Wine: Sparkling gems
Romantic roses and other best buys for February
With Valentine's Day looming, I've chosen two stylish roses. The first is one of the best New World rose sparkling wines made by the champagne method, the second the real thing. 1995 Green Point Brut Rose pounds 12.99, Wine Rack, Majestic, from Moet et Chandon's cellars in Australia's Yarra Valley, is a rich, creamy-textured, deep bronze-hued blend of mainly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Meanwhile, Gosset Grand Rose, around pounds 30 from wine merchants including Eldridge Pope & branches (01305 251251), Robersons, London W14 (0171-371 2121), Willoughby's, Manchester (0161 6432 2487), Selfridges, Bordeaux Direct (01189 030903), looks expensive, tastes expensive, and is expensive. Pale salmon pink, it's a sprightly, delicate fizz made from around three-fifths Chardonnay and the balance Pinot Noir, with undertones of summer pudding raspberry and redcurrant and a stylish, youthful exuberance.
Whites of the Month
The days of the quality pounds 2.99 wine may be numbered, but not apparently at Somerfield. This month's special is the Challenge Trophy winner: the 1997 Les Marionettes Marsanne, pounds 2.99 (down from pounds 3.99), a ripe, peachy southern French white well worth a punt at its discounted price. Of two excellent whites from the Cape this month, the 1997 Savanha Western Cape Chardonnay, pounds 4.99, Oddbins, is a cleverly constructed, partially barrel-fermented Burgundian-style white from the cellars of Burg & Brook. Its smoky and nutty oak characters marry harmoniously with a buttery richness cut by a nip of lime-fresh acidity. The second, Paul Cluver's 1997 Sauvignon Blanc, pounds 7.99, Tesco, from the cool, apple- growing region of Elgin, is an intensely fragrant example of the Loire Valley's aromatic grape variety with hints of elderflower and exotic yet delicate grapefruity flavours.
Reds of the Month
Look to the Rhone Valley for winter-warming reds in the style - but not necessarily the price - of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The 1996 Sablet, pounds 5.99. Fuller's, for instance, is an intensely aromatic, peppery Rhone village red with a cigar-boxful of spicy fruit and a gutsy astringency which makes it the perfect foil for game-based dishes. Chile remains one of the best- value countries offering fruity, Bordeaux style reds, and Alvaro Espinoza from Carmen is one of the country's best exponents of the style. His 1997 Sierra de los Andes Merlot Cabernet Reserve, pounds 6.99, Marks & Spencer, is an intriguing St Emilion-style blend with the usual predominance of Merlot over Cabernet Sauvignon, plus an extra dollop of Chile's Carmenere grape, also known as Grande Vidure. The result is a powerful, spicily aromatic Rapel/Maipo Valley blend, with oodles of fresh blackcurrant fruitiness and a firm backbone of tannin. And so to Felton Road, a wine which is considerably more exotic, in both taste and location, than it sounds. Hailing from Bannockburn, Central Otago, in New Zealand's near-polar south, Felton Road Pinot Noir is one of a new generation of gorgeously seductive Kiwi reds. The 1997 Felton Road Pinot Noir, pounds 12.90, Haynes Hanson & Clark (0171 259-0102), is packed with spicy cherry and blackcurrant aromas and a seductively fruity palate with the cool-climate clarity you'd expect from New Zealand's picturesque lake district
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