How to profit from the wine wars

Anthony Rose digests the stores' new year promotions
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Indy Lifestyle Online
How much do you have to pay for a drinkable bottle of wine? Well certainly more than the £1.39 Somerfield has slashed its 1993 Domaine St Julien to (from £2.79) in supporting the launch of 10 new vins de pays this month. My specimen tasted as thou gh it had been filtered through the collective unwashed underwear of a team of gypsy harvesters. A second sample I tasted was, to be fair, fresher, but I would still not recommend such basic plonk.

In the same store's February promotion, you would be better off with Hugh Ryman's 1994 Domaine de la Tuilerie reduced by 50p to £3.49, £1 off two bottles of his fine 1993 Domaine de Rivoyre Chardonnay, normally £4.99, or, better still, £1 off a bottle ofthe robustly winter-warming, angostura-laden 1991 Chateau de la Liquiere, Faugeres, £3.65.

The first salvo of the year in the high-street-versus-supermarket wine wars has been fired by Kevin Wilson, the new wine buyer at Greenalls Cellars, owner of the Wine Cellar and Berkeley Wines chains. Predicting price problems following a poor 1994 harvest and increases in duty, he says, "we would hope that the £1.99 price point will finally disappear, but we suppose our desperate cousins in the supermarket world will give up this marketing ploy rather reluctantly". In his quality-versus-bulk crusade, he has recently added the aromatic, rasberryish 1993 Madrona Zinfandel, Sonoma County, £7.29, to the Wine Cellar/Berkeley Wines range. And you won't regret spending a little extra on this delicious wine.

Safeway has one or two price reductions in its new year sale, continuing until 4 February. The best reductions in the Safeway sale are the clean, dry Piedmontese l993 Le Monferrine Chardonnay, down from £3.75 to £2.99, the pleasantly grassy, claret-like Vino da Tavola delle Tre Venezie, from £3.75 to £3.15 and Nick Butler's smoky, fat 1993 River Duna Pinot Gris, from Hungary, reduced from £3.49 to £2.79. Outside the sale and well worth the full price are the sweetly ripe, melon-like 1993 Stony Brook California Chardonnay, £4.79, and Peter Lehmann's richly oaked, minty, blackcurranty 1992 Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, £6.75 (also available at Waitrose).

With 10 per cent off any three bottles of the "Manager's Choice Selection" until 8 March (the wines vary according to stocks in individual shops), Thresher's response is not perhaps quite as irresistible as its "Red Hot Offers" suggests. Still, you can also save 30p on the juicy young Valdemar Tinto Rioja, now £3.69, and 40p on Bodegas Farina's 1993 Colegiata Blanco, Toro, £3.59, a perfumed, lemon-fresh, full-bodied dry white made from the Malvasia grape in Toro, a Spanish region better known for its he fty, hearty reds. The supple, well-balanced l992 Red Cliffs Estate Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, £4.99, is not reduced, but good value nevertheless for a premium red from South Australia's prime cabernet sauvignon region of Coonawarra.

Selected Sainsburys have three new Australian estate wines in this month, from the boutique winery of Yarra Ridge at £7.95, each showing the distinctively crisp, cool-climate elegance of Victoria's Yarra Valley. The 1994 Yarra Ridge Sauvignon Blanc smells attractively herbaceous, like a cross between Sancerre and New Zealand's more pungent style, with intense varietal character and a lean streak of acidity, while the 1994 Yarra Ridge Chardonnay is nicely restrained, showing pure, melon fruit clarity, a whiff of angelica and understated but complementary smoky oak. There is an appealing touch of mintiness to the l993 Yarra Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, while the fruit is succulent and very delicately balanced.

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