WINE made me bald. No, fellas, don't worry, this isn't scaremongering to add to the game of opinion ping-pong played over wine's health benefits every year. This story is much more straightforward.

Mrs F and I were once having such a good time drinking a bottle of wine that we decided to shave my head. I've got to confess what seemed like a good idea at the time wasn't quite as funny the next morning. Even less so when repeated attempts to re-grow the crowning glory failed. But I can't deny it was great fun. And while I can't remember much else of the evening, I can still remember the wine we were drinking like it was yesterday.

The problem is that there are so many more wines that I just forget. Sure they're well-made, decent bottles. I have books full of scribbled notes recording ''nice structure'', ''clean fruit flavours'', ''balanced'' and, worst of all, ''gluggable''. And if I'm honest I can't remember one from the other without going back to my notes. But then, if you flip past several of these forgettable pages, occasionally you will come across ''WOW'', ''bizarre'', ''outstanding'' and even, in one case,

''b****r me!''

What I'm getting at is there's so much nice, solid, dependable wine out there. But they're rather like the nice, solid, dependable girls my parents used to implore me to ask out as a teenager - they just don't turn me on. I want something dangerous, seductive, alluring, maybe even a little bit dirty. Come on girls, oops . . . I mean, come on winemakers, turn me on.

Domaine de Mas Blanc Collioure 'Les Cosprons Levant' 1997

(pounds) 17.99, Sainsbury's

My tasting notes for this have ''WOW'' scrawled across them, but at the Sainsbury's annual tasting the room was seriously divided. Some (less discerning) newspaper writers thought this was faulty - how wrong could they be? I know it's expensive, but you just have to try this. Overwhelming smoky, spicy, joss-stick aromas dominate the nose, paving the way for an immense, rich, ripe palate with more mysterious spice and a biting acidity. Seriously, a couple of glasses of this and you need a lie-down.

Eliane's Single Vineyard Corbieres Gruissan 2000

(pounds) 4.99, Sainsbury's

I love this, but to get the full effect, see if you can find some fox urine. This has a distinct whiff of Reynard's business on the nose (I know that it's hard to imagine that's a good thing, but trust me) along with more orthodox attractions like a spicy, ripe fruit packed with the herbal aromas of the garrigue. In the mouth this is beautifully balanced, with nice firm tannins and a long finish.

Picpoul de Pinet 'Les Flancons' 1999 Coteaux du Languedoc

(pounds) 11.99, Sainsbury's

If you want to get away from Chardonnay whites, look no further. I love this stuff. The aromatic nose is packed full of honey-sweetness with a whiff of floral mintiness. Its flavours are - like many less well-known grapes - characterised by a mineral acidity, but with a rich, welcoming, sweet, ripe fruit.

Devereux Vin de Pays De L'Aude 2000

(pounds) 2.99, Sainsbury's

You really can't go wrong with this one

- surely one of the best buys of the summer. Crunchy, lively fruit with a fun spiciness in the mouth and more berry fruit flavour than the price deserves. Go on - have another bottle, it's only (pounds) 2.99, and anyway, you only live once.

La Colonie Vine de Pays des Collines de la Moure 1998

(pounds) 6.99, Marks & Spencer

Tasting notes from some of the most interesting wines can sound like the wish list for an S&M party - leather, rubber, tar and a tub of dried prunes - but that really is what they smell of. But at nearly (pounds) 7 wines have to work in the mouth too, and this does admirably, with well-structured acids and a firm, tannic structure maintaining taste-bud discipline - oops, sounds like we're back to S&M parties.



Blandy's Rich Duke of Clarence Madeira

(pounds) 9.49, widely available

Rich, sweet Madeira is at the heart of this summer's most entertaining combination. For an alternative to Pimms, mix a healthy measure of this most traditional of drinks with lemonade, a few pieces of apple, strawberries, a mint leaf and masses of crushed ice. There's still some of the Madeira's famed nutty flavour, sweetness and acidity but lengthened into a satisfying tipple.