Wines of the month

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The Independent Online

Wine Planet.co.uk, given a glitzy launch last month, joins a crowded market selling wine direct from screen. Given its track record in Australia, it's poised to do well here with a cracking wine list, a little help from Bibendum and no shortage of flair. The best wines included an elegant, chablis-style 1998 Hunter Valley Glenguin Semillon, £7.95, and a fabulous 1988 Craiglee Shiraz, £27.95, a classic red with the gamey character of a mature Hermitage, but fuller and richer.

Wine Planet.co.uk, given a glitzy launch last month, joins a crowded market selling wine direct from screen. Given its track record in Australia, it's poised to do well here with a cracking wine list, a little help from Bibendum and no shortage of flair. The best wines included an elegant, chablis-style 1998 Hunter Valley Glenguin Semillon, £7.95, and a fabulous 1988 Craiglee Shiraz, £27.95, a classic red with the gamey character of a mature Hermitage, but fuller and richer.

With another week to run, the Safeway Autumn Wine Fair is in full swing, with the best buys from South America. Among them, the 1999 Balbi Malbec is down from £4.49 to £3.79, and Errazuriz Syrah Reserve reduced from £9.99 to £8.49. Partygoers could do worse than pick up Moët et Chandon's Latin fizz, Chandon Argentina, down from £7.49 to £5.99; to wash down finger food, there's Safeway's gutsy Corbiÿres, only £2.49 from £2.99. Port lovers should make a detour this weekend to any Wine Rack or Bottoms Up for a 20-per-cent-off offer on illustrious names back to the great 1977 vintage.

White:

2000 Fairleigh Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, £6.99 (2 = £5.99), Majestic

As the first of vintage 2000 from New Zealand hits the shelves, this good-value sauvignon blanc from Wither Hills is imbued with Marlborough's hallmark aromatic pungency, and a fruit salad of passion-fruit and gooseberry flavours. Works a treat with goat's cheese.

1990 Stephan Ehlen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese, £8.99, Waitrose

German wines are in the doldrums, so let's take advantage of the fact that their great estate rieslings are woefully undervalued. Waitrose is one of the few supermarkets genuinely committed to selling fine German whites. This classic Mosel riesling, whose complex flavours, mingling aromas of petrol with apple and honey, have evolved into finely poised sweet-and-sour maturity, will admirably suit grilled seafood and vegetable kebabs.

1999 Macon Fuissé, Grandes Bruyÿres, Vieilles Vignes, Rijckaert, £9.99, Oddbins

Of a number of excellent white burgundies in the new Oddbins range, this modern style from Michÿle Panay blends a buttery richness with complex flavours from French oak casks. Try it with the Provençal classic poulet aux 40 gousses d'aïl (20 cloves will do!).

Red

Tre Uve Ultima, Somerfield, £5.99, Tesco, Oddbins, Unwins, Booths

This blend of Montepulciano, Primitivo and Sangiovese is non-vintage (in fact, it's 1998) only because Italy forbids putting a vintage on a wine from two regions, in this case Puglia and Abruzzo. The fruit is lovely, damson rich and rounded in French and American oak casks, but with enough backbite to cope with rich pasta dishes.

1998 Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz Mourvÿdre, £6.99, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Victoria Wine

Penfolds has gone from strength to strength in the 1998 vintage, one of the Australian greats. This power-boosted Rhÿne-style blend has a ripe, juicy sweetness backed by spicy American oak and topped off with the grape's classic peppery character. Try it with rump steak with a black pepper crust.

1996 Ondarre Rioja Reserva, £8.49, Sainsbury's

In contrast to traditional riojas, this delightful modern blend has the bright strawberryish fruit of the best tempranillo. It's softened in small French and American oak casks, allowing the fruit to mellow without losing its flavour. An expressive rioja to make your mouth water, especially with a traditional slow-roasted shoulder of lamb.

Fizz

Banrock Station Sparkling Shiraz, £7.99, Waitrose (Sainsbury's next month)

Ever since Australia put the sparkle into shiraz, "sparkling burgundy" has been a niche Aussie style. Now it's becoming more widely recognised as a fun red fizz with crushed blackberry and mulberry fruitiness. If you haven't tried it, give this sweet, gluggy apéritif a whirl.

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