Wines of the week

With a marginal climate for grape growing, Germany appears to have become Europe's unlikely success story of 1993. The summer was warm and dry in much of Germany, and a recent foretaste of the vintage showed that, in parts at least, 1993 may well be the equal of the much-vaunted trio of 1988, 1989 and 1990.

Freddy Price of Summerlee Wines, a specialist in fine German estate wines, brought a clutch of German wine producers to London recently to show examples from the 1993 vintage and earlier. He also has a special offer of 1993 and earlier vintages.

Among the stars of the show were Dirk Richter's classic 1993 Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese and Auslese, and a mellow, honeyed 1992 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett. For a contrast in style, the racy, green-apple wines of Schloss Saarstein offer refreshingly crisp fruit aplenty, particularly in the 1993 Serriger Schloss Saarsteiner Riesling Auslese.

Equally full of character, the 1993 Eitelsbacher Karthauserhof Riesling Spatlese is a delicately spicy white from Karthauserhof, a Ruwer estate named after the Carthusian monks who, in 1335, were presented with the vineyards by the Elector Balduin of Luxembourg.

For full details of the 1993 offer, contact Freddy Price at Summerlee Wines, 48 Castlebar Road, London W5 2DD, or at 64 High Street, Earls Barton, Northamptonshire NN6 0JG (0604 810488).

What else is cooking this month? One of last year's star chardonnays, the 1992 Chardonnay delle Tre Venezie, blended by Angela Muir with GIV, the Italian wine giant, pounds 3.59 at Sainsbury's, can be snapped up at Morrisons, under the Teresa Rizzi label, for a remarkable pounds 2.99. Good chardonnay at this price, still ultra-fresh and extremely fruity, with just a touch of oak, is reason enough to visit one of Morrison's northern supermarkets.

At a tasting in October, Sainsbury's tantalised wine writers by showing one of the more accomplished South African chardonnays, Danie de Wet's 1993 Grey Label Chardonnay, pounds 4.99, then telling us that the wine would not be available for general consumption in time for Christmas. Now, at last, it is in the shops (234 branches) and well worth seeking out for its rich, intensely flavoured fruitiness, and for a hint of cleverly handled oak fermentation, which adds complexity to the zippy freshness of the new vintage.

Another excellent dry white from the 1993 vintage, Casablanca Lontue Valley Sauvignon Blanc, pounds 4.99 at Oddbins, is Chile's riposte to New Zealand. It may not shriek the pungently grassiness of Marlborough sauvignon, but instead it offers an aromatic, piercing grapefruit and lemon-like citrus flavours, leaving the palate gratefully revived and refreshed.

Expect to hear more this year of viognier, the Rhone grape variety that makes the rare and expensive condrieu. This newly fashionable grape makes a full-bodied dry white, sometimes reminiscent of the spicy Alsace white, tokay pinot gris, and often with intriguing flavours of apricot or peach.

Enterprising southern French growers have started to plant viognier, with mixed results so far. The 1992 Viognier Domaine Saint- James, Vin de Pays d'Oc, pounds 4.99 at selected Tesco stores, is one of the better examples, from Henri Gualco in Corbieres. It is delightfully fruity with a hint of apricot and almond.

Thanks to the influence of its pioneering winemaker, Ignacio Recabarren, Santa Carolina has become one of Chile's more interesting wineries. His 1988 Santa Carolina Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, pounds 4.99 at Sainsbury's, is a typically modern new world style. Its sweet, fruity blackcurrant flavour and classy oak are nicely softened by age and the wine is thankfully free from the stalky, astringent character that can mar inferior examples of the variety.

Before winter finally relaxes its grip, try the 1990 Quinta de Pancas, around pounds 5.99 at Thresher, Bottoms Up, Wine Rack, Gateway/ Somerfield and Safeway. This is an untamed, strong-flavoured, richly fruity, robust Portuguese red with bags of oak and cherry-plum fruitiness, which has improved considerably with age.

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