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Food and Drink

Food & Drink: Wine Box

NOT FOR the first time, champagne prices are being slashed. First it was Oddbins, Wine Rack and Bibendum; now the East Anglian wine merchant Thomas Peatling is wielding the sabre - although only at its London Wine Centre at 63 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5NP. Twenty-five of its champagnes have been reduced. The new prices include pounds 14.49 for the ever-reliable Laurent-Perrier, and pounds 17.99 for the best non-vintage champagne on the market, Bollinger. Perhaps the best deal is on their own growers' sparkler, Champagne Brusson et Fils, pounds 9.99 (down from pounds 12.99), a fizz with enough toasty, tangy fruit to be a good buy at under a tenner.

Fans of the spicy gewurztraminer grape of Alsace who are looking for a cheaper alternative might try the Irsay Oliver, Nitra Region, Slovakia, pounds 2.99 (Thresher, Bottoms Up, Wine Rack). Irsay Oliver is the name of Slovakia's muscat-based grape variety, and this unusual dry white combines the aromatic power of the muscat grape with the full body and ginger spice of gewurztraminer. Given its assertive character, it might be best drunk as an aperitif, or with Thai food.

Paul Filliatreau is one of the Loire Valley's masters of the cabernet franc grape. His 1990 Chateau Fouquet, Saumur Rouge, pounds 6.75 (Yapp Bros, Mere, Wiltshire (0747 860423), from the walled estate of Chateau Fouquet, is one of the finest Loire reds on the market. With a fragrant, typically grassy nose and rich, intensely flavoured cabernet fruit, it's a polished all-year-round red, rather than strictly summer wine, which will improve with more time in the bottle.