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DRINKS; FOOD & DRINK.

Byline: FIONA ENNYS

THOSE passionate citizens of Argentina are having a rough time of it at the moment. A plunging peso, riots on the streets of Buenos Aires, a national government that changes as often as the prices on a garage forecourt. . .

The only bright spot is the national football team, the favourite to win the World Cup in Japan.

But there's one thing we can do to help (well, two, if you can count on England going out in the quarter finals) - and that's get the drinks in.

On a visit to the country just days before the crisis broke, I was amazed to see just how patriotic people were in their choice of tipple. Every bar, every restaurant, every cafY offered home-grown wines. Particularly popular were the hunky reds made from grapes like malbec and cabernet sauvignon.

But now, as the peso in his pocket can barely buy a loaf, never mind a glass of their finest, the man-on-the-street of this amazingly beautiful country is cutting back. And that's bad news for the wine producers.

Despite being the world's fifth biggest producer of wine, only a small amount of the stuff used to leave the country. Yes, they kept almost all of it for themselves - apart from a tiny 2pc which was exported.

So you see, while Argentina has a thriving and successful wine industry - most of it based around the Andean foothills of the Mendoza region to the west of the country - if the folks at home can't afford to buy, then its producers have to look elsewhere for sales simply to ensure they survive the crisis.

Which is where we come in.

Already we have seen more and more Argentine wine appearing on shop shelves - and at prices that are particularly reasonable. Here's a small selection that won't leave you penniless.

Look out for the 2001 Santa Juliana Viognier (Sainsbury, Tesco, Wine Rack, from pounds 4.99) - a lovely lush and peachy white. Then contrast it with Spar UK's Del Sur 2000 - a white wine blend of sauvignon and chenin blanc. This is a sharp-tasting dry wine with lots of grassy flavours. Very much in the sauvignon style, but rounded out by the chenin blanc. Gorgeous lip-smacking stuff, for just pounds 3.99.

Cheaper again, but still cheerful, is the Tesco Argentinian Red (pounds 2.99). Bonarda and barbera grapes give it a lovely red fruits taste - all cherries and strawberries.

You'll have to forgive me for plugging Tesco so unashamedly this week, but they do have a good selection of Argentinian wines.

Try their Picajuan Peak range. I particularly liked the Chardonnay 2001 - all rich, tropical flavours.

Another lovely mouthful is the malbec. They cost pounds 3.99 a bottle or pounds 10 for three (until April 9).

Drink it safe in the knowledge that, some 8,000 miles away, you'll be making a difference!

Have you got a favourite drink? Send your letters to:

Drinks, Daily Post, Old Hall Street, Liverpool L69 3EB. Or e-mail me at:

fiona. ennys@liverpool. com.

Include your name and address and a daytime telephone number and I'll get back to you.

website of the week:

www. wineanorack. com.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 6, 2002
Words:530
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