6 SEPTEMBER 2003, Page 66

1 t's always a huge pleasure to go to Southwold,

that charming, lively yet soothing Suffolk seaside resort — Frinton without the frumpiness. There's a fine intact pier, and at the Crown an excellent restaurant. The colourful but hardly spacious beach huts here can cost more than £35,000 each, several times as much as the same square footage in Mayfair. Southwold is not quite a company town — there's one pub which doesn't serve Adnams ales from the brewery in the town centre, but I wouldn't bother seeking it out, since Adnams beer is delicious, with a light, hoppy, perfumed taste. Its wine operation continues to grow too. In the handsome refurbished store behind the Crown there are special offers — for example, you can pay a fixed price and make up your own case from a wide selection, a bit like pick 'n' mix sweeties. It's an awfully nice place to visit, and I always cheer up when I walk in.

Especially when I go up to the tasting room, where a fortnight ago Alastair Marshall had assembled two dozen truly excellent wines to consider for this month's club offer. Adnams buyers tour the world and seem to have an enviable knack of finding rich, fullflavoured wines, some from distant South American valleys, attainable only by ancient buses on pot-holed roads, others a short hop away in France. All are discounted. Take the sensational 2002 Chardonnay made by Casa Rivas(sPE1), one of the leading producers in the Maipo Valley, Chile. It is jammed with flavour. You'll find hazelnuts, vanilla and toast — and even grapes, as we wine writers occasionally concede. It is a gorgeous bottle, and astonishing value at £4.75.

But £4.95 will buy you the sensational Vina Paraiso Viognier 2002(5PE2) from Mendoza in Argentina. Viognier is an immensely fashionable grape these days. It's delicious and scented (small quantities are added to the fabled Cote Rotie to give it extra zing). The only problem is that it can lack acidity and so be slightly flabby. Not this one. Ifs delectable, creamy and biscuity, and quite stunning for the money.

Adnams' own selection of Sauvignon Blanc, the 2002 Château de Chenonceau in Touraine(sPE3), is a Loire wine, quite as good as many Sancerres, but at a considerably lower price. For years now the French have been reeling from the success of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (last week, in a London restaurant, I saw a bottle of Cloudy Bay listed at £42 — ludicrous!), yet this proves they are fighting back fast. Inexpensive Sauv. Blanes can taste like something you'd use to strip varnish, but this is full and fruity and rounded. Marvellous for £6.25.

The 2001 Courela, Cortes de Cima from Alentejo(sPE4) is another reminder of just how stunning many Portuguese reds are these days.

The powerful flavour is matched by an underlying subtlety which reminded me of some Bordeaux bottles at three times the price. It is a richly satisfying wine, and at only £5.25 a bottle you can order lots to impress your friends as they drink it with your autumn casseroles, game or roasts. The same people make Sir Cliff Richard's wines from his grapes. That really should not put you off.

The 2001 Souffles de Costerelle(sPE5) is one of the nicest Cotes-du-Rhone I have drunk in a long time. It's spicy and velvety' and has a lovely ripe nose, which means that you might want to spend almost as long sniffing it as drinking it. Made by a small independent producer with great care, love and success, it costs just £5.75 a bottle.

My tasting notes for the Adnams own label 2000 Chilean Estate wine from Rapel(5PE6) — the Napa Valley of Chile — simply read: Whumff!' This is not much help to you, but it's a fabulously full fat red wine, made by Alvaro Espinosa, combining the weight and gravitas of Cabernet Sauvignon with plenty of Carmenere, which is similar to Merlot and adds some softness. It's a fabulous combo. This is a majestic wine, and at the ridiculous price of £6.25 I doubt if you would find anything to match it.

Delivery as ever is free — for a case (12 bottles) — and there is a sample case(sPE7) containing two of each wine. All cases are offered at reduced prices.