Food And Drink: Wines of the month

Cape whites and Rhone reds for spring
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Whites of the month

Sainsbury's Old Oloroso, pounds 3.49 (half-bottle). Overproduced and over-sweetened so-called Sherry has given the real thing such a bad image that the damage will take time to repair. Real Sherry does exist. Ask the Jerezanos, watch the Spanish knocking back the authentic dry styles in tapas bars, or try this pale amber gold, dry oloroso with its powerful, oak-smoked bouquet and a nutty caramel bitter dry twist. Drink it as an aperitif with salted almonds or give it a whirl with smoked venison or cheese.

1998 Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc, pounds 6.49. Oddbins (also due in mid-March at Sainsbury's). A bracingly fresh, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc from Vergelegen's new winemaker Andre Van Rensburg in the Cape, with tropical fruit undertones of gooseberry and a zesty lemon peel finish.

1996 Bouchard Finlayson Oak Valley Chardonnay, pounds 9.99. Safeway, selected stores. Burgundy-style Chardonnays are a specialisation of winemaker Peter Finlayson based in Hermanus, one of the Cape's coolest regions. Here, the grapes are from the apple-growing district of Elgin, part-fermented in oak to create a sumptuously rich, full-flavoured white in the mould of Burgundy with nutty, vanilla-like undertones and crisp balancing acidity.

Reds of the month

1997 Crozes Hermitage, Cave des Clairmonts, pounds 6.99, Waitrose. The marginal climate of the northern Rhone gives the Syrah grape an aromatic quality and elegance which it can struggle to recreate in the warmer south. Here, the Cave des Clairmonts, possibly the world's smallest wine co-operative with just four families to its name, has succeeded in producing a classic, aromatic Syrah whose deliciously well-balanced blackberry fruit is smooth- textured with a savoury dry aftertaste.

1996 Chateau de Cazeneuve, Pic Saint Loup. Grande Cuvee, pounds 6.99, Fuller's.

Yet another excellent Fuller's find from the Pic Saint Loup enclave in the Languedoc, showing mild, herby scents and a sumptuously sweet, pepper and cola-spice-like fruitiness on the palate.

1996 Gigondas, Domaine Cayron, pounds 11, Adnams, Southwold, Suffolk (01502 727220). The latest offer from Adnams focuses on the picturesque Mediterranean hinterland of the southern Rhone's villages and presents it in irresistibly mouthwatering manner. Michel Faraud's hand-crafted wines are made mainly from old Grenache vines and bottled from big wooden vats, as and when he pleases. The 1996 is relatively early drinking for Gigondas with a grind of the pepperpot and a sweetly ripe spiced fruitiness whose robust power is balanced by a degree of finesse in the tannins.

Fizz of the month

Waitrose Cuvee 2000 Champagne, pounds 25.

I was aiming to include this classy vintage champagne from Daniel Thibault in my top 50 wines before Christmas, but it arrived with a makeshift label and had to be sent home for a makeover. Freshly rigged out at last in silver and gold, this is an all-Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs from the 1990 vintage with a clove pinks and dried apricot aroma and a fine-textured cushion of poised, mouthfilling fruitiness.