Grapevine: Kathryn McWhirter on seasonal pleasures

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The Independent Culture
AT SAINSBURY'S this summer you will see evidence of yet another Australian winemaker, this time working the wizardry of Oz on the unsuspecting Italians. The supermarket's own- label Italian range is far more characterful as a result. Last vintage, Geoff Merrill, one of Australia's best, was commissioned by Sainsbury's and stationed in Italy to supervise everything from the choice of vineyard and grapes through winemaking to bottling. The most successful of the current offers is the lovely white **Sainsbury's Grechetto dell'Umbria ( pounds 3.69), which is very soft and creamy, with a delicious salty tang and rich, greengagey fruit. **Sainsbury's Chardonnay delle Tre Venezie ( pounds 3.59) is also delicious - soft and subtle, with a hint of oak and good acidity. It's hard normally to get excited by Frascati, but *1993 Sainsbury's Frascati Secco Superiore ( pounds 3.75) is much better than normal, creamy and lemony with a nice almondy character, while *Sainsbury's Orvieto Classico ( pounds 3.55) is very attractive, gentle and subtle, with lots of fruit and a savoury tang. There's also a good red that is ideal for drinking chilled in the summer: Sainsbury's Teroldego Rotaliano ( pounds 3.95) is reminiscent of fresh damsons, with some tannin and a touch of leathery flavour. Sainsbury's also stocks Geoff Merrill's yummily fruity **1993 Mount Hurtle Grenache Rose, South Australia ( pounds 4.99) which was made six months earlier in Australia. Look out also for a delicious, subtle and complex ***1993 Chardonnay Atesino, Barrique Aged ( pounds 4.95, arriving at the end of July) and the soft, oaky and opulent **Cabernet Sauvignon Atesino, Barrique Aged ( pounds 4.95, also from the end of July).

TWO GOOD roses from Majestic Wine Warehouse would make nice summer drinks: the inexpensive, freshly redcurranty *1993 Cante Cigale Rose de Saignee, Vin de Pays de l'Herault ( pounds 3.49) and **1993 Chateau de Sours Rose ( pounds 5.99), dry, soft, fragrant and honeyed, made by an English couple in Bordeaux.

Star of the Majestic reds is ****1982 Vina Real Gran Reserva Rioja ( pounds 11.99), a lovely, dark, savoury, rich red, with some pruney flavours of maturity but still quite tannic. There are also some lovely, affordable southern French reds: the floral, tobaccoey **1992 Monastere de Trignan, Coteaux du Languedoc ( pounds 3.99), with lots of raspberry fruit and firm tannin; the big, darkly figgy and peppery **1990 Chateau Sainte Jeanne, Corbieres ( pounds 4.39); and **1990 Chateau Meaume, Bordeaux Superieur ( pounds 4.99). Soft, plummy and slightly farmyardy, easy-drinking claret: the classic **1990 Carte Noire Cotes-

du-Rhone Villages, Beaumes-de-

Venise ( pounds 4.99), with rich pepper and raisin fruit; and *1993 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, Mark Robertson ( pounds 2.99), a light, soft Rhone red with raspberry and tar flavours.

TWO EXCELLENT new wines from Navarra in northern Spain have just arrived at Bottoms Up. The **1993 Agramont Blanco ( pounds 4.49) is a rich, soft, biscuity white with pineappley fruit and crisp acidity. The red **1990 Agramont ( pounds 4.59, also available at the same price from Wine Rack and Thresher), a delicious scented blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with the flavourful Spanish Tempranillo grape, is oaky and blackcurranty with some tannin. **1989 Chivite Reserva ( pounds 4.49, same price from Wine Rack and Thresher) is another delicious red, richly perfumed, velvety and oaky.

ANOTHER summer bargain, just arrived on the shelves, is a lovely new Champagne, ****Deutz Reserve Grande Bretagne Brut ( pounds 17.63, Laytons of London NW1, and also available by mail order). Mostly Chardonnay but with 10 per cent Pinot Noir, this is soft, gentle, malty Champagne with toasty, toffeed, chocolatey complexity. Only a small quantity of this Champagne was made, probably enough to last the summer.

AT SAFEWAY, the excellent ***Wakefield White Clare Crouchen- Chardonnay ( pounds 4.99) was just a whisker away from a four-star rating, and fantastic value for money. Deliciously rich and ripe, but balanced by a good tang of acidity, it has lovely greengage fruit and hints of peach, toast and honey. The Crouchen vine with its lightly aromatic white wine has been abandoned in its homeland of southern France. But, having emigrated many decades ago, it lives on in Australia and South Africa.

****complex, exciting; ***excellent; **very good; *good