Wines to Drink With Beef

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The Independent Culture
The world is awash with red wine, and so is my front hall. Red is outselling white by a healthy margin, and ... wait, I have to answer the door. (PAUSE.) Back at the desk again, having just received yet another few bottles. Without further ado, a personal selection of some of the best for beef.

Pride of place goes to Somerfield, which is selling Bright Brothers Atlantic Vines Baga, (pounds 3.49 from pounds 3.99 till 31 December). This is a remarkable wine, laden with weird, pungent fruit which should keep even seasoned wine-hounds guessing about origin and varietals. It's the kind of wine that makes you stop and think when tasted on its own, and which can stand up to just about any red-wine dish. I love this stuff.

Tesco has another Portuguese bottle that's not quite as memorable but still very good, and with the same kind of dark, mysterious appeal. It's called JP Barrel Selection Red Wine (pounds 3.59, selected stores), and it's made entirely from the indigenous Periquita grape. Streaked with chewy, tarry fruit, and very impressive. More familiar Tescovite reds for the season include their own label Coonawara Cabernet Sauvignon (pounds 6.99), with chewy tannins but fine cassis fruit and a hint of mint, and a nice Fitou, Moulin de la Doline 1995 at the very nice price of pounds 3.99. The Fitou is raspingly rustic, with scents of dried herbs and aromatic, spicy fruit. A wine not just for beef but for any meat or game dish. Back in Portugal, you may already have discovered the pleasures of Quinta do Crasto - makers of some of the best port and now some of the best table wines in the country as well. Their two wines, Quinta do Crasto 1995 and Quinta do Crasto Reserve 1994, are perfumed, concentrated and wonderful. Available at Oddbins (and others) for pounds 5.75 and pounds 7.49 respectively.

Safeway has been turning up an unusually good bunch of well priced wintry reds, including Chateau du Piras, Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux 1994 (pounds 6.99). Good wood, good fruit and structure. In a completely different class is Chat-eau Soudars 1994 (pounds 9.99), a Haut-Medoc for grown-ups. For seekers after spicier fruit, Safeway's Domaine de Tudery St Chinian 1995 (pounds 4.29) is a good example of the appellation which will also benefit from a few more years in the bottle.

Pinotage from South Africa can, at its best, provide another enjoyable alternative to the classic French grapes, and Waitrose has a good handful which are all worthy of consideration. Clos Malverne Reserve Pino-tage 1996 (pounds 7.99) is the pick of the bunch - wild, racy fruit which is beautifully highlighted by a little oak. A very sophisticated example of this sometimes chewy grape. So is the Diemersdal Pinotage 1997 (pounds 5.49). Once you've got the Pinotage bug, and want to see what it's like in its pure form, look out for Culemborg Unwooded Pinotage 1996 (pounds 4.39).

Sainsbury has Bonterra Cab-ernet Sauvignon 1995, a wine made from organically grown grapes. It sells for pounds 7.99, not much of a premium for organicity, and more importantly, the wine is beautiful: very pure, medium-bodied Cabernet with a hint of oak sweetness and good follow-through. This wine can also be found at Oddbins and Fullers, and is well worth looking out for. So is any good example of Buzet, a top choice for lovers of Claret who can't afford the real thing. Buzet Cuvee 44 1996 (pounds 4.99) has fine scent and flavour of ripe berries at a good price.

And finally ... the Swedish bandwagon rolls on and on at Majestic. These enterprising guys bought dozens of exceptional wines from the Swedish state monopoly when it was turned over to the free market last year, and every month brings new arrivals. Claret is one of the strengths, but they sell out fast. All the more reason to rush along. For seekers after little bottles, halves of Chateau Soudars 1992 are available for pounds 2.99, but the one I'd go for - especially at pounds 4.99 - is Chateau St-Germain 1990, a stunning, supple wine that already has the bricky lustre of honest-to-God mature claret. Fantastic value, and not to be missed.

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