Food and Drink: Wines of the week

FROM THIS week until 28 April, Victoria Wine has a new Spanish red, Casa Barco, on special offer at pounds 1.99 instead of the list price of pounds 2.55. A blend of the rioja grapes tempranillo, garnacha and mazuelo, it is not unlike a light, young rioja in style, with some pleasantly soft fruit and vanilla oak.

Oddbins has several affordable new dry whites this month. The best, both from the Barossa Valley and pounds 2.99, are the 1992 Hindmarsh Hills Chenin Blanc, crisp and full- flavoured with a touch of honey, and Peter Lehmann's Barossa Valley Classic White, an almost quinine-like semillon-chenin blend.

Hungary continues to flex its privatised muscles with two good-value 1992 country wines for pounds 2.59 at Safeway. The white Hungarian Country is a fragrantly soft and lychee-like spicy dry blend of traminer and ezerjo; the Hungarian Country red is juicy, aromatic and soft, made from the native kekfrankos grape with a slight peppery character.

The Hungarian antics of roving winemaker Hugh Ryman need little introduction. Last year I suggested he had made a bit of a hash of his new, rather strident Hungarian wines. In 1992 he has been more successful, at least with the Gyongyos Estate Chardonnay, pounds 3.29, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, a chardonnay with a soft, honeyed touch that could almost pass for a Macon blanc. Also good value, Sainsbury's Chardonnay Chenin Blanc 1991 from Gisborne, pounds 3.75, is pleasantly tropically fruity on the nose, attacks the palate with a refreshing spring- like spritz, and follows through with the clean, natural zip of fine New Zealand fruit. From California, La Crema Pinot Noir 1988, pounds 4.95, Sainsbury's, is spicy and aromatic, its sweet, soft fruit and gentle summer- pudding sharpness of loganberry combined with the slight vegetal character that recalls young red burgundy.

Finally, I would be failing in my duty if I ignored Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny 1990, Cuvee Terres Chaudes, Majestic. At pounds 9.99, it is no snip, but it is no ordinary Loire red. A deep crimson ruby, it has the grassy fragrance of cabernet franc grown in the cool Loire Valley, but with an extra sweetly ripe raspberry fruitiness. If it is possible to argue that a pounds 9.99 wine can be good value, I rest my case with this one.

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