Wines of the month

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Recent buoyant performances from Tesco and Safeway give both ample reason to be cheerful this month. Safeway celebrates with its May Wine Fair, which started on Monday, and Tesco is now into its second week of its Wine Festival. In addition to its regular five per cent discount on six bottles, Tesco features a 10 per cent discount on any bottle of wine bought from Australia (until Tuesday), South Africa between 7 and 20 May, Chile between 21 May and 3 June, and Champagne from 4 to 17 June.

Among one-offs specially brought in for the Tesco Festival, the 1996 Pouilly Fume, pounds 4.99, is a typically nettley, bone dry Loire Valley sauvignon blanc, while the off-dry 1996 Montana Riesling, pounds 4.99, with its copious citrusy lemon and lime-like flavours puts a few dents into your common or garden German riesling at the price. There's a tobaccoey, savoury Chilean red in the affordable 1996 Santa Ines Malbec, pounds 3.49, and simple but juicy, blackcurrent fruitiness with a spicy oak sheen from Bulgaria's 1995 Noble Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, pounds 3.69. Australia contributes the 1995 St Hallett Faith Shiraz, pounds 7.99, a smoky, softly blackberryish Barossa Valley red from the Old Block stable.

As in the Foires aux Vins in France, there's rather a lot of classy-sounding Bordeaux at the Tesco Festival, much of it, though, from the unenen 1992/3/4 trio of vintages. Each vintage has its share of pluses and minuses and in 1994, Chateau Coufran, pounds 8.99, turns out to be an atypical, attractively merlot-rich Haut-Medoc with a smidgen of vanilla from oak maturation.

Safeway kicked off its own festivities on Monday with a handful of one- offs specially bought in to wet your whistle for the Wine Fair, which runs to 24 May. At the cheap and relatively cheerful end of the spectrum, the 1996 Harslevelu, pounds 2.99, from Hungary's Tokaj region, has been fashioned into a fragrant, bracingly crisp dry white by Grapevine's winemaker of the year. A'kos Kamocsay, who's also come up with an elegantly dry, refreshingly raspberryish summery rose in the 1996 Hungarian Pinot Noir Rose, pounds 3.49. Australia's BRL-Hardy has turned in a crisp, appley 1996 Chardonnay Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France, pounds 2.99, from the Loire, and Catena, from Argentina, a riper, more tropically fruity style of chardonnay in the 1996 La Rural Chardonnay, pounds 3.49.

In 1992, Gonzague Lurton, one of Lucien Lurton's 10 offspring, set about improving papa's classified but underachieving Margaux property, Chateau Durfort-Vivens, when he took over the reins of power. The 1996 vintage, for instance, currently on offer from independent wine merchants, is a big improvement, and although from the relatively light 1993 vintage, the second label, prosaically named Le Segond de Durfort, reduced by pounds 2 to pounds 5.99 for the Fair, offers the authentic nose and taste of Margaux at a fair price.

Despite the hefty price hikes in Australian reds, the new vintage of Hardy's popular Bankside Shiraz remains at the 1994 vintage price, pounds 5.99 (also at Asda), for the time being. The still youthful 1995 is a powerfully aromatic Aussie red flecked with cinnamon spice and mint and full of lusciously blackberryish fruit. If you have had problems, by the way, finding the 1995 Valdiviesco Cabernet Franc Reserve, pounds 7.99, or 1994 Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Merlot, pounds 8.99, these two fine Chilean reds should now be in store

Fizz of the Month: Tesco Blanc de Blancs Champagne, Cuvee Speciale, pounds 13.99, from Duval-Leroy, a family Champagne producer currently making its mark with champagne every bit as good as some of the region's more illustrious names - but cheaper. The creamy-textured mousse of this all-chardonnay fizz puts delicately flavoured flesh on the backbone of a classic blanc de blancs style.