Wines of the month

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The Independent Culture
This month's samples include a mixed bag from the mighty republic of South Africa, whose phenomenal rise from sales of less than quarter of a million cases in 1990 to three million last year has been boosted by Australia's recent move upmarket. I tried but failed to be inspired by an insipid range called Huguenot Hills, stocked by Somerfield. Better value is the Diamond Hills range at Waitrose, the Chenin Chardonnay, 1995, pounds 3.75, a good, clean, crisp, dry quaffer, and 1994 Pinotage Cabernet Sauvignon, pounds 3.75, sweetly spicy and plummy with a rustic, dry aftertaste.

Sainsbury's new Cape offerings include a zesty, dry 1995 South African Fume Blanc Reserve Selection, Robertson, pounds 4.45, with a touch of oak failing to extinguish the typically crisp, mouthwatering character of the grape, and the 1995 South African Chardonnay Reserve Selection, pounds 4.25, Stellenbosch, lightly smoky, with tropical fruit sweetness and a brisk, saving spritz. Elsewhere, the 1995 Kumala Cinsault Pinotage, pounds 3.39-pounds 3.99, Booths, Safeway, Somerfield, is a, warm, softly spiced, southern- Rhone-like blend.

Thresher's joint venture in California with British wine maker Hugh Ryman has been partially successful, with his aromatic, rounded, tropically fruity 1995 King's Canyon Sauvignon Blanc, pounds 3.99, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up - again better this year than the chardonnay - and the 1994 King's Canyon Petite Sirah - a misnomer. Far from petite, this is a bruising, sweetly ripe, damson-skin red, with hefty tannins to chew on. California is usually worth paying a bit more for. Kevin Wilson at Greenalls Cellars Wine Cellar has unearthed a little gem in the 1993 Reds, pounds 5.99, a luscious, sweetly ripe, concentrated red from Sonoma's Laurel Glen Vineyard.

A final excellent white and red this month. The 1995 New Zealand Dry White, pounds 4.25, Waitrose, is a fresh, clove-pinks-like, floral white with a delicately cinnamon character. From Spain, Hugh Ryman's 1993 Santara Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, pounds 4.79, Sainsbury's, is an authentic Bordeaux blend showing the capsicum character of cabernet with spicy, sweet oakiness.

Unmissable oddball of the month is the 1994 Peter Lehmann Botrytis Semillon, pounds 6.99 half-bottle, Oddbins Fine Wine Stores. This is a beautifully crafted, ultramodern dessert white with refreshing, citrus-zest fruitiness and clean, strong, semillon character. Fizz of the month: 1992 Seaview Pinot Noir Chardonnay, pounds 7.99, Oddbins, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, a toasty blend of the two main champagne grapes with that distinctive yeastiness the French like to refer to, with a disparaging Gallic shrug, as "le gout anglais".

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