Wine: Spring loaded

Wines of the month What's in store for April.

Le Trulle Dry Muscat, pounds 3.99, Tesco (300 stores). The Muscat of Alexandria grape, which thrives along the shores of the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas, traditionally produces a sweet, often strong, dessert wine. New cooling fermentation now allows it to be made in a dry, aromatic style and that's just what Australian winemaker Kym Milne has done here, bringing out the grapey, aromatic qualities of the Muscat in a refreshingly crisp, cooling summer breeze of a white.

1997 Glen Carlou Chardonnay, pounds 7.99, Oddbins. Made by David Finlayson at the winery cellars in Paarl, this is a fine Cape Chardonnay, especially at the price. Finlayson employs Burgundian techniques of barrel-fermentation and lees-stirring which are designed to tone down the peach and pineapple ripeness of the Chardonnay grape. This brings a buttery richness and texture, and a touch of baked apple, to this opulent dry white.

1997 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese, Mosel, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, pounds 8.49, Sainsbury's (62 stores). This featherweight white made from the Riesling grape grown on Mosel Valley slate soils is so fresh it bounces out of the glass with aromas of spring flowers and a sweet-and-sour Cox's apple fruitiness. Lightly chilled, its delicacy makes it an ideal springtime aperitif. Sainsbury's recommends it should be consumed "within 15 years of purchase". I wouldn't advise hanging on that long.


1998 Fantelli Barbera/Cabernet, Argentina, pounds 4.99, Safeway. In its native Italy, Barbera can be on the acidic side, but transposed to Argentina's warmer climate, it becomes the Pizza Express red to die for. The Barbera in this new-wave blend adds freshness and lift to the Cabernet Sauvignon's classic blackcurrant fruit, while the oak sits quietly in the background as a softening and rounding element. To live for, in fact.

1998 Spice Route Andrew's Hope Merlot/Cabernet, pounds 5.99, Waitrose, selected Tesco stores. This is the latest offering from the Cape's so-called Spice Boys, winemakers Gyles Webb and Charles Back, together with wine writer John Platter and Jabulani Ntshangase, South Africa's first black vineyard and cellar owner. Deceptively powerful, it's a smooth, ripe, Cape-meets-St Emilion-style blend. Its juicy, green-pepper- tinged mulberry fruitiness is nicely offset by spicy oak-cask maturation.

1996 Sainsbury's Classic Selection Chianti Classico, Sainsbury's (115 stores). From the Cecchi family's Villa Cerna estate in the historic heart of the Chianti region, this neatly proportioned Tuscan red is just settling into its stride. Maturation in oak casks brings a subtle spicy edge to the aromas which are complemented by the ripe, cherryish fruit of the Sangiovese grape, while textured tannins and fresh acidity add mouthwatering bite. Versatile enough to do justice to pasta, risotto, game or roasts.

Fizz of the month

Lanson Black Label Champagne, pounds 13.32, selected Co-op stores. This weekend is the last opportunity to pick up Lanson Black Label Champagne at two-thirds of its normal price, down from pounds 19.99. Lanson Black Label is one of the top Grandes Marques champagnes, a classic, dry, voluminous fizz which only improves with age