14 AUGUST 2004, Page 47

p icpoul is French for 'lip-stinger', which is not perhaps the

perfect name for a grape, though better, say, than 'throat-shredder' or 'ulcer-maker' might be. Anyhow, the word means little more than that the grape is slightly more acidic than most, quite a benefit in the Languedoc where, as I discovered a couple of weeks ago, it gets very hot indeed. Picpoul de Pinet is a separate small appellation and in fact produces some extremely nice wines: fresh, lemony and highly refreshing. Wine snobs ('proboscishoisters'?) tend to turn up their noses at Picpoul, but this 2003 made in smallish quantities by the admirable people at the small Mas de Jade(1) is first-rate and strongly recommended — £5.17 a bottle.

That represents a 17.5 per cent discount from a company new to Spectator readers, Playford Ros of Thirsk, North Yorkshire, who have decided to introduce themselves with the same generous saving for all the wines in this offer. Take the stunning Riesling 2003(2) from the famous Chilean estate of Cousino Macul. This had some lean years, but is now well back on track. Riesling is a wonderful grape, but it can be a little thin. Not this: it's rich, ripe and with that lovely unctuous feel in the mouth. To say it tastes of petrol sounds horrid, but it isn't; the best Rieslings have that quality, and come over as heady and perfumed. Wonderful value at £6.74.

As is the Montagny ler Cru 2002(s) from the celebrated Burgundy negociant, Olivier Leflaive. Montagny isn't the greatest of all appellations but this is tremendous stuff — fat and full, packed with hazelnuts and vanilla and a tiny but welcome touch of honey. (Sony, I'm making it sound like an ice-cream sundae, It's much nicer than that.) You will rarely find such good wine in Burgundy for the price of £10.91, reduced from the list price of over £13, which I would regard as a considerable bargain anyway.

Now the reds, and we start with something rather special, The Cabernet/ Carmenere 2003(a) is from Valdelama, in the Maule Valley in the south of the Chilean wine region. The estate was doing poorly, so they brought in an English winemaker, Dominic Hentall, who took things in hand and produced this absolutely gorgeous, soft, satisfying, velvety wine which is packed with flavour and will cost you a mere £4.17, another very generous reduction. This is a perfect party wine for friends you like very much. I took this round to a very fine barbecue the other day and it was the first red to be finished, in spite of some stiff competition.

Any wine fan will tell you that Spain is the industry's new hot spot, and their

wines — especially the reds — seem to get better by the year. This 1998 La Planilla Reserva(5) is just wonderful. It's made from Tempranillo, the classic Spanish grape which also goes into Rioja, but includes Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and has been aged in oak, so you get some of the depth and richness of a fine claret at a fraction of the price. Drinking this wine

is like sinking into a deep comfy leather armchair in a gentlemen's club: you hope that nobody will bother you with mere conversation and that you can finish the decanter alone. The price of £7.32 represents a £1.55 discount. Get in quickly; I suspect this one will not last long.

Nor will the Laforet Bourgogne Rouge 2001(6), from another famous Burgundy negociant, Joseph Drouhin. The list price is over £10, but this is reduced to £8.34, and I doubt if you will find many examples of a red Burgundy which approaches it in quality at a similar price. It's slightly New World in style — I was reminded of the Pinot Noirs you're liable to find in Oregon or New Zealand — being slightly lighter, headier, with a nice welcoming flavour.

I'm really pleased with all the wines in this month's offer. They offer great summer boozing, but will also be just right for those sharper autumn days which drive us back into the house. I think you'll find the sample case very appealing, and delivery is, as always, free.