Bulletin for burgundy-lovers - should you bother with the 1998 vintage? It's one of the more up-and-down vintages of recent years, and you'll have to hand-pick carefully from the specialist wine merchants. Look hard, though, and you should find some gems, mainly among the whites. Reds are generally better from the juicier, come-hither 1997 vintage. Steer clear of the high street and find a specialist burgundy merchant. Some of the best are listed below.
Charles Taylor Wines (020 7928 8151), has two fine Savignys from Girard-Vollot, a juicy, strawberryish 1997 Savigny-les-Beaune, £90 a case, and a sumptuously berry-fruity 1997 Savigny 1er cru Les Peuillets, £125, along with a pure, perfumed, intensely flavoured 1997 Gevrey Chambertin from Louis Boillot, £180. Try Morris & Verdin for good-value whites, in particular Olivier Merlin's 1998 MacÃ¿n La Roche Vineuse, Vieilles Vignes, £90, Devevey's fine 1997 Hautes CÃ¿tes de Beaune Champs Perdrix, or for a white with subtlety and finesse, Jean-Philippe Fichet's beautifully balanced, fulsomely flavoured, minerally Meursault Le Meix Sous le ChÃ¢teau, £180. I did find one lovely red from 1998: Jean-Jacques Girard's 1998 Savigny-les-Beaune Les Fourneaux, £120, Morris & Verdin. Duty is paid on prices with VAT still to be added.
For good 1997 and/or 1998 white and red burgundies, contact: Morris & Verdin, London SE1 3ER (020 7357 8866); Charles Taylor Wines, London SE1 7PZ (020 7928 8151); La RÃ©serve, London SW3 1RB (020 7589 2020); Bibendum, London NW1 8UR (020 7916 7706); Tanners, Shrewsbury SY1 1XD (01743 234455); Seckford Wines, Suffolk IP12 1PE (01394 446622); Haynes Hanson & Clark, London SW1W 9NP (020 7259 0102); Justerini & Brooks, London SW1A 1LZ (020 7493 8721); Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh EH4 1DS (0131 343 1159); Domaine Direct, London EC1R 4RB (020 7837 1142).
White: 1999 Santa Carolina Lontue Chardonnay, £3.49, Sainsbury'sThis is a lively, tropically fruity Chilean chardonnay with a refreshing spritz, undertones of lemon and pineapple and a light shading of oak for added roundness.
1998 Podium Late Harvest Verdicchio, £5.99, Tesco (due in Monday)The verdicchio grapes from north-east Italy were picked ultra-ripe, giving this dry bianco a rich, honeyed character and full, buttery texture with enough cleansing acidity to bind it all neatly together.
1999 Penfolds Eden Valley Reserve Riesling, £9.99, Safeway (26 stores from mid-April - 01622 712987) From the same stable as Penfolds' controversially priced Yattarna Chardonnay, this sleek new little beauty from the Eden Valley is full-bodied and rich but dry, with undertones of lemon and lime zest and steely acidity. Try with sharply sauced fish or chicken, and hang on to a bottle or two as it will develop extra honeyed richness with age.
Red: 1999 AdiseÃ±o Reserve Malbec, £5.99, SafewayA powerful, sweetly spiced, youthful Argentine red made from the malbec grape by Australian winemaker Alastair Maling. There's lots of gutsy fruit and tannins begging to be matched with a slab of rare, red meat.
1996 Beringer Appellation Zinfandel, North Coast, £8.99, Oddbins Beringer is one of a handful of California wineries to maintain a good ratio between quality and the price we have to pay in the UK. This perfumed North Coast red made from the zinfandel is a good example of the variety's opulent spice and succulent berry-fruit quality.
1996 Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva, £12.99, Waitrose Inner Cellar (40 branches)Poised Chianti Classico from one of the best-known names in Italy. Scented with cherry fruit and polished, subtle sweet oak, it combines savoury dryness with silky tannins in perfect balance. Expensive maybe, but you do get your money's worth.
Fizz: CuvÃ©e Napa by Mumm, £7.99, Sainsbury'sThis stylish blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier from Mumm Champagne's Napa Valley outpost expands into a mouthful of rich, foaming bubbles with an ultra-fresh crispness to balance the ripe fruit flavours.