THE NEW year is traditionally the time when wine merchants do their best to recoup some of the ground lost to the supermarkets and high street chains over Christmas by tempting us with bargain basement offers.

Among those with wine sales starting this month are the Hungerford Wine Company, 24 High Street, Hungerford, Berkshire (0488 681201), with special offers available from today, and Lay & Wheeler, The Wine Shop, 6 Culver Street West, Colchester, Essex CO1 1JA (0206 764446), whose sale starts on Monday. The 19- page list carries substantial reductions on all Eighties claret vintages as well as on burgundy, champagne, rhone and German wines. Other sales starting Monday include Corney & Barrow, 12 Helmet Row, London EC1V 3QJ (071-251 4051) and Berry Bros & Rudd, 3 St James's Street, London SW1 1EG (071-396 9666).

Laytons, 20 Midland Road, London NW1 2AD (071-388 5081) (including London's three Andre Simon shops) have put out an imaginative special January offer with several good value wines, mixed cases and bin ends including the spicy, winter warming 1988 Cotes du Rhone from Domaine de la Reynarde at pounds 4.08 and clarets from the fine 1989 vintage, including the St Emilion grand cru Chateau Fombrauge 1989, at pounds 7.54.

Not to be outdone, Victoria Wine is reducing prices on various lines such as Errazuriz Chilean Merlot from pounds 4.59 to pounds 3.99, and Newton California Chardonnay, a bin-end reduced from pounds 7.89 to pounds 6.49 to clear.

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