WINE Wines for less than a tenner
Finding quality wine under pounds 3 is becoming increasingly difficult, especially with the exchange rate pushing France's bread-and-butter basics over the pounds 3 mark. Australia, too, where short harvests have wreaked havoc on the supply-demand equation, is suffering.

Among a number of affordable red thirstquenchers, Somerfield's Valpolicella, a light, cherryish Veneto red, is slashed at Somerfield/Gateway from pounds 3.09 to a ludicrous pounds 2.09 until Tuesday. The 1994 Puerta de la Villa, Valdepenas, pounds 2.99, Victoria Wine, is a vibrantly juicy, unoaked Spanish red, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the 1994 Vega de Moriz, pounds 3.29, at Oddbins, and the 1994 Casa de la Vina, pounds 3.29, Fuller's, pounds 3.39, Wine Cellar, Berkeley Wines, and bigger Cellar 5s. Back at Oddbins, the lightly spicy 1994 Cuvee de Grignon, Vin de Pays de l'Aude, pounds 2.99, Oddbins, peps up the more rustic Winter Hill with an elegant dash of cabernet sauvignon.

Last September in Hungary, I met Mike Gadd, a pony-tailed Australian working under the supervision of his compatriot Kym Milne at the Nagyrede co-operative. One of the results of his vintage labours is the 1994 Cool Ridge, Unoaked Chardonnay, Nagyrede, pounds 3.99, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, a pleasantly buttery modern Hungarian style. He is also responsible for the spicier 1994 Cool Ridge Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay, pounds 4.99, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up.

In Hungary's Tokaj region, overseas investors, notably the French, are concentrating on indigenous varieties to revive the region's historic dessert wines. One of the by-products of the Jean-Michel Cazes company's investment is the beautifully labelled 1993 Disznoko Furmint, Tokaj, pounds 4.85, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, pounds 4.99, Waitrose, a characterful, almost austerely dry, spicy, unoaked white made from Tokaj's native Furmint grape.

In Australia, producers have started to come to grips with the demand for less oak to produce, more elegant, crisper, and, above all, more drinkable styles. A typical example is the 1994 Deakin Estate Chardonnay, pounds 4.99, Victoria Wine. This a citrusy, subtly oaked and deliciously fresh and juicy style of Chardonnay, which goes under the 1994 Red Cliffs Estate Chardonnay name, pounds 4.99, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up and pounds 5.49, Bibendum in Primrose Hill (0171-722 5577).

There is no oak at all on the perfumed, zesty 1995 Ridgewood Trebbiano, South East Australia, pounds 3.49, Waitrose, a varietal wine made from the normally insignificant Italian Trebbiano grape. For an unoaked chardonnay, which still manages to combine zingy fresh fruit flavours with complexity, the 1994 Samuels Bay Unoaked Chardonnay, Barossa Valley, pounds 6.49, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, a wine sourced by Adam Wynn of Mountadam, is a richly concentrated, pure, citrusy style.

If you're prepared to pay a bit extra for stylish white Burgundy, but still don't want to venture over pounds 10, the 1993 Mercurey Les Mauvarennes, pounds 9.99, bigger Safeway stores, is a seductive, rich and stylishly oaked chardonnay from one of wine merchant Francois Faiveley's own Cote Chalonnaise vineyards.

Any takers for riesling? Adnams "World's Greatest Grape" offer (Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6DP - 01502-727222) includes 29 rieslings from Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Alsace, even Germany, and with wines of the quality of Domaine Schoffitt (Alsace), Dr Loosen (Germany), Rockford and Stafford Ridge (Australia), Forrest Estate (New Zealand) and Argyle (Oregon), the pounds 89.50 case looks well worth a punt

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