Wines of the week: Chilean charmer

IT MAY sound more Scottish than Latin American, but Rowan Brook Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 1991, ( pounds 2.99, Asda) is a youthful blend of Bordeaux's two major grape varieties from Chile's Mataquito Valley.

Made at the Canepa Winery near Santiago, the wine is a vivid ruby-purple and has a slightly stalky, blackcurrant fruitiness on the palate. It resembles a light, summery claret in style, with an added hint of cinnamon-like spice in the aftertaste.

Buy up stocks while they last, because I cannot see many Chilean wines remaining at under pounds 3 for much longer.

When the Couillaud brothers in Muscadet realised that their gros plant vines were a commercial dead duck, they turned to chardonnay. The result, Domaine Petit Chateau 1991 ( pounds 4.75, Waitrose), is an elegant, clean chardonnay closer to young chablis than macon in style, with aromas of pineapple sweets and a fresh, honeyed richness on the palate.

The Briars Chardonnay 1990 ( pounds 5.49, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up) is rather different in style. Produced by Garry Crittenden, of Dromana Estate in Australia's Mornington Peninsula, this is a lusciously peachy chardonnay fine-tuned in oak cask for extra complexity.

As I seem to be steeped in chardonnay this week, I may as well go the whole hog and recommend Chateau Tahbilk Chardonnay 1990 ( pounds 5.99, Oddbins).

Chateau Tahbilk, established on the east bank of the Goulburn river in Victoria in 1860, is a Victorian institution in both senses. Bought by the Purbrick family in 1925, Tahbilk - an aboriginal word signifying a place of many watering-holes - is probably best known for the uncompromising, long-lived shiraz and cabernet sauvignon produced by Eric Purbrick, who died early this year.

Tahbilk also pioneered the Marsanne, which was served to the Queen when she visited the winery in 1953. Both whites are on offer at Oddbins, but I prefer the chardonnay for its big, rich oaky character and distinctive full flavour.

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