27 JULY 2002, Page 53

Simon Hoggart

TANNERS of Shrewsbury are part Of the Bunch, a merry and convivial group of leading wine merchants who include Spectator favourites such as Corney & Barrow, Lay & Wheeler, and Robin Yapp. Tanners have a long and distinguished history; they keep up a fine traditional list, spruced up with lots of exciting new wines. All this month's selections are of a medium price, so that you can afford plenty for the holidays. The reds will be perfect as the cool damp days of autumn replace the warm damp days of summer. All are excellent value.

The Alpha Zeta Chardonnay 2001", from Verona, is a wonderful summer wine. It is partly barrel-fermented, so it has some oak flavour, but not so that it tastes of wood, like some Chardonnays I could mention. The grapes come from low-yield vineyards, and the wine is left on its lees to pack in yet more flavour. I think it's lovely, and I don't see how Tanners do it for a mere £4.75, a reduction of £5.40 a case.

There is something wonderfully retro about Entre-Deux-Mers. A birthday dinner, circa 1970, might start with prawn cocktail, continue with something flarnheed at your table, and conclude with a Black Forest gateau, all washed down with a flaccid white.

Not this. Chateau Bel Air 200r is superb. The Hachette guide to the wines of France gives it two stars, its second-highest rating. I can't quote everything Hachette says, because I'd be embarrassed, but they mention a 'magisterial' nose, and go on to use words like 'stunning and complex • . . springtime flowers, passion fruit, lychee and pineapple on a bed of acacia honey . . . the attack is explosive, the body round, concentrated and silky, the sensual finish has hints of liquorice'. Come on, guys, it isn't quite that sensational, but it is a very fine wine indeed for a mere £5.30, which equals £6 off per case. Astonishing value.

An echt Alsace Gewiirztraminer for under £6 a bottle seems remarkable. A good one seems miraculous. This J. Hornstein 2000's' comes from the famous Pfaffenheim co-op, and it has flavours of roses, vanilla and toast. And lychees. Never forget the lychees. Of course it's not as powerful as a £15 Gewiirz, but it is terrific stuff, and at this price — a £6.60 a case reduction — you can have the luxury of drinking it all the time.

The reds are very meaty. Normally I would try to include something lighter too, but I couldn't resist any of these, so I had to offer them while I could. For fans of Aussie Cabernet/Shiraz, the Cam Estate 1998'4' will be just the job. It's ready to drink now, but a year or so longer would bring out those berry and damson flavours, and that lovely peppery dash that so many Oz Shirazes bring to the party. Also reduced by £6.60.

COtes du Rhone is increasingly popular in

Britain now, ousting poor old Beaujolais, which has paid a heavy price for that tired Beaujolais Nouveau stunt. La Montagne d'Or 2000'5' is a Cotes du Rhone-Villages

which is spicy and herby and thick with delicious fruit. Some wines really do taste of the place they come from, and this will instantly whisk you to southern France on a hot summer's day. Even more delicious with a £6 a case discount.

James Tanner has generously knocked

a bottle off the scrumptious Artadi Vinas de Gain Rioja 1998,0) bringing it down to just £7.95. It is a classic example of good Rioja, as opposed to a nasty, thin wine-bar Rioja. It is smoky, concentrated, and tastes of plums and aniseed and mint and vanilla and, I dare say, grapes as well. You'll love it.

Finally, and not in the sample case, is Tanner's own brand Brut Extra Reserve chainpagne. If you want something better than cheap supermarket bubbles, hut more reasonably priced than the grandes marques, this is it. Full toasty flavour, lovely nose, and a very satisfying drop at £12 a case off list price. All delivery is free, and there is a £3 per case extra discount for orders of three cases and above. If you like a wine, you can reorder it at the same price for a further month.