Grapevine: Kathryn McWhirter profiles Unwins

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The Independent Culture
UNWINS, one of the few remaining independent wine-shop chains, has just over 300 branches, mostly in the South-east. Prices are not cheap (though bargains are to be had among the good range of mature and maturing fine clarets); there is very little below pounds 3.50. In the last few years the range has become much more interesting, but Burgundies and California wines are still very weak points. Unwins stay open until 10pm every night except Sunday, and deliver free all over the South-east.

WHITES

***1989 Oppenheimer Sacktrager Silvaner Auslese, Guntrum ( pounds 9.39) Delicious, characterful sweet German wine with vegetable, barley sugar and honeyed flavours.

**Ritzenthaler Cremant d'Alsace Brut ( pounds 7.99) Good, interesting fizz, rich, appley and toasty.

REDS

**1989 Pinot Noir Cuvee a l'Alsacienne, Ritzenthaler ( pounds 5.49) Light; maturing, savoury character.

**1989 Chateau de Segure, Fitou ( pounds 4.99) Rich and tobacco-scented.

**1989 Cotes du Rhone, Domaine de Tout-Vent ( pounds 4.99) Nicely mature, with rich plummy, figgy fruit.

**1990 Casina del Gallo Chianti Classico, Baroncini ( pounds 4.99) A young, fruity Chianti.

*Minervois Domaine de l'Estagnol ( pounds 3.49) Full-bodied, with smoke, tobacco and strawberry flavours.

PORT

***1986 Smith-Woodhouse Late-

Bottled Vintage ( pounds 6.99) Classy port for this price, with sweet, plummy fruit and cedary flavour.

OTHER BEST BUYS THIS MONTH

WHITES UNDER pounds 3.50

*1992 Lindemans South East Australian Cawarra Colombard Chard-

onnay ( pounds 3.49 Oddbins) Crisp and peachy with a hint of oak.

*1992 Oddbins White, Domaine de Joy, Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne ( pounds 3.39 Oddbins) Fresh, light, crisp and flowery.

*1991 Erben Kabinett, Rheinhessen ( pounds 2.99 Waitrose) Crisp and grapey.

*1992 Hindmarsh Hills Chenin Blanc ( pounds 3.19 Oddbins) Big, young, peach and pear-fruity.

REDS UNDER pounds 3.50

**1987 Lovico Suhindol Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ( pounds 2.99 Sainsbury's) This month's star buy - delicious, rich, minty and blackcurranty fruit; elegant and oaky.

*Comte de Feynes, Cuvee Prestige, Raoul Johnstone ( pounds 3.29 Majestic) Soft, easy-drinking, raisiny flavours.

*Do Campo Tinto ( pounds 2.99 Sainsbury's) Gluggable cherry-fruity Portuguese.

*Vin de Pays des Comtes Rhodaniens Syrah, Producteurs Reunis de L'Ardeche ( pounds 2.99 Waitrose) Clear, pastille-raspberry fruit, hint of leather, delicious for spring and summer.

WHITES UNDER pounds 5

***1992 Oxford Landing Sauvignon Blanc, Yalumba ( pounds 4.69 Waitrose, Oddbins) Unusually crisp and aromatic for Australian Sauvignon, with lovely buttery character and flavours of asparagus and gooseberries.

**1992 Bon Vallon Chardonnay, South Africa ( pounds 4.49 most Sainsburys) Crisp, buttery Chardonnay with rich apple and pineapple fruit.

**1988 Ruppertsberger Nussbien Riesling Kabinett, Rheinpfalz ( pounds 3.69 Safeway) Light and complex German wine, very fruity and honeyed.

*1992 Semillon Chardonnay, South- east Australia ( pounds 3.65 Safeway) Big, fresh and flavoursome, pear and peach-fruity white.

REDS UNDER pounds 5

***1989 Cosme Palacio y Hermanos Rioja ( pounds 4.55 Waitrose) Firm and vanilla-oaky, with rich, plummy fruit.

***1990 Ribera del Duero Tinto Callejo ( pounds 4.99 Majestic, pounds 4.75 Waitrose) Delicious, oaky Spanish red with savoury flavours, plenty of fruit and a velvety texture.

**1990 Chais Baumiere Merlot, Vin de Pays d'Oc ( pounds 3.99 selected Sainsburys) Very easy-drinking - blackberry-fruity and gently oaky red.

**1990 Cotes du Ventoux, Paul Jaboulet Aine ( pounds 3.99 Oddbins, pounds 4.39 Majestic) Easy-drinking and soft, with scents of strawberries and tar.

SPARKLING WINES UNDER pounds 7

*Great Western Brut, Seppelt ( pounds 4.99 Waitrose, Majestic and Oddbins) Fresh, fruity Australian fizz, far better than anything you'd find from France at this price.

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