Food & Drink: A little advice over a bottle of wine: This week, Anthony Rose turns agony uncle to address common problems raised by readers

I AM ALWAYS a shade sceptical about wine writers who claim they receive daily postbags full of appreciative readers' letters. My own postbag bulges with circulars churned out by the Ministry of Agriculture, and press releases from public relations companies. But some of you do write to me, often with queries. Since the same questions tend to crop up regularly I have decided, as a service to readers and overburdened postmen, to answer them here.

J N from Lichfield, Staffordshire, for instance, writes: 'My wife is vegetarian, and we were surprised to hear that red wines are normally produced using animal blood. Is this true?'

After fermentation, wine normally contains bits of micro-organic flotsam and has to be 'fined' or clarified. The most common clarifying agents are clay products such as bentonite. Isinglass from fish bladders, casein from milk, gelatine from bones and ox blood can also be used, but are now rare. Nature et Progres, the organic organisation, prohibits the use of blood.

J R of Taunton, Somerset, writes that, owing to illness, he can no longer drink full-strength wine, 'but can you recommend any wines that are very low in alcohol?'

Decent low-alcohol (up to 1.2 per cent) wines are extremely rare. The best one I know is Loxton Low Alcohol Chardonnay, pounds 2.19 at Safeway, an Australian product from Penfolds made by advanced spinning-cone technology. Grapey, muscat-based Italian sparklers such as Victoria Wine's Moscato del Piemonte, pounds 1.99, Safeway's Le 1992 Monferrine Moscato d'Asti, pounds 2.49, and Tesco's Vino Frizzante, pounds 2.79, tend to be cheap and light in alcohol, if on the sweet side.

N S from Sunderland asks if I can recommend any organic wines. An increasing number of producers who abide by the organic rulebook are making good quality wines. The best I have come across this year is the richly honeyed, burgundy-style 1992 Millton Vineyard Chardonnay from Gisborne in New Zealand, pounds 6.99 Safeway, which won a gold medal and trophy at the 1993 Safeway Organic Wine Challenge. Try also Guy Bossard's 1992 Organic Muscadet Sur Lie ( pounds 4.99, Asda) and his Domaine de l'Ecu, 1992 Muscadet Sur Lie ( pounds 4.99, Safeway). Vinceremos Wines, Leeds (0532 431691) and Vintage Roots, Berkshire (0734 401222) specialise in organic wines.

'We like a glass or two of vin ordinaire and never pay more than pounds 2.19 a bottle,' writes K R of London W11. 'Why do writers like you push all the posh top-price wines?'

The less you pay for wine, the higher the percentage accounted for by duty, VAT, transport and packaging costs and merchant's margin. Thus the actual price/value of the wine in a bottle costing pounds 2.49 is about 16 pence; at pounds 2.99 it is 39 pence; at pounds 3.99 it is pounds 1.03 and at pounds 4.99, pounds 1.67. Price promotions and multibuys have, however, become popular, and it is occasionally possible to find something not too plonky at around pounds 2.50 or less.

The best cheap wine range is now to be found at the revitalised Kwik Save, with wines such as Comtesse de Lorancy White at pounds 2.29 and Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin de Pays d'Oc, pounds 2.49. The year's most popular cheapie is Portugal's Leziria. The red is pounds 1.97 at Kwik Save, pounds 2.39 at Gateway and Budgen, pounds 2.59 at Victoria Wine. Leziria white is pounds 1.97 at Kwik Save, pounds 2.39 at Budgen, pounds 2.59 at Safeway and Victoria Wine.

'When we bought a run-down shop,' writes B S of St Austell, Cornwall, 'we found a hoard of bottles of vintage wines, all 20 or more years old. Should we drink them, lay them down or sell them?'

Not many peeple will strike as lucky as the German collector Hardy Rodenstock, whose discovery of a cache of wines that apparently once belonged to Thomas Jefferson fetched record prices at auction: pounds 105,000 for a 1787 Chateau Lafite, pounds 36,000 for a 1784 Chateau d'Yquem.

Only a handful of 'blue chip' wines have much chance of making money, especially after commission is paid. If in doubt, contact Christie's Wine Department (071-839 9060), Sotheby's Wine Department (071-493 8080), or a specialist fine wine broker such as Farr Vintners (071-828 1960) or Peter Wylie, Cullompton, Devon (0884 277 555). Most mature wines are drunk too old, so I would drink now and enjoy.

M B of Hereford would like to lay down 'a case of wine for my god- daughter born in June 1989, to be kept until her 18th birthday'. For red bordeaux - and 1989 was a generally fine bordeaux vintage - try Lay & Wheeler, Colchester (0206 764446) or Justerini & Brooks, London SWl (071- 493 8721); for burgundies, Haynes, Hanson & Clark, London SW6 (071- 736 7878) or Morris & Verdin, London SWl (071-630 8888); for rhones, Yapp Bros, Mere, Wiltshire (0747 860423) or Justerinis.

'We have a cottage in Bordeaux and would like to surprise our French winegrower friends with some English wines,' says T R of Richmond, Surrey. 'Where can I get hold of some and which are the best?'

Three English wines won gold medals this year in international tastings: Breaky Bottom's 1990 Seyval Blanc and Throwley's 1991 Ortega in England, and Three Choirs' 1990 Seyval Reichensteiner in Bordeaux. Harcourt Fine Wines, London Wl (071- 723 7202) has the best selection of English wines and sells the Breaky Bottom for pounds 6.95. The 1992 Stanlake from Safeway and the 1991 Denbies Dry from Sainsbury's, both pounds 3.99, are the best-value widely available English wines.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone