At Heathrow Terminal 2 coffee lounge, the Observer's Tim Atkin and I were twiddling our thumbs when it occurred to us to devise a new kind of wine guide. All we had to do was combine our palates and tasting notes, and stick the results in the pages of a book. Each wine would be tasted, its drinkability and style described, and be given a score out of 20 for quality and a value-for-money rating.

Various titles, from Winewatch to Streetwine, were bandied about before we settled on Grapevine. The book was launched on Thursday. Reluctantly, we decided we would have to leave out the specialist wine merchants, at least in this first edition, to concentrate on the supermarkets and high street chains which, after all, account for 90 per cent of the take-home market. We assessed the strengths and weaknesses of every retailer mentioned and added a chapter on cross-Channel shopping.

During the tastings it became depressingly clear that much of the best-selling wine in supermarkets and high streets is price, not quality led. We found that paying just a little bit more can make a world of difference to the pleasure to be had.

At the beginning of Grapevine, we focus on some of the best value, most widely available wines by selecting 12-bottle red wine, white wine and sparkling wine cases of the year. Here is a handful from each to whet the appetite.

1992 Bianco di Custoza, GIV, pounds 3.49, Sainsbury's. A lively spritz brings extra zip to this rounded Italian white from the shores of Lake Garda, blended by master of wine Angela Muir.

1992 International Winemaker Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, McLaren Vale, pounds 4.99, Tesco. An outstanding, graves-like blend by Grapevine's winemaker of the year, Frenchman Jacques Lurton, in Australia.

1992 Goundrey Langton Chardonnay, Western Australia, pounds 4.99, Asda. This delicious, cool-climate, Western Australian chardonnay made at the largest winery in the isolated region of Mount Barker, combines value for money and outstanding quality. It is elegant, fresh and beautifully balanced, with oak and citrus fruit flavours and penetrating acidity.

1992 San Trocado, Ribeiro, Bodega Alanis, pounds 5.49, Oddbins. Alvarinho is usually a pricey wine, so it is good to see an affordable example on a high street shelf. With its peachy, grapefruit-like flavours and fresh acidity, it will appeal to fans of cool- climate wines.

1988 Mexican Cabernet Sauvignon, LA Cetto, pounds 3.99, Tesco. If you enjoyed the Petite Sirah from this outstanding Mexican winery, you will love the smoky, blackcurrant flavours of this mature, old-fashioned but concentrated Mexican red from the Baja California Peninsula.

Crozes-Hermitage, Cellier des Dauphins, pounds 4.49, Sainsbury's. One of a number of outstanding Crozes-Hermitages available at a store near you. It is bursting with smoky syrah aromas and full, almost unctuous fruit.

1989 Chateau Le Gardera, Bordeaux Superieur, Cordier, pounds 4.99, Waitrose, Budgens. Superb-value claret from the generally reliable house of Cordier. Aromatic and rich in fruit with plump, voluptuous tannins.

1991 Montana Cabernet Sauvignon, Marlborough, New Zealand, pounds 4.99, widely available. Marlborough's cool South Island climate has struggled to ripen red grapes such as cabernet sauvignon. New vineyard techniques are overcoming the problem, and this is one of the best Marlborough cabernets yet. It still shows the typically herbaceous aromas of cool- climate cabernet, but its underlying richness of blackberry fruit helps to soften the hard edges.

1992 Chateau de la Liquiere, Faugeres, pounds 4.99, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Gateway. Made from old carignan and grenache vines in the tiny Languedoc appellation of Faugeres, this is a gutsy red with a sweet core of spicy fruit.

1990 Green Point, about pounds 9.99, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Tesco, Majestic, Victoria Wine, Oddbins, Augustus Barnett, Fullers, Davisons. The outstanding New World sparkling wine at the moment, made by Tony Jordan at Domaine Chandon, Moet's outpost in Australia's Yarra Valley. The 1989 was good, but this is even better, with more pinot noir and extra bottle age adding another dimension of richness and fruit.

'Grapevine: The Complete Wine Buyer's Handbook' by Anthony Rose and Tim Atkin (Headline, pounds 5.99).

(Photograph omitted)