PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 1998, 12:00am

Winemakers in the most famous French regions are running scared of producers in the sunny south, and with good reason. The quality of what wine snobs refer to as 'country wine' is improving every year.

Take the 96 Chateau Le Prat from the generous Corbieres region close to Spain.

This aromatic wine with a long richness on the palate sells for $58 wholesale through importers Caldbecks (Fax: 2637-4695), so should sell in supermarkets for about $70, good value for money.

Modernisation has meant many unpopular and unhealthy vines have been uprooted and replaced with modern varieties.

But this wine is made from 40-year-old carignan grapes, the traditional fruit of the region, tempered with grenache which gives it roundness and colour, and shiraz which adds strength.

The result is a subtle wine of 12.5 per cent alcohol.

My tip is to give this wine a chill in the refrigerator as it tastes nicer cooled. Drink it with any red meat, or with pasta or cheese.