The winner of last week’s Wine Competition

In which Old Parn reveals the lucky winner of his first wine competition

Thank you to everyone for your entries, first of all. I had fun reading hundreds of identical messages on Twitter, and methodically noting them all down.

But (as the cliche rumbles) there has to be a winner. And, on this occasion, I’m overjoyed to proclaim that the prize of 5 bottles of Wine Society goodness will go to Martin McCann, aka bar1ibrary.

Congratulations to the aforementioned gentleman, whose first words (tweeted) to the assembled press pack upon hearing the news were as follows:

‘I’m honoured. Actually I’m flabbergasted. Thank you and thank the random number generator.’


Anyhow, it was heaps of fun, wasn’t it? And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I were to run another wine competition in the future. So y’all should subscribe (by email or RSS) to make sure you don’t miss it. Yah?

The method

In case you’re interested, here’s how I randomly selected the winner. I’d been logging each entrant (monitored via Tweetdeck hashtag alerts) in a spreadsheet.

I then used this handy online random number generator to, well, generate a random number — between 1 and 250 (the number of entries). The number it threw up (8, as it happened) corresponded to the row of the spreadsheet in which our friend bar1ibrary’s entry was logged.

So now you know.

Competition: Win a half-case of wine worth over £40

A competition offering a delightful, winey prize. To enter, you must simply tweet…

A closeup photo of the logo of the Wine Society on a cardboard box. It's cropped in order that the word 'Wine' appears as 'Win'

I’m giving away five bottles of very nice wine — worth £40.

Why in hell’s name would I want to do that? Mainly because I’m a swell kind of guy. But also because I want to spread the word about this blog of mine.

And so, to enter this competition, I’m asking you to send a tweet. That is (if you’re not au fait with this nonsense) a message on Twitter. That’s all.

How do I enter, then?

First up, this competition is only for people living in the UK. Or, at least, I can only deliver the wine to a UK address. Sorry to the rest of the world.

Aside from that, though, it’s open to anyone with a Twitter account. Just send a tweet that contains the link ‘’ and the hashtag ‘#winecompetition’. For example:

I just entered the #winecompetition at via @billicatons

You can do it yourself, by hand, or alternatively just click the button below, which’ll open a new twitter window with a ready-made tweet for you to post or edit:

So, to reiterate, as long as your tweet includes the link and the hashtag #winecompetition, it can say anything you want. It’s important you include those two elements, though, as they are what I’ll be using to track the entries.

… And that’s literally all you need to do. Just do it before the closing date (Monday 28 February). There’s no entry fee, no caption contest, no risk, no catch. So you may as well do it, yeah?

And what happens then?

The competition is now open. So tweet away. It’ll close at 11pm (GMT) on Monday 28 February 2011. That means you have over a week to send a single tweet. Generous enough?

I’ll be tracking all the tweets, and, at the end of the competition, I’ll randomly draw a winner from all the people who’ve sent the tweet.

I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday 1 March. You might like to subscribe to the blog (by email or RSS) — or else shuffle over on that date to find out who won. I’ll also announce the winner on Twitter, where I go under the name @billicatons.

Tell me more about the prize

The above is pretty much all you need to know to enter. But you’re curious about the wines you could win, aren’t you? Well, I’m glad you asked…

The prize is five bottles of wine from The Wine Society — all of which I’ve reviewed. The half-case is worth £44.40 (including delivery). The wines themselves are as follows (in each case, the link takes you to my original review):

Millton Te Arai | ★★★★ | £12.95
‘Imagine a mug of lemon and honey where the combinations are absolutely perfectly judged. Then forget that, because this is way fucking nicer.’

Brindisi Rosso Vigna Flaminio | ★★★★ | £6.95
‘A wine that — quite literally — made me shout with joy’

Domaine de Gournier, Cevennes | ★★★ | £5.75
‘A wine that doesn’t strip to its underwear while you’re still pouring the drinks.’

Cotes du Rhone, Domaine Jaume | ★★★ | £7.25
‘A wine that doesn’t pretend to be TS Eliot. Just a good, honest gobfiller.’

… and, finally, the first bottle of wine I ever wrote about, back before I’d started this blog…

Grant Burge Benchmark Shiraz | £6.50
‘A bracingly intense blend of blackcurrant and shoe polish (FUCKING LOVELY SHOE POLISH).’

So, yeah, there you have it. Enter, enter, my pretties. Here’s that handy tweet button again:

Remember, your tweet just has to include #winecompetition and the link

Small print (actually the same size as all the rest)

This competition features wines from The Wine Society, but it is in no way sponsored or endorsed by that company. I just happen to like its wines, so that’s where I’ll be ordering them from for you, should you win.

If any of the wines I’ve listed above is out of stock by the closing date, I’ll replace it with a wine of at least the same value.

Thanks to the inexorable, remorseless passage of time, some of the wines will be of a different vintage from those I originally reviewed. I trust you’ll deal with this admirably.

The prize includes the cost of postage to a UK address.

Delivery to a non-UK address is not possible. If the winner does not have a UK address, I will repeat the draw.

Subscribe to this blog

Come with me to a new and wholesome land!

In which Old Parn introduces the masses to his newly designed blog

A painting depicting a family of pioneers in a verdant rural landscape Okay, what’s happening?

This is what’s happening.

You remember how I promised the advent of a great and mighty wonder — in a fashion not wholly unlike that of John the Baptist — a few weeks ago? Well, that wonder has come to pass.

I have made a new blog design. Wiv me own bare ‘ands.

(That’s why it all looks diffrunt, loike.)

All my new reviews (and there are some goodies on the way, I promise) will only be posted on this new site. The old site? Well, try and go there if you wish; you’ll be ushered (gently yet firmly) across to the new’n.

A reassuring word to my beloved subscribers

If you’re reading this post via an RSS feed or an email subscription, fear not: you don’t need to do anything and your subscription will simply move across to the new site. Indeed, all being well, it probably already has. Woo.

(In passing, allow me to encourage those of you who aren’t to get with the cool kids and subscribe, too. Imagine! Old Parn’s winey ramblings straight to your inbox/reader. Bliss unparalleled, I tell ye.)

And, finally, a smidgin of waffle about the redesign, for those waffle-lovers amongst you

Yeah, as well as drinking alcohol and scattering words about like a shredded dictionary in a wind-tunnel, I also design websites and brochures and logos and things. And I deemed it a little ridiculous that a designer of things should have a crap-looking blog based on an off-the-peg template.

So that’s how it came about.

I’ve designed the site in such a way as to put emphasis on the reviews. I didn’t want to clutter them up with loads of sidebars and links, so all that gubbins is annexed off to the bottom. I’ve also made the text big. Because you probably want to read it, and big text is good to read, innit?

I also wanted it to look different from most wine blogs.

I’d be delighted to read yo’ comments on the redesign. Or, indeed, on anything else.

I ain’t fussy.

Change is coming to Old Parn

In which the eponymous Old Parn tantalises his readers with distant prospects and promises

Thanks for accompanying me through the blooming and withering of the flower that was 2010. I raise my glass to you (if you could see me, I guarantee I would be raising my glass. Or at least gulping from it, madly.)

Back when I started Old Parn’s Wine Reviews, in the murky depths of, um, September 2010, I had no idea how much I’d enjoy having a cast-iron excuse to drink lots of wine writing a wine blog.

So I’m stepping things up a bit.

A closed, partially-derelict wine bar in Belfast with a distinctive pink facade

Old Parn’s Wine Reviews, then, will be changing soon. First up, it’ll be moving from Blogger to WordPress. But more importantly, it will be metamorphosing. I am — even now — hard at work in my secret laboratory, designing the new Old Parn.

So your days of looking at this site’s over-yellow and JPG-artifact-ridden background are (mercifully) numbered. A new and prettier site is on the way. And this one will be brought to you — bespoke — by my own fair hand. Not grabbed off the peg.

Stick with me till then, won’tcha? I’ve a Pinot Blanc and a Christmas Bordeaux to tell y’about in the meanwhile…

Freshly squeezed orange juice, 2010

… is not a wine, but is still one of the nicest things I’ve drank this year

A composite image: on the left, the vibrant discarded remnants of squeezed oranges; on the right, a cut-glass tumbler of fresh orange juice

Two oranges — icy cold from the night’s snow — squeezed into a glass.

Absolutely simple and clean across the palate. Mineral-laced, like a mouthful of sea-wind. No cloy, no claggy residue of flavour at the back of the tongue. Glacial and lovely.

I know this is a wine blog. But here’s the thing: I’ve drunk some brilliant wines this year. And I’ve spent more money than I’d care to reckon up on so doing. But that glass of orange juice is right up there with the best of them.

Wine tasting to be defunct by 2030?

… In which I tell of scientific advances in automated taste-categorisation

Not a review, today, but a scientific tidbit that may interest you. An article caught my eye in the current issue of the Economist, describing a new system for the categorisation of smells.

‘Although the human sense of smell is keen, it is hampered by a lack of precision. When presented with hundreds of odours, the nose can simultaneously distinguish only a few. Keenly aware of these problems, Alírio Rodrigues at the University of Porto in Portugal and his colleagues compiled an extensive list of scent descriptions from the existing databases used by the perfume industry. They found that eight general terms for scents (citrus, floral, green, fruity, herbaceous, musk, oriental and woody) could work as families to which more than 2,000 specific scents could be assigned. The team then plotted these eight families onto a map that resembled the plots on a radar screen.’

It turns out that Rodrigues’ “radar” is able automatically to categorise perfumes according to scent-family. Obviously, as the Economist points out, the potential impact of this reaches further than perfumers…

So might we one day see wine tasting relegated to the status of ‘quaintly old-fashioned’ activity – like basket-weaving or letter-writing? By 2030, will all our tasting notes be mechanically generated? It’d doubtless work out cheaper than hiring all these temperamental winos. And fewer hangov sick days.

Well, clearly the answer to that is no. But I couldn’t help but throw in a childishly provocative rhetorical question.

When a machine starts being able to generate metaphors, though? Then I’ll be worried.

Read the full article in the Economist online

A word on ratings

In which the venerable Parn explains (for those who care to know) the intricacies of his rating system

Well — hello. My subscriber stats tell me that I’ve garnered a bunch of new readers over the past couple of days. So if that’s you: much ‘bliged. Stick around, won’t you? This very minute I’m gurgling my way down a bottle of South African red from M&S, which’ll make its appearance on these pages soon, soon, very soon, passing soon.

Meanwhile, though, I wanted to scrawl a few haphazard words about my rating system, here at Old Parn’s.

I don’t do the ‘out of 100’ style ratings beloved of many tasters. Maybe I’ll someday graduate to those. But my own ‘system’ is somewhat more laid-back.

The star rating you see at the end of a review is an ‘overall’ mark that takes into consideration not only a wine’s qualities, but also – to some degree – its value for money. Here’s a brief rundown:

  • ????? (0 stars) – a wine with very little to recommend it. Either it’s simply unpleasant to drink, or else it’s extremely overpriced and mediocre. Example: Oyster Bay Merlot 2008
  • ????? (1 star) – a wine that may have some merit, but is let down by very notable flaws that are more or less unforgivable. Example: Banear Friulano 2009
  • ????? (2 stars) – a good order clomid online canada wine. Typical enough, everyday. Not a treat, but competently made and relatively enjoyable. A safe pair of hands. Example: Domaine de Gournier, VdP Cevennes 2009
  • ????? (3 stars) – a good and interesting wine. Nothing outstanding, still, but very good all the same. Better than most other wines of its type. Example: Loios, Vinho Regional Alentejano 2007
  • ????? (4 stars) – an excellent wine. This will either be a very fine example of its kind or else will be a very good wine with a distinctive, fascinating, unusual quality – or an extremely good price. Example: Domaine Font de Michelle 2004
  • ????? (5 stars) – an outstanding wine. I won’t give a wine five stars unless it is exceptionally good. If you see this rating, it means I judge this to be a brilliant wine (not simply a very good value one). A must-drink. Example: Waitrose Sancerre, Joseph Mellot 2009

So, yeah. There y’are. As you’ll see, most of the ratings are positive: anything above and including 2 stars is a good wine. I’m not so interested in the differences between a bad wine, a nasty wine and an execrable wine.

They’d all get zero in my book.

Welcome to Old Parn’s Wine Reviews

In which your hero identifies his old, bad self and declaims (at no great length) his principles (or lack thereof)

Greetings, ladies; greetings, gentlemen. This blog exists solely for the purpose of cataloguing my consumption of alcohol (and my token justification of said consumption via the trusty mechanism of critical analysis/appreciation). Here’s the score.

  1. As I drink wines, I’ll write about them. I might even rate them, if I can bring myself to that formidable degree of decisiveness.
  2. I’m not a wine critic (though I once applied for a graduate traineeship at Majestic Wine. Rejected.) I buy these wines myself (though would be more than happy to receive donations from generous wine emporia, let it be noted).
  3. I’ll be covering a range of prices, from cheapish to bowel-clenchingly expensive. The latter considerably more rarely than the former. Unfortunately.
  4. Sometimes (I do not promise always), I’ll give y’a bit of background. Perhaps in the case of an unusual grape variety, obscure region or suchlike. This I will include in my posts (some will say counterintuitively) under the heading ‘Background’.

That’s pretty much it. More to follow shortly.