Wines of the month

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The Independent Culture
Few wine buyers have a sharper nose for a deal than Majestic Wine's Tony Mason. So when Mr Mason heard through the grapevine that the Swedish drinks monopoly was about to break up and flog off its horde of accumulated stocks, the deals-fixated buyer was on the next plane to Stockholm. Within 24 hours, he was back in London with 40,000 cases of excess baggage, the fruits of which are in Majestic's Stockholm Sizzlers offer starting on Tuesday and running till stocks run out.

Trappist beers and sub-pounds 5 Burgundy apart, affordable buys include the 1991 Vinaporta Cabernet Sauvignon, pounds 2.99, a green-pepper-style, claret- beating cabernet from Chile, now showing a degree of barrel-aged maturity. And, now at its peak, Dirk Richter's 1992 Mulheimer Sonnenlay Riesling Spatlese, pounds 4.99, a juicy sweet, Cox's apple Mosel riesling with a hint of the Mosel's kerosene character that comes with age.

Chile has emerged as the country currently best placed to beat France in the under-pounds 5 sauvignon blanc stakes. The 1996 Canepa Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, pounds 3.79 - pounds 3.99, Somerfield, Unwins, (called Rowan Brook at Asda), is typically zesty Chilean sauvignon blanc with notes of gooseberry and a lemony, crisp finish. Thanks to cooling technology, southern France, too, is starting to give its seniors in the Loire and Bordeaux a run for their sauvignon money. The 1995 Sauvignon Blanc, Cave de la Cessane, Vin de Pays d'Oc, pounds 3.99, Sainsbury's, has the aromatic sauvignon hallmark of elder flower with an attractively invigorating grapefruit character.

Safeway is trumpeting its new red Rhones made by the French flying wine maker Thierry Boudinaud. The basic 1995 Safeway Cotes du Rhone, pounds 3.49, is pleasantly soft, picnic or barbecue stuff and reasonable value at pounds 3.49. For an extra pounds 1.50, the 1994 La Chasse du Pape Reserve, pounds 4.99, labelled and bottled to look like a mini-Chateauneuf-du-Pape, gushes the abundantly ripe, peppery fruitiness of the southern Rhone's grenache, syrah and cinsault.

After successfully dropping chardonnay roots in the Languedoc, Englishman James Herrick has come up with his first red, named after his wife Simone. James Herrick's 1995 Cuvee Simone, Vin de Pays d'Oc, pounds 4.99, (at Asda, Davisons, Fullers, Oddbins, Sainsbury's, Somerfield, Unwins and Victoria Wine), is made mostly from syrah with dollops of grenache and ancient carignan for southern French pzazz. Inky red, aromatic and vibrant, the sheer quality of the syrah's spicy fruit sweetness allied to stylish oak make this Mediterranean red a captivating, if still youthful, little stunner.

Fizz of the month: Pongracz, pounds 9-69 - pounds 10.99, Davisons, Majestic. Methode Cap Classique may sound like something you'd find at a Marie Stopes clinic. It is, in fact, Cape-speak for methode champenoise. Pongracz, a champagne-style blend of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes is a classy Cape fizz with the mouth-filling richness and distinctive yeasty aromas and malty flavours reminiscent of good champagne