Does your wine leave you feeling bored?

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Indy Lifestyle Online

This column touched briefly last week on the subject of January sales. The touch could have lasted for hours, because the whole country is awash with bin-enders. I urge you to contact whichever retailing organisations supply your vinous needs. Find out what's around. Seek their advice. And, most important, take a chance on unfamiliar items.

This column touched briefly last week on the subject of January sales. The touch could have lasted for hours, because the whole country is awash with bin-enders. I urge you to contact whichever retailing organisations supply your vinous needs. Find out what's around. Seek their advice. And, most important, take a chance on unfamiliar items.

It's easy for me to make that last statement. I've just come from the annual tasting of the Bunch, a group of independent wine merchants who co-operate in various administrative matters. Every January they meet at the Groucho Club, and it's the most stimulating tasting of the year. The variety is always good, the quality good-to-gobsmacking. And the wines aren't boring.

The concept of non-boring wines may take a bit of explaining. We UK drinkers have at our disposal nearly all of the world's wine production, and the average quality is higher than at any time in history. For £6 you can buy a well-made wine from just about anywhere. Like, for instance, the plummy, savoury Gracia de Chile Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 (£5.99, Oddbins and Virginwines.com), which shows what a great patch of ground the Maipo Valley is for this grape.

But if you drink enough of these bottles you will inevitably notice a certain monotony creeping in. They are good, and solid, and enjoyable - and you won't kick yourself for buying or drinking them. But neither will they make you sit up and say, 'Hey! I've never tasted anything like this before.'

The Bunch tastings are replete with wines that elicit that response, and they are not all of the type that does a scorched-earth act on your credit card. I'm going to highlight just two of them.

Highlight one: Cÿtes-du-Rhÿne 'Saint Gayan' 1998, Rasteau. The house of Jean-Pierre Meffre, from which this wine comes, has recently been discovered by Robert Parker, and his approval means they will have no trouble selling such a punchy example of a great vintage at the relative bargain price of £7.25. Leap on it at Yapp Brothers (01747 860 423), and check out wines from Charles Schleret in Alsace while you're at it.

Highlight two: Teroldego Rotaliano 1998, Foradori Veneto (£60 for six bottles, John Armit, 020 7908 0600). Teroldego is one of the more obscure of Italy's red grapes, made to shine through careful management that tempers its toughness. Mellow, rich, with soft tannins and a wonderful aromatic quality. Armit sells only unmixed cases, but it's worth it for this wine, and for two other Italians (keywords Albana di Romagna and Ceuso Custera). They will never, whatever you think of them, seem boring. And you don't have to be a jaded wine-hack to appreciate that.

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