23 FEBRUARY 2002, Page 59

Simon Hoggart

AN apology. Last month's offer, from Lay and Wheeler, was so popular and so greatly oversubscribed that poor Hugo Rose had to spend ages locating fresh stocks. Some readers had to wait an annoyingly long time to get their wine. I wish I could promise that it won't happen again, but it will, mainly because it's impossible to predict which choices will be most popular.

However, a good rule is that bargains always sell, which is why I am also so confident about this month's offer, from John Armit of Notting Hill. Amanda Skinner, who runs the show there, has offered more whopping discounts. All I can advise is that you get your order in early.

For instance, I'm sure she'll sell thousands of bottles of Sauvignon Blanc La Soufflerie 2001w, which is knocked down to under £5. Readers already know what amazing wines come these days from the Pays d'Oc. This is made to Armit's own specifications; it's crisp, grassy, lemony with real backbone, and you'd need a very finicky palate to tell the difference from a Sancerre costing much more.

I really liked the Grecante Grechetto dei CoIli Martani 2000ci, which comes from the gorgeous mediaeval hilltop town of Montefalco, overlooking some of the loveliest scenery in Umbria. This shouldn't affect the taste of the wine, but somehow it does whisk you to a hot, indolent Italian summer's day. The Grechetto grape is native to these parts, and makes a round, juicy wine, which you can really roll round the tongue. People claim to taste peaches, nuts and even undergrowth. There's £1 a bottle off the already very reasonable price.

Chablis rage is a growing concern to the police. People pay £10 or more, proudly offer it to their friends, and then find they're glugging acidulated chalk dust. Naturally they want to hit someone with the broken bottle. So I'm delighted we can offer this excellent Domaine de la Genillotte 19980' at a risible £7.67 — a 16 per cent reduction on the list price. Like all good Chablis it has that strong, almost flinty quality, but it also has the rich honeyed flavour so many of them miss. It is made by the latest methods; remember that a lot of the stuff brewed in pig-infested barns is not at all nice, however much the growers bang on about their ancient traditions and the goett de terroir.

The reds are also very exciting. Armits now have their own-label wines, with chic, two-tone minimalist labels. Don't worry that friends will think you cheap for not buying bottles with Gothic lettering and châteaux on the label; the contents are superb.

The Bordeaux Superieur 199St'" is a St Emilion in all but name, made from the same grapes, grown next door to the famous appellation in one of its greatest years. It's soft and fruity and rounded, and quite delicious compared with some of the mouth-puckering fluid flogged as Bordeaux. I even tasted liquorice, which is meant as a compliment. Do let it breathe. The £5.75 price is almost 12 per cent off.

The Italian Red 20000' is really fine. In fact, it could be legally sold as Brunello de Montalcino, and fans of Italian wines will immediately think of soft, plump, ripe fruits, as exotic yet as welcoming as a velvet pillow in a seraglio. (Well, you know what I mean.) Amanda has knocked a tenner per case off the price, making it an incredibly reasonable £6.67 a bottle.

Finally, a wonderful treat. The Steenberg Catharine' is proof, if that were needed, that the South Africans are making some astounding wines. This comes from a plot which has been farmed since Charles II was on the throne, its blend of Cabernet and Merlot full of that lovely ripe cedary flavour of a fine claret. It's really delicious now, and will get even better. I think it's a terrific bargain, especially reduced from £12.50 a bottle to only £10, a pretty amazing 20 per cent.

All deliveries are free, and you can deduct a further £5 per case if you buy three cases or more. And, if you like any of the wines, you can re-order at the same price for up to a month after the offer closes.