Grapevine: Kathryn McWhirter on South African reds and fine fizzes

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IT'S GOOD to see that South African wines are beginning to emerge from their dark age. However, it is still unusual to find a really tasty wine made from South Africa's red speciality, the Pinotage vine, created by crossing a Pinot Noir vine with the mediocre Cinsault of the South of France. 'Nail-varnish remover', 'disinfectant' and 'dull' are the words that recur in my tasting notes. One of the very few exceptions is the family estate of Kanonkop, whose Pinotage is richly characterful, the grape's bad flavours eliminated by innovative, skilful winemaking. Safeway has a delicious, oaky blend of Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon, **1991 Kanonkop Kadette ( pounds 5.69), full of ripe damson and blackberry fruit and some tannin. The back label says 'best consumed within a year of purchase', but it would probably be even better in a year's time. The unblended Pinotage is yummier still. ***1990 Kanonkop Pinotage ( pounds 9.80 Berry Bros & Rudd) is dark and rich; the ***1991 Kanonkop Pinotage ( pounds 6.99 Welshpool Wine Co of Welshpool, pounds 7.63 Norman Goodfellows of London W1, pounds 7.95 Bretby Wine Co of Woodville, Swadlincote, Burton-on-Trent, pounds 7.99 William Low, pounds 8.25 Davisons, pounds 9.95 Fortnum & Mason, pounds 10.25 Berry Bros & Rudd) is even richer. You could drink it now or it would keep for years.

From Australia, try the *Taltani Brut Tache ( pounds 6.49 until 16 May, then pounds 7.99 Majestic). The best value fizzes at the moment from California are ***Scharffenberger Brut ( pounds 8.99 Asda), a lovely, creamy, lightly malty and savoury fizz with lemony acidity; and **Chateau St Jean Brut ( pounds 8.99 Majestic), crisp, fruity and biscuity. And, until 16 May, Majestic is selling the Australian *Angas Brut Rose - always one of the best value, tastiest low-price fizzes - pounds 5.99 per bottle or, with 15 per cent off for an unsplit case, pounds 5.09 per bottle.

***excellent, **very good, *good