20 SEPTEMBER 2003, Page 29

1 n the scrubby Languedoc they used to make some

terrible wine, which only the French convinced that theirs is the best, while everyone else produces mere alcoholic grape juice could enjoy or even drink. That's changed. Prodded by world competition, the Languedoc has recreated itself and become one of the fine wine-producing regions of France, .

making bottles which can match ' Bordeaux and Burgundy at a much lower price. Stone, Vine & Sun, an enterprising merchant near Winchester, are offering this selection of treats a delicious white, plus three full, rich and velvety reds, perfect for longer autumn evenings, when you close the windows and seek out forgotten woolly clothes.

The 2002 Viognier Classic( I), made by Gerard Bertrand, a former French rugby international, is a luscious wine from the finest of all southern white grapes. Scented, fruity, and very nicely balanced, it is wonderful value at £5.75, perfect with food or as an aperitif. I'll have lots on hand for when friends drop in.

The Domaine La Croix Belle 2002(2) includes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, so not surprisingly it reminded me of a good claret from a petit chateau only far cheaper. It has nice nutty and smoky flavours too. A great wine

to have in store for dinner parties or just after-work glugging. Reduced to £4.75.

St. Chinian is one of the fastest up-and-coming appellations in France, and you'll see exactly why when you try this gorgeous Domaine Canet-Valette 19990). It's a blend of five different grapes and so has lovely mingled flavours: cher ries, plums, cloves, currants I could happily go on. It's also very soft, just right for slow and luxurious sipping, and first rate value for £7.50.

Finally a terrific bargain: the Domaine de la Prose Grand Cuvee 1999(4) from SaintGeorges d'Orques, an ancient region which really did make fine wine long ago enough for Thomas Jefferson to have been a keen customer. I will quote Andrew Shaw of SV&S: 'Very deep, dark and inky. Syrah to the fore on the nose, along with savoury meat and a touch of toast ... a lovely baked, fruit-cake quality. Both warming and elegant.' You see, it's a full meal in a bottle. I loved the earthy undertones too. This is reduced by £3 to £8.95, and you really will love it.

There is a sample case offering three bottles of each wine, and delivery, as ever, is free.