10 FEBRUARY 2001, Page 58

Easy on the pocket and the tooth enamel

Jonathan Ray

in the Loire — it is deliciously juicy and jamtny, both on the nose and in the mouth, and, apart from a touch of typical herbaceous stalkiness, there is scarcely any tannin to mar the succulent fruit.

The 1999 Vins de Pays de Catalan'", from the village of Terrats near Perpignan, is an extraordinary wine which readers are unlikely to find anywhere else. Although Denis Ferrer's family have been making wine in the area for 600 years, it is only since 1988 that they have been making wine for themselves rather than for the local cooperative, in partnership with an expert and imaginative young winemaker called Bruno Ribiere. Made from 100 per cent Carignan — France's most widely planted grape — from 122-year-old vines (Robin was most precise about their age), the wine is dark, delicious, soft, rich and jammy. I've already nabbed myself a case.

The 1997 Gigondas''' is the perfect example of a southern Rhone Grenache. A dullish deep-red in colour, with plenty of typical fruit and spice aromas, the wine is soft, yet powerful, with ample sweet fruit. It is ready to drink now, but can only improve, and there are hints of its coming maturity. Calling this excellent wine boisterous, robust and earthy might make it sound like Bernard Manning, but I trust that readers will understand what I mean. It may have been the sudden burst of pale winter sun, or it may have been Robin's natural bonhomie, but he promptly lopped a pound off its price, making it a steal at £8.25 a bottle.

All the wines have been discounted dramatically, and the mixed dozen comes in at a paltry £69.00, which, if one takes into account the generous terms of free delivery, represents a saving of some £13.20 per mixed case.