeway's wine department to offer batches of wine that would normally be too small to stretch around their 371 stores. The 1995 Pinot Noir Rose, Neszmely, A'kos Kamocsay (pounds 3.29 wine fair only) is crisp and summery. Match that for everyday drinking with a red, a yummily fruity and subtly oaky 1995 Bulgarian Aged in Oak Merlot, Rousee, David Wollan (pounds 2.99 in all stores, normally pounds 3.79), and two whites from Australian Kym Milne: 1995 Zagara Grillo (pounds 3.29, normally pounds 3.99) from Sicily, rich, slightly oaky, tangy, and tasting different from a mix of local grapes with a little Chardonnay; and 1996 Roseview Early Release Chenin Blanc (pounds 2.99, normally pounds 3.49 all stores), a crisp, fruity, honeyed white "nouveau" picked right at the beginning of this year's South African harvest.

Those are the best budget scoops of the fair. A little more, though, would buy you a stunning value Australian red, 1991 Ryecroft Peppertree Cabernet/Shiraz/Merlot (pounds 4.99 wine fair only), full of intense fruit and lovely, minty, mulberry and treacle flavours.

White up-market best buys are a wonderful, toasty, pineappley 1993 Ebenezer Barossa Valley Chardonnay, Hardy's (pounds 6.99 wine fair only) with a refreshing streak of lime, Australian again, and the classic 1995 Pouilly Fume, Les Bonnes Bouches, Henri Bourgeois (pounds 6.99 wine fair only). For Sancerre lovers, this wine from the village of Pouilly sur Loire, just across the river from Sancerre, is much better than Henri Bourgeois's Sancerre on the normal, non-wine-fair shelves.

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