Drink: All the fun of the wine fairs

Wines of the month There are bargains galore as the big British supermarkets get festive. Anthony Rose searches out the best of the fair deals

May is Foire du Vin month, and the major supermarkets have bargains galore. The 13 special purchases for Tesco's Wine Festival (until 25 May) are "wines which we'd love to stock all year, but [of which] there simply isn't enough". Safeway's May Wine Fair extends to 29 May with cuts of between 50p and pounds 2 on a good cross-section of the range. Sainsbury's has its Americas promotion until 15 May with some attractive price cuts, while, in typical swashbuckling style, Somerfield's Focus on Fruit slashes a handful of prices to the bone.


1998 Caballo de Plata Torrontes, La Riojana, pounds 2.49, Safeway. Argentina continues to gain ground in the cheap and cheerful market. If you like the flavours of the Muscat grape, you'll enjoy this opulent Argentine white (down by pounds 1 for the duration of the Safeway Wine Fair) conjured up by Australian winemaker Nick Butler from the South American giant's aromatic Torrontes grape.

1998 Somerfield Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Canepa, pounds 2.79, Somerfield. At pounds 3.99, good, fresh, zesty Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is already seeing off competitors from the Loire and New Zealand. With pounds 1.20 lopped off the normal price, Somerfield has made this fragrant, elderfloral dry Central Valley white from the most recent vintage pretty much irresistible. The offer runs until 11 May.

1998 Millton Estate Barrel-Fermented Chenin Blanc, pounds 7.99, Tesco, 80 stores (Wine Festival). James Millton has made a speciality of the Chenin Blanc grape (of Vouvray fame) in the low-yielding Te Arai vineyard on his organic estate in Gisborne. Fermented in small oak casks to add flavour and texture, this is a rich, delicately spicy New Zealand white with a crisp, grapefruity aftertaste.


1997 Cotes de Columbia Grenache, pounds 4.99, Tesco, 400 stores (Wine Festival). It may come as a surprise to find a southern French grape like Grenache as far north as Washington State, but the rain shield of the Cascade Mountains helps keep the vineyards dry enough to make a success of this Mediterranean variety. This spicy, warming red shows the typical peppery undertones of the grape, and the ripe strawberryish fruitiness lends a Cotes du Rhone- like feel. Hence, a mite pretentiously, the Cotes de Columbia name.

1996 Eagle Peak Merlot, Fetzer, pounds 5.49, Sainsbury's (to 15 May). The Mendocino-based winery Fetzer has become one of California's best value brands in this country. With an extra pounds 1 off as part of Sainsbury's Americas promotion, this smoothly-textured, stylish Merlot from Fetzer, spiced with toasty American oak and a dash of Zinfandel, offers plenty of cherry- like fruitiness and a touch of fresh mint.

1995 Plaisir de Merle Cabernet Sauvignon, pounds 7.99, Majestic. This top- of-the-range Cabernet Sauvignon from the giant Stellenbosch Farmers Winery's new showcase winery vividly demonstrates that big is not necessarily bad in the Cape. Reduced by pounds 2 until Bank Holiday Monday, this big-boned, vanilla-laden red, which is starting to soften into an approachable claret- style mouthful of fruit, is well worth snapping up.

Fizz of the Month

Louis Roederer Quartet Brut, pounds 11.99 if bought as a case of six bottles (from pounds 14.99), until 3 May, Majestic. Of California's many sparkling wine houses, Louis Roederer produce the most stylish and Champagne-like of fizzes. This is thanks to a winning combination of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, the cool Pacific breezes of the Anderson Valley, and the expertise of French bubble master Michel Salgues. The complexity in this crisp, appley Mendocino fizz comes from the addition of oak-aged reserve wines, which add richness and a delicately toasty overlay of flavour

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