I TASTE hundreds of different wines a year but I realised last week that there was one style that I'd avoided for too long: South American whites. Years ago, when the world was being wooed by Chilean Merlots and Argenitinian Malbecs, I desperately wanted the white wines to be as inviting but, to be honest, too many of them tasted dirty and tart.

Wow, did I get a shock last week when I persuaded myself to take a fresh look. Torrontes, which for me was one of the worst whites ever created, is the ugly duckling that turned into a swan. The ones I tasted were clean, aromatic and fruity and the sauvignon blancs that were once sad in comparison with their Kiwi cousins are all of a sudden gorgeous.

The big surprise, however, and a very pleasant one at that were the chardonnays. By eck, have they improved. I tasted a few unoaked chardonnays that were every bit as good as comparable-priced Aussies but the top end chardonnays were the real source of my delight.

I like my chardonnay to be dry, slightly austere on the nose, yellow in colour and with a palate akin to a heavily buttered slice of warm toast and that's exactly what I found. The best surprise of all, though, was that the prices for the top end chardonnays are a fraction of anything comparable in taste from the rest of the world, especially their Burgundian peers.

El Chivo Sauvignon Blanc, Chile

Quite delightful with a lovely fruity nose and crisp citrus and gooseberry flavours on the palate. Really really lovely for the price.

The Good Spirits Co £8.40

Catena Chardonnay, Mendoza

Oh my, this is a cracker of a chardonnay and at a price that allows you to play the Lord of the Manor to your visiting friends. It's got clean, stony fruit, a lovely buttery palate and crisp apple flavours. Ridiculously cheap for the quality but you come to expect that from the wizards at Catena.

Majestic £13.99 or £10.99 mix six