Thomas Mitchell Marsanne, 2008

… puts on other beverages’ clothing and hangs around in bars

A bottle of the curiously butch Thomas Mitchell MarsanneWell, for most of today I have been half-deaf. Yeah, that’s why they call me Old Parn. The mundane and somewhat distasteful reason for my deafness is a blocked right ear.

Anyhow, mindful of those stories that tell of people deprived of one sense enjoying increased acuteness in all others, I wandered (ensconced within my curious, insulated realm of semi-silence) into the Oddbins that nestles mere metres from my doorstep.

And decided to pick something I’d never normally: a big South East Australian white.

(I mean a big South East Australian white wine, obviously.)

You know what? It’s not at all bad. Unusual, certainly. Possibly not even to my tastes. But not at all bad.

First thing that hit me upon cracking the blighter open? The smell of beer. Really. I’m not messing around: this actually smelt, at first waft, bizarrely lager-like. You’d think that’d be pretty offputting, non? But I didn’t find it so.

This is a rich, full, golden wine. A wine that has a great deal of heft. It’s butch. But perfumed, all the same. And there’s nothing wrong with being butch and perfumed, let Old Parn assure you right away.

And what perfume it is. So once the beer has subsided, welcome to the land of fruit juice. There’s loads of pineapple (fresh and slightly acid, not cloying and overripe) — in fact, there’s a distinctly cocktailish character to the thing. But not in the same way as that mediocre Friuli from last week. A hint of herbaceousness balances the fruit … and there is a definite fruit pastille presence. The green one.

It’s staggeringly huge in the mouth (yeah, yeah, as the actress said … whatever …) — not remotely subtle or restrained, it throws itself at your tastebuds and wraps them in a matronly embrace. Impressive, if you like that kind of thing. Indeed, its dessert-wine-esque hugeness leads to its most notable downfall: it’s too full-on. I’m more fussy than many about this — but I don’t like my wines to taste alcoholly. By which I mean, to have that somewhat raw, unrefined alcohol blast when left too long in the mouth. It makes them taste cheap.

And this wine otherwise tastes more expensive than it is.

Verdict

For the price, and if you like whackingly domineering white wines full of alcohol and fruit (but still dry), this is a pretty good choice. Don’t pair it with delicately flavoured food, though; I’d probably stick to drinking it on its own, or alongside strongly flavoured/spiced dishes. Don’t worry too much about obscuring its subtleties.

To be honest, it’s not the kind of thing I often fancy. But who’s fighting for the fancies of a half-deaf old codger anyway? Certainly not big, butch, perfumed South East Australian whites.

Rating ★★★☆☆
ABV 13.5%
Price £7.99 from Oddbins

Waitrose Sancerre, Joseph Mellot 2009

… will light up your palate with a triumphant blaze of verdant Spring

If I had to walk into an unfamiliar (or familiarly unreliable) pub and order a glass of white wine, I’d go for Sauvignon Blanc.

It’s a forgiving grape: a bad Sauvignon Blanc (hereafter ‘SB’) tends still to be drinkable, because it’s such a fruity wine. The hoofingly powerful gooseberry-type flavours that almost inevitably dominate SBs can throw a veil over many sins.

But there are two sides, of course, to this. Safety and reliability can all too easily become predictability. And SBs can be a bit like Walkers’ Cheese & Onion crisps: appealingly, tastebud-bombingly gratifying in the short-term, but leaving an acrid artificiality lingering in their wake.

Thank Christ, then, for wines like this damn, damn nice Sancerre (100% Sauvignon Blanc, y’know).

It’s fruity, sure. But it gambols over the pit into which so, so many of its fellow SBs tumble: that of being too fruity — overwhelming, concentrated, one-dimensional.

It slides silkily onto your tongue, before lighting up your palate with a triumphant blaze of pure, verdant Spring — dancing, tingling, mouthfilling — and yet manages to follow this extroverted exposition with a demure, elegant development. Just at the point how to buy viagra online safely when a lesser SB would be beginning to strain, to reveal its limitations, this chap eases into a lovely, smooth 5th gear. And goes on.

And on.

It has an excellent finish, in other words: the youthful greenness (gooseberry, yes — but also the crisp spurt of biting into raw green pepper) blossoms into late-summer roundedness. Peach, firm-fleshed young plums — where the golden flesh is turning vermillion, close to the stone. It is mouthwatering, seductive, addictive. So impressive is the lack of any bump in the transition between the initial excitement and the subsequent warm expansiveness that one’s almost mesmerised. I find myself taking mouthful after mouthful (yeah, any excuse), continually marvelling at the finesse with which this transition is accomplished.

Verdict

I know it’s not a cheap wine, but for this level of complexity — this excellent balance — I’d happily pay a lot more than £12. Deservedly award-winning, this is a very fine wine indeed. Serve it to somebody you want to impress — or somebody you’d like to intoxicate in the most beguiling way imaginable.

Rating ?????
ABV 13%
Price £11.39 from Waitrose

Banear Friulano, 2009

… will kick you like a university student’s cheap homemade cocktails

(Sorry, not the best photo; only iPhone camera to hand)

There are a shocking number of extremely poor Italian wines being sold in the UK. So I suppose I oughtn’t to be surprised that Banear Friulano is emphatically mediocre.

At least it’s not terrible. And this is a price point (£5.50) around which congregate a great number of offensively horrible wines. But that’s not really an excuse. And I’m afraid that, taking all the above into account, Banear Friulano still has very little to recommend it.

There’s a slight soapiness of the kind that often lingers also around Soave. And it’s one of those whites that manages simultaneously to be empty and over-concentrated. Leave a mouthful of this too long without swallowing and it’ll kick you like a combination of vodka and nasty cheap grapefruit juice. Like a fresher’s homemade cocktail.

It’s a shame, because before that vodka-grapefruit hits, there’s the tiniest beginning of a creaminess that, had it been permitted to bloom, could’ve made all the difference.

Verdict

I’m being viagra online us pharmacy somewhat negative, although this isn’t — as I’ve said — terrible. It ticks various ‘adequate’ boxes, but I can’t find much to compliment, really. I suppose it’s ‘fresh’ and ‘zingy’, yeah — and a few more of those meaningless Wetherspoons-menu adjectives. And it’d be a fair enough appetiser, if only because, after a glass of it, you’ll be gasping for something else to cast onto the arid plain that your tongue has become.

M&S has a pretty good Friuli for a similar kind of price (I’ll find out its details next time I’m there and update this post accordingly). Drink that instead, and be reminded that neither Italian whites nor this region specifically are necessarily disappointing, even at a reasonable price.

Update: Yeah, that M&S wine I referred to is M&S Friuli Grave Sauvignon Blanc — seems to be a mere £6 at the moment, though I think it’s a bit more at full price. Buy it instead of Banear.

Rating ?????
ABV 13%
Price £5.50 from the Wine Society

Loios, Vinho Regional Alentejano, 2007 (J Portugal Ramos)

… will fill your mouth with cherry; crushed, dark and bleeding

Tonight, I was grilling lamb. Lamb rubbed with cumin and paprika, alongside a broad bean salad with coriander, garlic and, yes, more cumin.

So that called for a red wine, and one that would stand up to the Moorish spices and charred intensity. I picked a Portugese red from the region of Alentejo, in which (according to Hugh Johnson) ‘A reliably dry climate makes rich, ripe reds’.

This is a good wine.

There’s a nice balance between savoury and sweet. On its own (I taste wines first without food, then with), its complexity is obvious. It’s not a glug-before-dinner wine. There’s a fair bit of tannin there, which makes it a chewable mouthful.

Very first impression (microseconds) is ever so slightly empty. But then there’s an explosion of flavour. Which almost makes that initial first-sip emptiness a virtue. From there on, no emptiness whatsoever.

Flavours are cherry (cherry stones particularly), but of the deep, ripe variety; not firm and ruby, but crushed, dark and bleeding. The savoury tannins entirely keep the fruit in check (which could otherwise be sickly) — balance is excellent.

Add food (and mine was very nice, thank you) and the benefits of those tannins become even clearer. Ever drunk a fruity wine with food and been confronted with a sudden almost cloying sweetness? That was probably thanks to the lack of tannins.

Loios won’t do that to you. No indeed. Without ever becoming exactly soft, the wine mellows and broadens. Juicy. If I do say so, this turned out to be a perfect match for my lamb, and stood up brilliantly to the paprika and cumin.

Verdict

This is a very good wine. It’s serious, and you’d want to pay it attention, not gulp it mindlessly. Most people will want to drink it with food. To be sure of getting a French red of this quality, you’d have to spend a good whack more.

£7.25 is an excellent price, and I’d buy this again. Dinner party calibre, certainly.

Rating ★★★☆☆
ABV 13.5%
Price £7.25 from the Wine Society

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.