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Wine with North African food

North African cuisine presents few wine-matching problems, and many attractive challenges. Not unlike the cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean, there are staple ingredients like olives, lemons and tomatoes, nuts and pulses, lamb and chicken, saffron, ginger and cinnamon and, of course, couscous. This is cuisine which employs its spices quite subtly and always includes plenty of vegetables. The traditional Moroccan Tajine (a method of one-pot slow cooking) produces a variety of stews that have a texture and rich flavour that makes them easy to match with many styles of wine, both white and red. Sometimes this is influenced by a particular meat or fish used in the Tajine, but often these are of secondary importance to the rich, reduced stock and vegetables that are the basis of the dish. White wines should be powerfully flavoured yet cleanly made. Reds should have plenty of fruit, and maybe some spice.

And now for some specific recommendations. UK stockist and prices in pounds sterling (approx £5=$8US)

White wines

Banrock Station Chenin/Semillon/Chardonnay 1998
This Australian wine from the ever-reliable Hardys has a lovely nose of cinnamon spice with waxy, buttery notes. The palate is full-flavoured and smooth-textured with fruit, balance and excellent length. Great at this price. (Sainsbury, Safeway £3.49)

Viña San Pedro Sauvignon Blanc "35 Sur" 1998
From Chile's Lontue valley this has a pungent nose of green-beans and gooseberries with hints of sweet lychee fruit. The palate has plenty of ripe fruit, yet nicely balanced acidity. Ideal with hummus or lightly spiced dishes. (Sainsbury, Safeway £4.49)

Domaine de Raissac Viognier 1998
Viognier is the fashionable grape once confined to super-expensive white wines of the northern Rhône. Now planted more widely, as here in the south of France, it makes a floral scented wine with aromas of peaches and pear-drops. It is full of apricot fruit with fresh, zippy acidity (Majestic £4.99)

Red wines

Domaine Madelon Corbières 1998
The wines from this sun-drenched corner of France are value for money favourites. This example is packed with creamy berry fruit on nose and has a chocolate richness on the palate. Spicy, peppery tannins add depth. (Majestic £3.99)

Tre Uve Ultima 1997
This Italian wine has a black-cherry nose with hints of tobacco and herbs. On the palate it is dense and chewy with big drying tannins. It has masses of lush fruit, but also an earthy, spiciness that gives structure. Ideal with lamb-based dishes. (Oddbins £5.99)

Waiparra West Ram Paddock Red 1996
A New Zealand wine in the Bordeaux style, with a nose of jammy blackcurrant fruit and some cedary spice. Initially firm tannins give way to juicy black fruit and an earthy roughness. Balanced, long and classy enough to improve with a year or two's cellaring. (Peckham's, Scotland, £8.49 )