Mischievous Italian flirtation, with a hint of gruffness

… will flirt fruitily with your nose, before getting gruff with your gob

The label of this bottle of Falerio shows crest and vineyard

Fill your snout with a decent sniff of Saladini Pilastri Falerio and you’ll think that you’re in for a flighty, flirty, fruity kind of wine. Mischievous, light-footed, scarpersome. There’s that beguiling waft of pear drops, for one thing, that always puts me in mind of smalltime juvenile delinquency.

But swish a bit of the stuff round your mouth and you might be surprised at the amount of fullness and depth. There’s a nice hint of bitterness; a gruff quality that contradicts (or enhances, I guess, if gruffness is your thing) the flirtatious, fruity, sweet-shoppy goings on.

It’s not a blindingly extraordinary wine, but neither is it a typical one. And for the rather goddamn lovely price of £6.25 — I’d contend — this is the kind of bottle you could well be cracking open in the middle of the week and still tasting something new, something interesting.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region Falerio dei Colli Ascolani (South Italy)
Grapes Passerina and Pecorino
ABV 13%
Price £6.25 from The Wine Society

Battery Chardonnay or Jane Austen Chardonnay?

… may not possess Austen-esque poise, but it has manners, and doesn’t overwhelm and disgust you with noxious belching

Closeup of the label of a bottle of Stephen Miller Chardonnay, complete with typography and logo — a bearded man's face, complete with hat

Chardonnay’s a beautiful, beautiful grape. Matt Walls got it right when he compared it to Farrah Fawcett, Beyonce, Scarlett Johansson and Leonardo DiCaprio.

But all too often, Chardonnay is treated shabbily. The result is a battery chicken of a wine, all pumped up and fattened and flabby and morally offensive.

I’ve spoken to so, so many people (of all ages and degrees of wine knowledge) who’ve said that they ‘don’t like Chardonnay’. Because they’ve only knowingly tasted battery Chardonnay. And fair enough. Because battery Chardonnay is fucking heinous stuff. Swollen, belching, flabby and gaudy, the kind of wine that yells out to its mates then falls over in the gutter. Where it belongs.

So when I see a cheapish Chardonnay from the new world, I hope I’m not in for a run-in with one of these characters. Fortunately, Stephen Millier’s Chardonnay isn’t one; it’s an altogether more demure affair. Not as much as some (Chardonnay is capable of Austen-esque poise), but it’s got manners, and doesn’t overwhelm and disgust you with a gigantic belch of alcohol. In fact, if you chill it down decently (perhaps a bit more than you really ought to chill chardonnay), it’s quite nimble and sprightly in the old gob.

Chardonnay can, of course, do quite a lot more than not be disgusting. And I realise that, as recommendations go, this is scarcely a clarion-call. But so it goes. If you’re a Naked Wines member, you fancy Chardonnay, and you have a budget of £5.99, I’d say you should give this’n a go.

If you’re not a member, save your £7.99 and put it towards a copy of Pride & Prejudice.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Grape Chardonnay
Region California
ABV 13%
Price £7.99 from Naked Wines (£5.99 for members)

A wine that’s all about blackcurrant

… is basically just like my parents’ blackcurrant jelly

Closeup of the label of this bottle of Stephen Miller Shiraz. Typography and line-drawing logo of bearded man in a hatMy clever old parents make blackcurrant jelly. Darker, less translucent than those confected supermarket ones, it smells like the essence of the fruit. Intense and sharp, it stains your toast black-red.

Stephen Miller’s Shiraz smells almost exactly like my parents’ blackcurrant jelly. It tastes vaguely similar, too. Once your tastebuds have vaulted over the towering wall of blackcurrant, there’s not too much else to talk about: it’s a relatively straightforward kind of wine. It has a whack of alcohol — and there’s a smear of liquorice in there too — and the whole shaboddle hangs together pretty well. But, really, it’s all about the blackcurrants. Which is all very nice — but Stephen Miller’s Shiraz makes for an altogether less suitable (and socially acceptable) breakfast accompaniment than does my parents’ jelly.

So, altogether, I’d say it’s fun enough, y’know. The kind of wine that even people who don’t like wine much would probably drink relatively happily. But — for me — it’s a smidgin too intense in its fruitiness. In a manner that I hope won’t cause too many parallels to be drawn between myself and George Osborne, I’d prefer a bit more austerity.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good — if you like blackcurrants)
Grape Shiraz
Region California
ABV 13.5%
Price Was £5.99 to me as a Naked Wines member. But it’s sold out now, I’m afraid.

A loving 70s housewife of a wine

… has a picture of a horse on it

A bottle of yellow-labelled Arabella (stock image)Slightly too much bosh when you first slug Arabella into your gob — but other than that, she’s pretty nice. Especially if you don’t chill the pants off her, but instead do her the courtesy of drinking her only slightly chilled. Then you get all the luscious tinned fruit she’s been saving up for you like a loving 70s housewife, fearful of imminent nuclear apocalypse.

Mmm. Tinned generic cialis cheapest fruit.

Pear drops crop up in there, too (though quite as dramatically as we’ve seen elsewhere). Rather nice, actually.

And it’s got a picture of a horse on it.

Um. That’s all I’ve got to say. Can I go and play in the torrential rain now, please?

Rating ??? 3 stars (good)
Grape Chenin Blanc
Region South Africa
ABV 12%
Price £8.49 from Naked Wines; £6.25 if you’re a member

Quinta da Espiga Branco 2010 (Casa Santos Lima) review

… may not be a bona fide speed potion mixed by a malicious child — but is certainly nice enough to warrant a shambling kind of jog as you go to fetch your wallet

A childhood photograph of Old Parn and his sister (who has a teddy bear)What was the first cocktail you ever made?

Mine was a speed potion.

In order that I may elaborate further, I’d like to introduce you to my sister — Young Parn, Koozle or Parnell’s Sister, as she is variously known — who, by virtue of being two years my junior, qualified for that most precious form of sibling love: merciless, vile-spirited deceit and manipulation.

Spare a thought, o reader, for Parnell’s Sister.

Spare a thought for her, specifically, as she sits, her eager gob agape, listening to me telling her that I am training to be a wizard.

YES, ROWLING, DID YOU GET THAT? A WIZARD. ROLL THAT UP IN YOUR FORTHCOMING PLAGIARISM COURT SUMMONS AND SMOKE IT. PARN GOT THERE FIRST.

‘What kind of magic can you do?’ asks Koozle, her eyes a-sparkle with gullible excitement.

‘Oh, well, I’m not very good yet,’ I nonchalantly reply, with the inspired modesty of the sociopathic liar. ‘But they did teach me how to make a speed potion.’

‘A speed potion?’

‘A speed potion.’

Next thing, we’re in the kitchen. Of course. And — inspired in equal parts by George’s Marvellous Medicine and innate pre-pubescent sadism — I am making my sister a speed potion.

God knows (and I hope the old chap will one day find it in his heart to forgive me for) what I put into that horrific concoction. I’m fairly sure (sorry, Katie, sorry) there was Fairy Liquid. There was definitely a spoonful of marmite, ketchup, every variety of fruit squash available, a generous measure of milk and an old fruit pastille.

And — of course — in order for the potion to have its full effect, it had to be drunk all in one go. Which, to her further great credit, Young Parn managed with aplomb. I hardly even think she tasted it, honestly, so consumed was she with manic anticipation.

HOW DO I KNOW IF IT WORKED?‘ she screamed, jiggling impatiently from one stumpy little leg to the other.

‘Um … Well, you know how I’m faster at running than you, normally? Well — I’ll race you to the bottom of the garden. If it’s worked, you’ll beat me.’

Reader, it is a testament to the inordinate power of the placebo effect that she might even have done so even if I hadn’t slowed my own running pace to a crawl. Because never again have I seen my sister run as she did that day — spurred like a adrenaline-pumped greyhound by the intensity of her misguided belief in her despicable sibling’s lies.

A shot of the (yellow) label of a bottle of this Portuguese white. In the background, a glass (out of focus), chopping board and cutlery

Quinta da Espiga doesn’t taste like my speed potion (or what I imagine my speed potion might’ve tasted like. I mean, Christ. You don’t imagine I was idiotic enough to try it, do you?) — but it does taste a tiny bit like the second cocktail I ever made: my own top secret recipe consisting of tropical fruit squash, orange squash and water. Mixologists, take note.

That’s not to say that this wine tastes like a mixture of cheap concentrates concocted by a malicious child. Oh dear. This is going all wrong, isn’t it? Because I actually rather like the stuff. In a yes-very-nice-move-right-along kind of way. It’s sharp and bracing and gob-parchingly dry, and, yeah, there’s a backdrop of citrus and tropical fruits that reminds me of my childhood squash-mixing — in case you hadn’t picked that bit up from the laboured anecdote which consumes far more of the length of this post than does the actual review-type bit.

AND WHAT, PRECISELY, IS WRONG WITH THAT, PRAY?

Considering it’s only 12.5% ABV, it’s punchy as you like. It’s got a kind of steeliness to it that I rather admire, and it’s a little forthright, a little dominant — in a polite, middle-class, fluffy-Anne-Summers-handcuffs kind of way.

So whilst I can’t pretend it’ll make you run across the garden at twice your normal speed, I’d contend that — at well under £7 — it’s nice enough to warrant a shambling kind of jog across to fetch your wallet and order a bottle to try for yourself.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region Lima, Portugal
Grapes Fernao Pires, Vital, Arinto and others, apparently
ABV 12.5%
Price £6.25 from The Wine Society

Bonterra Chardonnay 2009 review

… is the kind of wine that probably wouldn’t mind holding onto your parcels for a day or two

(For the background to the following, read the previous post, ‘When Clemmie Misses Her Train’.)

Feeling unaccountably like the boy waiting outside the Headmaster’s office, I found myself standing at the door to my neighbour’s flat.

Pull yourself together, Parnell, I murmured — and administered a falsely assertive rap upon the door.

(When I say ‘rap’, I mean in the sense of ‘knock’ or ‘tap’. Not in the sense of performing a piece of urban spoken music. Though perhaps I should have explored this kind of rap as an alternative means by which to announce my presence. It might have allowed me to retain the initiative a little longer in the ensuing encounter.)

The door swung open. From behind it, a disembodied voice: ‘Do come in.’

Now, reader, let me tell you this: I was all prepared for a doorstep exchange, here. And this invitation to enter wrongfooted me straight away. But what’s a chap to do? I couldn’t very well reply, ‘Um, no, I’d rather conduct this conversation in public view’, now, could I?

So in I went.

‘Don’t you want your parcel?’

This struck me as a needlessly adversarial opening to our conversation.

‘Oh, um, yes please,’ I replied, somewhat meekly.

‘Well why didn’t you pick it up? It’s been here for two days!’

Oh yikes.

‘Gosh — I’m very sorry: it was quite late when I came in last night…’ (Yes, I have a tendency to use expressions such as ‘gosh’ in such situations. I fondly nurture the delusion that it makes me seem charming and socially assured.)

‘But what about the night before? Why didn’t you pick it up then?’

This, I began to suspect, is what intense police interrogation feels like. I began to be confused, to lose track of my cover story. ‘Um… I…’

‘If you’d prefer, I won’t take your parcels. Would you prefer that?’

At this point, I’m sort of stammering — so entirely disorientated am I by the fierce barrage of accusatory questions emanating from this small 98-year-old woman.

‘Um… I don’t know. I don’t want to cause you any trouble.’

‘Well, pick up your parcels! I don’t mind taking them in, but I don’t want the responsibility of keeping them for days.’

(Responsibility indeed.)

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Well. That’s all. You can go now.’

***

A bottle of Bonterra, label with minimalist floral illustrations and handwritten text. In the background a second bottle, out of focusAfter that, as you may well imagine, I needed some kind of alcoholic bracer. And that’s where Bonterra came in.

Bonterra’s is a fruity, a creamy, a taut Chardonnay. While it’s far from self-effacing, there’s none of that wenchy quality that New World Chardonnay can have. There’s some pepper in there, and it’s altogether rather nice — sprightly but full.

What’s more, relative to other chardonnays hailing from its part of the world, it has a pleasant lightness to it. A certain easygoing quality.

The kind of wine, in other words, that probably wouldn’t mind holding onto your parcels for a day or two.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Grape Chardonnay
Region Mendocino Valley, California
ABV 13.5%
Price £10.44 from Waitrose, £10.99 from Majestic

Jurancon Sec Chant des Vignes, Domaine Cauhapé 2010 review

… doesn’t play remotely hard to get: extrovert, fruit-laden, immediate

A closeup of the label of this Jurancon Sec half bottle from The Wine SocietyThis Jurancon — made from the outstandingly named Gros Manseng grape — has that grassy, springy, verdant burst that you associate with Sauvignon Blanc. And, like Sauv Blanc, it’s mightily accessible. A garden-friendly, pub-friendly, gob-friendly kind of wine. Not remotely playing hard to get, it’s extrovert, fruit-laden, immediate.

But here’s where it beats the pub Sauv Blancs. Yes, it’s got that front-of-mouth accessibility. But it stays in balance. It doesn’t gank up your mouth or descend into sugary blandness. Instead, it’s taut and toned throughout. Balanced, yeah?

Good, simple stuff. And, yes, I’m reviewing another half bottle. Because I like half bottles. Alright?

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region Jurancon, south-west France
Grape Gros Manseng
ABV 13.5%
Price £4.95 for a half bottle from The Wine Society

Villebois Sauvignon Blanc Prestige review

… goes straight down the Sauvignon Blanc line. Doesn’t veer off at idiosyncratic angles or bisect it haphazardly like a drunkard playing hopscotch. Oh no. It goes down that line.

Closeup of the simple typography of this Sauvignon Blanc label — silver lettering on a black label

Imagine a line. You got it? Just a line. Make it whatever colour you like. Come on, get a move on. It’s only two dimensions, for Christ’s sake.

Right.

Well, that line you imagined? This Sauvignon Blanc goes straight down it. Straight. Doesn’t veer off at idiosyncratic angles or bisect it haphazardly like a drunkard playing hopscotch. No. It goes straight down that line.

What I’m saying is — in my achingly, piteously laborious way — is that this is a Simple, Straightforward Sauvignon Blanc.

So I don’t really need to describe it too much. It’s got that nettley, grassy, springy thing. That gob-pleasing blast that’s the white wine world’s equivalent of MSG. Accessible. Light yet tongue-clubbingly flavoured.

I get a bit bored of Sauvignon Blanc, to be honest. But a fucking massive order propecia tablets bolus of people don’t. And for those people, Villebois is a solid choice. Because it’s not facile, like some SBs, nor is it so stuffed with zing that your poor gob is overzinged after the first glass. It’s got a bit of poise to it; it’s full, yet it doesn’t cloy.

And if you’re a Naked Wines member, it comes at an extremely attractive price.

So — depending how you like your wines and lines to interact (no, not in a druggy way, you foul cur) — you’ll either like it or you won’t.

Which is pretty much the level of insight you come to this blog for, right?

Rating ??? 3 stars (good)
Region Loire
Grape Sauvignon Blanc
ABV
Price £10.99 from Naked Wines (£7.33 to members) — but, oop, it’s sold out. Bah.

Spy Valley Riesling review

… doesn’t have that too-big-for-its-clingy-dress quality that some New World Rieslings have, thank the risen Lord

A glass of wine photographed close up and misted with condensationGod alive, I love Riesling. Did I mention that before? Oh, fuck it, I don’t really care if I did.

And Spy Valley. We all remember Spy Valley Gewurtztraminer, right? Well, this is the Spies’ take on the Riesling grape. And — what do you know? — they made a good job of it: this wine is elegant, poised, fresh.

Grapefruit is (I’ll warrant) what you’ll notice caroming vengefully out of the glass towards you. Both nose-wise and in your mouth. And, yes, there’s that dab of sweetness that I hardly even want to mention because a woeful number of people are unaccountably terrified of the notion of a tiny dab of sweetness. I mean, Christ. This is the same civilisation which unaccountably fetishises bloody chocolate for pity’s sake. Ooh! Chocolate! So decadent! So sinful!

Get a life, generic viagra online overnight delivery won’t you?

But, yes, anyhow. This is a Riesling with balance. It doesn’t hang around in your gob quite as long as some Rieslings, but it’s not a flash in the pan, either. And not an ounce of the sweetness cloys. Not a sodding ounce.

This is a lot better than many of its ilk. It’s not monstrously complex, but it’s incredibly smooth and clean and beguiling. It doesn’t have that too-big-for-its-clingy-dress quality that some (overripe, over-alcoholled) New World Rieslings have. And I like it a fair old bit. But it’s quite expensive. Spend that much on a German Riesling and you could get an absolute goddamn blinder.

Or spend it all on chocolate, if you prefer. You massive great weirdo.

Rating ??? 3 stars (good)
Region Marlborough
Grape Riesling
ABV 13%
Price £9.95 from The Wine Society, £12.06 from Bibendum

Allegrini Valpolicella review

… is a happy wine. And the perfect stimulus for a collaborative essay about contemporary art

The label of a bottle of Allegrini: red and grey lettering on a neutral backgroundIf you ever find yourself needing to write a collaborative essay on a piece of contemporary art, may I suggest you take along a bottle of Allegrini when you’re meeting up with your fellow writers? After all, it’s a situation we’ve all been in, at one time or another.

As one of my collaborators-in-arms, Satu, said, upon our first mouthfuls of Allegrini, ‘Oh — this is a happy wine.’

Yes, indeed, Satu. I couldn’t have put it better myself. So, um, I won’t.

Allegrini is a happy wine. It’s warm, soft, gentle. Fruited. There’s cherry and chocolate and a smidge of coffee at the end. It’s summer evenings on a roof terrace in Tuscany. On a holiday with more than half its duration remaining.

It’s not dazzlingly unusual, but I reckon it might make you smile.

Now, stop procrastinating and get on with that goddamn essay.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region Valpolicella
Grape Corvina
ABV 13%
Price £8.50 from The Wine Society (2010 vintage)