Wine: July's best high-street buys
Unwins is gradually shedding its dowdy image with some exciting new vinous acquisitions. Showing the modern face of the Portuguese wine industry, for instance, the distinctive 1996 Palha-Canas pounds 4.99, is a refreshingly fruity, seafood-friendly white blend from Estremadura of the native Arinto, Fernao Pires and Vital grapes with Chardonnay for added weight. Its red counterpart, the 1996 Palha-Canas, pounds 5.49, also a home-grown blend, is a youthful, exuberantly fruity tinto, matured in a proportion of new oak for extra interest.

Fuller's, the only other surviving high-street independent, has some good Italian wines - such as the 1996 Sauvignon, Pecile, Grave Friuli, pounds 4.75. This fragrantly grassy, sprightly, north-west Italian dry white delivers a tongue-tingling spritz with a grapefruity tang. And, in an elegantly tall, tapering bottle and sleek back and gold label, the 1995 Villa Pigna Colle Lungo, pounds 5.99, is a deep-hued, powerfully robust, dark, chocolately red made in the Marches region from low-yielding Montepulciano vines. Partner it with barbecued lamb or pork ribs for a tantalising sweet-savoury match.

Victoria Wine continues to build on its extensive South African portfolio. Pick of the Cape bunch is the 1995 Longridge Chardonnay, pounds 8.99. There's class in the delicate, woodsmoky aromas but even more on the palate, where intense fruit richness combines with undertones of vanilla and oatmealy complexity from Burgundy-style oak fermentation. Red of the month is from Frank Chludinski, a versatile Polish-American painter living in the Languedoc. His 1994 Domaine de la Fontbertiere. Cuvee Franck Edward, pounds 4.99, is a sweetly ripe, spicy Minervois blend with an enticing palette of herb and bitters flavours.

Threshers, long a champion of New Zealand, has recently introduced Montana's two new upmarket Reserve whites. The Montana 1996 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, pounds 7.49, is a crisp, flavoursome dry white with typically assertive Marlborough characters of gooseberry and blackcurrant leaf. Equally impressive, in its way, the 1996 Montana Reserve Barrique-fermented Chardonnay, pounds 7.49 (also at Oddbins) is richly concentrated with underlying flavours of toffee and butterscotch. From South Australia, the 1996 Tatachilla Grenache-Mataro, pounds 4.79, is a moreishly smooth, cherry and loganberry-fruity red with a smattering of of oak spiciness. Watch out, too, for the same Aussie winery's warm, peppery, Gigondas-like 1995 Grenache-Shiraz, pounds 5.99, due to sneak onto Thresher's Wine Rack and Bottom's-Up shelves in a fortnight's time.

Oddbins has the 1996 Pouilly Fume Sur Lie `Comte de Berge' from Jean- Claude Dagueneau, pounds 7.99, is fragrant, bone-dry grower's Sauvignon Blanc, combining Pouilly Fume's trademark flintiness with mouthwatering freshness and minerally complexity. And from Paul Jaboulet Aine, best known for its legendary Hermitage La Chapelle, the 1995 Cotes du Rhone Parallele `45', pounds 5.99, is an aromatic, juicy blend with the flavours of the Grenache and Syrah grape competing for attention.

Fizz of the month: Seaview Brut Rose, pounds 6.49, Majestic, Unwins, Victoria Wine, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose, Wine Cellar, Berkeley Wines. This bright, pink-hued Aussie from Southcorp's specialist fizz division bubbles under with thirst-quenching summer pudding flavours of raspberry and redcurrant. For parties, take advantage of some of the quantity discount offers around. For instance buy two at Majestic and save pounds 2, or buy a dozen and save a further 15 per cent to make it pounds 4.67 a bottle