1996 Oxford Landing Estate Viognier, pounds 6.99, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. The Barossa Valley-based family firm of Yalumba has developed a smart new white and red made from Rhone grapes grown on its Oxford Landing vineyard on the Murray River. Unusually subtle and restrained for an Australian white, the white, made from the northern Rhone's Viognier grape, is suffused with delicately exotic undertones of apricots, plenty of full-bodied concentration and underlying richness.
Reds of the month
1995 Valle de Vistalba Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina, pounds 4.99, Oddbins. This Argentina producer makes both a good-value, thirst-quenching unoaked Barbera and an oak-aged Syrah, but the most impressive red in the range is this Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon. It's richly laden with blackcurrant fruit with subtle, chocolatey oak helping to round out the firm but agreeable tannins. Bordeaux may wish to consider the economics of planting potatoes.
1996 Oxford Landing Estate Black Grenache, pounds 6.99, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. While the hallmark of Australia's red Rhone style is based on the Shiraz grape, Grenache, a Mediterranean variety, is proving to be more than just a Robin to Shiraz's Batman in Australia's warmer regions. This example is richly spiced with subtle oak and voluptuous supple-textured, blackberry fruit flavours. Like its sister wine, the Black Grenache comes in a strikingly tall, elegant bottle.
Fine wine of the month 1995 Dry River Pinot Noir, Martinborough, pounds 17.95-pounds 18.75, Justerini & Brooks (0171-493 8721); Raebarn Fine Wines, Edinburgh (0131 3431159). The red of the vintage from New Zealand's most obsessively meticulous winemaker, Dr Neil McCallum, this is a hauntingly aromatic, stunningly concentrated Vosne-Romanee-style Pinot Noir, whose seductive, flavours of cherry and wild strawberry are enhanced by a silky-textured veneer of spicy, vanilla-like oak. A rival to serious red Burgundy is emerging from this unlikely, sheep-grazing area east of Wellington.
Sparkling wine of the month
Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne `Mise en Cave 1992', pounds 25.99, Bottoms Up. 1992 is not the vintage, but the year the wine was laid down in the cellar. The concept of the dated non-vintage champagne has been pioneered, with typical Champenois fanfare, by winemaker Daniel Thibault to underline the contribution of bottle-ageing in a quality champagne. I can't say I got all Thibault's `Mediterranean lime trees, blossom, hazelnuts, almonds and apricots', but I did find this delicately floral and toasty fizz youthful, rich and elegantly balanced with nutty undertones and great finesse.Reuse content