Wines Of The Month

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The Independent Online

It's axiomatic of the January sales that they're upon us at a time when most of us are invoking either virtue or penury - or both - to cut down on our alcohol intake. But the sales by their nature offer temptation and there are some devillishly mouthwatering deals. And you don't have to give in by drinking them now.

It's axiomatic of the January sales that they're upon us at a time when most of us are invoking either virtue or penury - or both - to cut down on our alcohol intake. But the sales by their nature offer temptation and there are some devillishly mouthwatering deals. And you don't have to give in by drinking them now.

Lay & Wheeler kicked off its January sale on Tuesday, and with ample stocks, it's well worth contacting the Colchester-based company for its list (01206 764446). Star buys include the 1999 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, down from £15.95 to £12.95, Albert Mann's 1997 Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg from £10.50 to £8.50, and Gobillard Brut Grande Réserve Champagne from £16.20 to £11.95.

Before a visit to Neals Yard Dairy and a warming grilled chorizo-rocket sandwich and hot coffee at the nearby Borough Market, you could pop into Burgundy specialist Morris & Verdin next Saturday between 9am and 3pm for a tasting of the "irresistible bargains" in the bin-end sale at its offices at 10 The Leathermarket, Weston Street, London SE1 3ER (020-7357 8866).

Meanwhile, Laytons January bin-end sale (020-7388 4567), offers reductions at its London and Cirencester Jeroboams shops on a large list of wines - Deutz Champagne, for instance, reduced by £3 to £16.95, and Henriot Blanc de Blancs Champagne from £18.11 to £15.95.

If you're looking for more than a few bottles of wine, following the sale of Seagrams, Oddbins is on the market - at around £30m. The stores themselves are offering what the compnay calls "a plethora of gems" in its January sale which runs until 21 January with 15 per cent off any three bottles from the list, among them the excellent 1998 Yonder Hill Merlot, £8.99 (see below), the 1998 Vergelegen Chardonnay Reserve, £9.99 and fine white burgundy in the 1998 Bourgogne Blanc Baron de la Charriÿre, £9.99. Somerfield is offering 20 per cent off selected wines till 30 January, but steer clear of the unpleasantly bitter d'Istinto Syrah, even at £2.50, and plump instead for the crisp, minerally 1999 Chablis, down from £6.99 to £4.99 to 29 January, and the pleasantly cherryish 1997 Chianti Conti Serristori, snipped from £5.99 to £3.99 until Monday week.

White

1999 Château Bonnet Blanc, £4.99, Thresher Wine Shops, Victoria Wine, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up From André Lurton's Entre-Deux-Mers property in Bordeaux, this dry white, reduced by £1 until 17 January , is an attractive blend of sémillon and sauvignon blanc with a dash of muscadelle made in a refreshingly crisp style with citrus and tropical grapefruity undertones. Try it with crab or fish cakes.

1999 Alamos Chardonnay, £5.99, Oddbins, Majestic, Unwins, Wine Society One of the best under-£10 chardonnays coming out of Argentina, this voluptuously honeyed Andean white with sweet, buttered popcorn and peachy flavours has a cleansing acidity for balance. Given the level of ripeness, it will wash down a Thai green curry nicely.

2000 Neil Ellis Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc, £7.99, Safeway Changing the source of his sauvignon grapes from Elgin to Groenekloof in the cool Darling Hills, Neil Ellis, one of the rising stars of South African wine, has managed to retain the delicately herbaceous aromatic quality of the sauvignon grape while building richness, texture and intensity of gooseberry and passion fruit flavour on the palate. Drink with toasted goat's cheese.

Red

1999 Italia, £4.99, Safeway In its stylish, heavy-duty designer bottle, the perfumed mulberry aromas on this Italian rosso are backed by ripe, damsony fruit on the palate. Considerable fresh acidity gives this wine a dry, savoury kick on the aftertaste, making it perfect with pasta or black pudding.

1998 Yonder Hill Merlot, £8.99, Oddbins With a leavening of cabernet franc, this fine, powerful Cape merlot put together by David Lockley is the flagship red at Frikkie and Daneela Naudeé's tiny Stellenbosch estate facing Helderberg Mountain. Finely perfumed with a cedary oak quality and rich in succulent, soft-centred, cassis fruit flavours, try it with roast duck or calf's liver.

1997 Villa Antinori Chianti Classico, £8.99, Waitrose From the landmark 1997 vintage, this is a sumptuous, supple central Tuscan red with the distinctive sour cherry fruitiness of the sangiovese grape cunningly spiced and softened by a degree of new oak treatment which flatters, not to deceive, but to delight. This won't disgrace a porcini risotto or rosemary-coated roast lamb.

Fizz

1995 Seppelt Sparkling Shiraz, £9.49, down to £7.99 until 17 January, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up With a substantial discount on what used to be known as sparkling burgundy in Australia, now's a good time to be adventurous if you haven't already tried this vintage fizz style, now back to its politically correct form of sparkling shiraz. With liquorice-like spiciness and sweet fruit, it makes an unusual apéritif.

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