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Food and Drink

Red is the colour : FOOD & DRINK : WINES OF THE WEEK

Victoria Wine kicks off its February promotion with reductions on a handful of Spanish reds, including the l989 Chivite Reserva Navarra, down to £3.99 from the list price of £4.59 (and £4.49 at Thresher Wine Shops), a softly juicy, slightly gamey blend of tempranillo and garnacha.

New in to the shops this month, the l993 El Liso Tempranillo, Barrel Aged, La Mancha £3.79, Victoria Wine, is a robust, blackberryish Spanish red, whose smoky American oak and vanilla character gives it a rustic, winter-warming rioja feel. El Liso is blended by Ed Flaherty, the California winemaker, who recently made a splash with the two outstanding 1993 pinot noirs from Chile's Cono Sur estate.

Much of Chile's limited resource of pinot noir is swallowed up by the sparkling wine giant, Valdivieso. But in 1993, the company diverted some Lontue Valley pinot noir from Sagrada Famila into the premium table wine programme of its experienced winemaker, Luis Simian (the same project which brought us the fine Lontue Valley 1993 Barrel Fermented Merlot, at Thresher, Bottoms Up, Wine Rack and Waitrose, recommended before Christmas). Maturing the finished wine in new oak, Simian made a mere 550 cases of the 1993 Valdivieso Pinot Noir, Lontue Valley, £5.49, Waitrose, a proportion of which the enterprising supermarket has just snapped up and put out on the shelf.

The enticing pinot noir aromas of this exciting red and the nuances of lingering loganberry-like flavours on the palate reveal a wine of burgundian depth of fruit and structure. But given the minute quantities, it will not stick around, so buy now, as they say, while stocks last.

Luis Simian spent much of his winemaking life in Australia's Riverland, so he knows a thing or two about mataro, aka the mourvedre grape, which performs so well in the sunny, Mediterranean vineyards of Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. Given its cravingfor sunshine and water, it is not surprising that the grape should also thrive in the irrigated, sun-drenched vineyards of Australia's Murray Valley in Victoria. Tesco's Australian Mataro, Murray Valley, £3.99, is delicately peppery with a strong-flavoured, succulent core of raspberry and cherry fruitiness.

Also from Victoria, try the supple, delicately minty, elegant berry fruitiness of the 1991 Rowan Cabernet/Merlot, £5.49, Fuller's.

From neighbouring South Australia's Riverland, the l994 Angove's Tea Tree Estate Malbec, £3.99, Safeway, is an aromatic red from value-conscious Angove's Nanya property. It hints at the tea-leaf character of the malbec grape of Cahors, and tastes of the kind of raspberry jam and spicy fruitiness which is close to Californian zinfandel.

Also not far from California, Washington state in the American north-west is gaining a justified reputation for the purity of its elegant reds. Try its 1993 Washington Hills Columbia Valley Cabernet Merlot, £5.95, selected Sainsbury's, a fresh, appealingbordeaux blend with an almost chocolatey fruit sweetness.

Oddbins's new fine wine stores in Farringdon and Notting Hill in London, Queensferry Street in Edinburgh and, most recently, Mitchell Street in Glasgow are worth the detour for the 1991 Barbaresco Vigna Loreto, Rocca Albino, £12.99, a complex Piedmontesered whose superbly aromatic notes of aniseed and pepper are complemented by the classically tarry, pure fruit flavours of the nebbiolo grape.

This, and the equally sensational 1991 Barbaresco Vigneto Brich Ronci, Rocca Albino, £13.99, with cleansing acidity and blotting paper tannins, are the perfect winter reds for poultry and game roasts.