Wine: Riches that aren't nouveau

Wines of the month Anthony Rose chooses the best bottles for November

Only 12 days to Beaujolais Nouveau day, the starting gun for the wine trade's traditional pre-Christmas push on sales. Before the inevitable onslaught of Chardonnay and claret kicks in, however, I'm taking advantage of a lull in the proceedings. Hence three aromatic whites, an unusual Semillon and a clutch of non-Bordeaux-style reds. Don't worry, there's plenty of claret and Cabernet waiting in the wings - but, first, freedom of expression for a handful of interesting, mainly native, red grape varieties.

Whites of the month

1997 La Vega Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc, Rueda, pounds 3.99, Asda, Fuller's. Verdejo from Rueda, the bread basket of Spain, is one of Spain's few real quality white-grape varieties. In partnership here with the zip and zing of the aromatic Sauvignon Blanc, its full-bodied ripeness dovetails neatly with the Sauvignon's grapefruity tang.

1997 Canepa Oak Aged Semillon, pounds 4.49, Tesco. Given whites of this value and character, it's a shame there isn't more Semillon coming out of Chile. Canepa's Ernesto Ramirez has produced an engaging dry white scented with lemon meringue and citrus-zest fruitiness rounded out

by an appealing shading of oak.

1997 Tim Gramp Watervale Riesling, pounds 7.99, Unwins. Aussie Riesling can be at its best in the Watervale district of Clare Valley and Tim Gramp's Riesling is no exception. Refreshing, intensely flavoured and elegantly dry, it's redolent of lemons and just beginning to develop the tell-tale "kerosene" perfume which will develop an alluring pungency with a little more age. Try it with a Thai or Chinese stir-fry.

1997 Pouilly-Fume, Jean-Claude Chatelain, pounds 7.99, Waitrose. Sancerre's popularity can obscure some of the superb Sauvignons coming out of neighbouring Pouilly Fume. The crisp, cut-grass aromas of the grape variety and the give-away smoky hint of gunflint in this Loire Valley white should win back friends for Pouilly-Fume and influence New World Sauvignon lovers.

Reds of the month

1997 Concha y Toro Explorer Pinot Noir, pounds 4.99, Fuller's. This discovery may not be classic Pinot Noir, but who cares when a wine's as gluggy as Concha y Toro Explorer. Delicate strawberry-ish undertones suggest the classic red Burgundy grape but the succulently spicy, cherry ripeness and rustic edge is perhaps closer to Mediterranean in style.

1997 Chamine, Cortes de Cima, pounds 5.49 (limited offer), Majestic Wine Warehouses. This is a smart young wine from the Alentejo region in Portugal's deep, warm south made from mainly native Aragonez and Trincadeira grapes. The distinctive southern fruit is rich and smooth, while a delicate veneer of spicy oak adds a satin sheen to the plum and blackberry fruit flavours.

1997 Domaine Barrel, Crozes Hermitage, pounds 6.99, Safeway. Etienne Pochon's excellent second wine departed from the Safeway list for a while, but has now returned to style. This is textbook northern Rhone Syrah in character, with the typical delicate smoke and pepper character of the grape, and a purity of underlying blackberry fruitiness enhanced by a spell in oak casks.

1997 Delheim Pinotage, pounds 6.99, Victoria Wine Cellars. In the pantheon of Cape Pinotage styles, Delheim leans towards the traditional, with less emphasis on new oak but still intense mulberry fruit flavours and a firm backbone of tannins. My supermarkets haven't tracked down any impala (yet), but kangaroo or venison will do nicely.

Fizz of the Month

1992 Sainsbury's Australian Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Brut, pounds 6.99, selected Sainsbury's. It's unusual to come across a New World fizz with such a degree of maturity. But this smartly packaged Aussie sparkler from Southcorp's Seppelts stable is showing not just the biscuit-like aromatic and flavour complexity of bottle age, but a foamy, marshmallow texture that melts on the tongue and slips down with ease

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