Young & Crazy

There are several disadvantages to drinking red wine. You’re familiar, no doubt, with many; I shalln’t try your patience and morale by enumerating them. I like to think that we go into this (this, y’know, drinking) with our collective eyes open as to its downsides. But it turns out there are risks, dear reader, of which even I was unaware.

Let me take you back to a Friday night some time ago. A Friday night that came at the end of a day spent working my mouse-finger to the bone, selling cheap shit to idiots on the internet.

Amy is out — out for dinner in Big London. Me, I’m enjoying some quality time with Potato the labrador.

Some quality time with Potato the labrador and a bottle of Villa Melnik’s Young & Crazy Melnik (£8.50).

Young & Crazy came from The Wine Society (of course it did) and is pink and honest and straight. A bit like me, I guess. There’s some juicy ol’ plum in there, along with cherry, liquorice and herbs. There’s a decent hoof of tannin giving it some grab and grit, but also some woozy boozy solventy stuff which I guess fits the ‘young’ part of the name fairly aptly. It’s somewhat rough around the edges and not particularly complex — but what do you expect for under nine quid? Frictionless trade across a hard border?

Potato and I are approximately the same age in our respective species-years: an age at which one begins to realise (I speak for myself, at least; Potato’s self-awareness is hard to fathom on this score) that one may be straining the definition of ‘young’ in the eyes of some.

Crazy, though? Potato and I both do a very good line in crazy. Which is how, a glass or two of Y&C having been slugged back, we came to find ourselves rolling on the sitting room floor, locked in a titanic struggle of man versus hound. Potato and I enjoy such battles (well, I do, anyway), all the more so when Amy isn’t here to tut irritatedly when we distract her from whatever 19th century Russian novel she’s immersed in at the moment. In such situations, Potato’s submissive tendencies become (oh, the paradox!) his strongest weapon, as his frenzied licking causes even the most determined of dog-wrestlers to flinch jerkingly away, in an effort to avoid a tongue to the face—

SPROOOOOOONNNNK!

What the devil was that?

That, friend, was the sound of one large glass of red wine salmoning itself gracefully off the side table, onto the definitely-not-red carpet. It was also the trigger for me to make the journey from one mode of crazy to the next.

I am (let me be the first to admit) rather a distance from being a cleaning influencer (god save our miserable skins). But I’ll cut to the chase and save you a lot of frantic googling by letting you know that the very best thing to do ASAP when you spill red wine on a pale grey carpet is to yell a loud obscenity.

You should then start wildly tearing off handfuls of kitchen towel and, my friend, you should blot like you’ve never blotted before.

I blot. I blot hard. You know those cookery programmes where you watch some implausibly old peasant type character kneading bread like a goddamn machine? That is how I blot. But with less peasanty stoicism and way more aggression. I blot until there are stars in my vision and I am gasping for breath. There is a time at which I think I must be almost done. I am wrong. I blot ABSOLUTELY LOADS MORE BECAUSE I WAS NOT ALMOST DONE AND THE BLOTTING NEVER ENDS.

I’ll say one thing about spilling red wine on the carpet: if you’re anything like me, the blotting will be the most intense cardio workout you’ve had in years.

When the blotting is over (if you’re still able to raise your arms without them shaking, the blotting is not yet over, friend) it’s time to spam salt EVERYWHERE. Don’t be stingy! Salt makes everything taste better! Including carpet!

Oh no, wait. There’s actually one thing it doesn’t improve the taste of: the bitterness of impotent rage at one’s own clumsiness. Because that stuff tastes pretty damn good unseasoned.

Potato at this point is no longer crazy. He very quickly saw the lie of the land and took himself off into the dining room, where (sensitive fellow that he is) he lies quivering in his bed. At some point, Amy shows up, takes one look at the aggressive blotting in the sitting room, joins Potato in the dining room, helps herself to a glass of what remains in the bottle and starts reading Gogol. Which, I think you’ll agree, is behaviour nobody is likely to brand either young or crazy (or, for that matter, especially helpful).

I may at this stage be somewhat wild-eyed. Like one of those characters in a fantasy movie of whom a terrible bloodlust takes hold, except with blotting rather than orc slaying. But we have now run out of both kitchen roll and salt. As I shamble into the dining room, Amy eyes me wearily. We stay that way for a little while, in silence.

‘I think I’ll book a carpet cleaner tomorrow.’

‘Hmm, yes, probably.’

‘Sorry about the blotting.’

‘Don’t apologise to me; apologise to Potato.’

‘Sorry, Potato.’

Potato is very forgiving.

***

A few days later, the morning sun streams spitefully through the sitting room window onto the ghastly swathe of discoloured carpet. Fortunately, the Carpet Man is here.

‘Oh, that’s not bad at all!’ he cheerfully exclaims. ‘I’ve seen much worse.’

‘Oh, I blotted as much up as I could,’ I casually reply, trying to keep any note of pride from my voice.

‘Mmmm, that’d do it. Well, this should take me about half an hour, so you can leave me to it.’

We leave him to it and rejoin Potato, whose fondness for tradespeople means we have to shut him away when they visit, for fear he may abdicate with them when they leave. His Young & Crazy experiences seem to have left no scars.

‘Well, he seems very nice,’ says Amy, of Carpet Man. ‘If he’s good, I think we should get him to come and do that stain up on the landing.’

That stain on the landing, I reflect, was entirely Amy’s doing.

‘I suspect he’ll find that stain more difficult. I seem to recall you did very little blotting.’

Amy looks at me but does not reply.

***

‘Right, that’s all done.’

And Carpet Man has done a splendid job: the evidence of my idiocy has been almost entirely erased. If only Carpet Man could do this for other manifestations of my past idiocy, I find myself thinking.

‘That looks fantastic. Thank you.’

We are standing in a strange configuration, thanks to the narrow hallway and the need to avoid treading on the drying carpet. I perch halfway up the stairs and Amy stands in the hallway, at the door to the sitting room. Carpet Man is at the front door. Our positions form a triangle.

‘Oh brilliant!’ exclaims Amy, delighted. ‘That’s amazing.’ She looks up at me, one eyebrow raised. She is thinking, I realise, about the stain on the landing. Her stain. I understand how she feels at this time. The guilt. The promise of redemption. I give her a nod. She turns back to Carpet Man.

‘You’ve done such a good job. I’d like to ask you back for some upstairs business later in the week.’

I look at Amy. Amy looks at Carpet Man. Carpet Man looks at me, then back at Amy, then back at me again.

I decide it is time for me to pay.

Parn Essentials: The Society’s Corbières

An essential is all very well. But is it more than an essential? Is it, you may ask, the kind of wine to engender obsessive, bewildering, blind devotion bordering on cultism? Is it, you ask me, paraphrasing to ensure I understand your query, the kind of wine about which one might full-throatedly bellow a simplistic refrain based upon its name?

‘Ooooooooah! Society’s Corbières!’

You know I like this one, of course. The post title gives it away: it’s a Parn Essential because my wine racks are seldom without a bottle or two.

An essential is all very well. But is it more than an essential? Is it, you may ask, the kind of wine to engender obsessive, bewildering, blind devotion bordering on cultism? Is it, you ask me (paraphrasing, I assume, to ensure I understand your query) the kind of wine about which one might full-throatedly bellow a simplistic refrain based upon its name? Is this humble Mr Corbières destined to be the subject of some mindless White-Stripes-bastardised chant redolent of the football stadium?

‘Oooooooah! Society’s Corbières!’

Those are good questions. I mean, really good questions. So good I can scarcely believe I didn’t construct them myself.

Let’s start with the obvious: The Society’s Corbières is red. Duh. It’s also modest. For a start, it only costs £8.25. But beyond that, it has no pretensions of grandeur. Its simple ‘Society’s’ own label telegraphs as much: it’s very much a representative of a greater whole.

I mean, you could argue that there’s a kind of meta-arrogance in adopting that kind of position, couldn’t you? But, I mean, let’s not overthink it, eh?

‘Oooooooah! Society’s Corbières!’

Jeremy Corbyn at some goddamn rally

Once you get the wine into your gob (which is, I suppose, the point of the exercise, god knows how many paragraphs in) you’ll find, though, that its modesty belies its substance. AND HERE’S WHERE THINGS GET TRICKY. Because, you know, this wine is actually just as good in reality as you might reasonably have hoped. More than that, it’s also fun. It’s full, it’s rounded, it doesn’t take itself laughably seriously. That is to say, it’s not the kind of wine that’s fucking desperate to go off on a tedious monologue about its own bêtes noires — Hugo Chávez, say, or the atrocities of Blairism. If you were talking to this wine, which hopefully you realise is testing the limits of metaphor, I think you’d find it a generous conversationalist. You know, one with give and take.

Because, y’know, it’s genuinely humble, genuinely modest. It’s not got that false humility that actually telegraphs a monstrous ego. There’s not a mite of harshness, here, of impatience. I could drink bottles of this shit (and, indeed, do). Because it’s a very easy wine to drink. But that’s not because it’s patronising. Instead, it’s like the best kind of speechwriter, who writes sentences that seem so deceptively simple, yet communicate with an audience beyond their hollering devotees.

‘Oooooooah! Society’s Corbières!’

It’s generous, too: full, and fruit-laden (without being banal and sugary, I should add). It gives you what you want without lectures or circumvention.

I mean, fuck, imagine going on a date with Jeremy Corbyn [OH CHRIST, IS THAT WHO YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT? YOU COULD HAVE MADE IT CLEARER…]

‘Well, I personally don’t believe in indulging in the wasteful and indulgent drinking of alcohol. But would you like a drink?’

And you’d get a 125ml glass of house red, wouldn’t you? If you dared even say yes in the first place.

Fucking hell, this was supposed to be enjoyable. When we set off, you and I, upon this blog post, it seemed amusingly inconsequential, didn’t it? We thought, crikey, this seems like an entertaining premise for an article/leader of the opposition, didn’t we? Oh what japes! What could possibly go wrong?

Well here we are. I hope you’re happy.


The Society’s Corbieres is £8.25 from The Wine Society (a proudly cooperative endeavour). You may freely taste it safe in the knowledge that it won’t tacitly threaten other rival wines you might like to try in future with deselection. You’ll need membership of The Wine Society rather than the UK’s Labour Party to buy it. But the former is, in my experience, an investment you’re substantially less likely to regret.

Booze of the Week: Jameson’s Whiskey

The confluence of aesthetic principles and undergraduate pretension? Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, apparently. God knows why; I suppose you’ll have to read my Booze of the Week to find out.

I don’t think we should underestimate the role nostalgia plays in our alcoholic predilections. We’re all just walking bags of meat and memories, after all.

My comfortable cohabitation with Jameson’s Irish Whiskey has its root in the confluence of — or compromise between — genuine aesthetic principles and appalling undergraduate pretension. (Writing the above, I am troubled at the possibility that the same contemptible triangulation is applicable to vast swathes of my life.

Oh well.)

Bringing a tumbler of Jameson’s to my lips can still conjure the inside of somewhere like this:

Interior of the Bear Inn, an old and small pub in central Oxford
The Bear in Oxford, one of the oldest (and perhaps also the tiniest) pubs in the country. A bloody nice pub, but not the place to order a gin and tonic.

Even these days, I pretty much always have a bottle of Jameson’s in the booze cupboard. Just the standard one — 40% ABV, generally about twenty quid for a bottle. Nothing fancy.

I was a latecomer (scandalously late) to the joys of beer. Instead as an undergraduate I drank G&Ts, wine and cocktails. For those young scamps among you who’ve only known an adult existence during which gin has been elevated to an extent that approaches deification, you ought to know that there was a time at which you’d order a gin and you would not be asked which one you wanted, because there was only one. In most pubs, gin meant Gordon’s. Occasionally, it meant Beefeater instead. If you were somewhere wanky, there might be Bombay Sapphire. Tonic was quite possibly on tap. If bottled, there was a fair chance it’d be sodding Britvic rather than the preferable Schweppes. Fever Tree was still a mere twinkle in a private equity fund manager’s eye.

Entering a pub, I’d routinely perform the Britvic check: approach the bar, try to get a good enough view of the fridges to ascertain the tonic brand, then choose my poison accordingly.

(To be fair, I still do this today. You can never be too careful.)

So it was that I acquired my taste for Jameson’s.

I told myself a story about Jameson’s, too. And booze is about stories, isn’t it? I loved James Joyce when I was at university (I mean, I guess I still do, in some ways, just from a much much greater distance. I’ll let you into a secret: it’s actually a hell of a lot more comfortable this way) — and I think Jameson’s actually shows up in Finnegans Wake… Yup, these guys did the research and I do remember correctly:

‘Rot a peck of pa’s malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsomee on the aquaface.’

Finnegans Wake, James Joyce

Jameson’s was (and remains, I’d contend) a drink you could order in pretty much any pub in this forsaken country of ours. You’d be asked, no doubt, if you want it with ice (no you do not), and you’d get a glass (god knows what kind of glass, but it’s not so very important) with which you could retreat to your secluded corner, your whiskey clutched in one hand, a copy of Ulysses in the other (careful, careful, make sure you hold it so that people get a good view of the title.)

Closeup of glass of Jameson's alongside copy of Ulysses by Joyce. Bottle of Jameson's in the background.

Jameson’s… it’s not a drink you really expect to write about, is it? I mean, it’s odd enough perhaps to earn you a raised eyebrow from some bartenders if ordered early in the evening, but it’s hardly an exotic or trailblazing choice. It’s not something I really think about. And as I sat here, half an hour ago, wondering what the hell I should write to you about, my dear, it didn’t remotely occur to me. I was all set to crack out another post about bloody vermouth, but—

But.

My eye fell on that bottle of Jameson’s in the cupboard and I thought, no.

And I poured myself a familiar dram.

Listen, it’s just an unassumingly nice drink. It tastes like late afternoon sunshine towards the end of August… Warm, mellow, sweet. It doesn’t challenge you, it wants no aggro. Even the heat of the alcohol, when it arrives, is soft; the crescendo of flavour very much that of a string quartet rather than an operatic overture.

I think there’s a lovely balance between the honeyed sweetness and the gentle, spreading heat.

Look, I know it’s not particularly complex. I know it’s easy to drink. But it’s easy to drink in the right way; it’s not at all banal. It’s honest and accessible and comfortable.

And it shits all over a Gin and Britvic Tonic with two rapidly dwindling icecubes just as comfortably now as it did in 2002.

Cellophanity, Putin-pleasuring and Pinot Gris

A significant portion of which is devoted to a spirited ‘crie de coeur’ on the subject of ready meal packaging, and most of the rest of which contemplates distasteful sexual activities practised upon Russian politicians. I’m up-front about this stuff, y’know.

Bottle of Hugel Pinot Gris and some oven ready meal instructions‘Remove cardboard sleeve and peel away plastic film.’

It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But, honestly, they may as well have said, ‘Remove cardboard sleeve and give Vladimir Putin a blowjob’, for all the chance I have of accomplishing their instruction with any modicum of ease or pleasure.

I’ve written before about my intense dislike of cellophane that fails grotesquely in its sole goddamn interaction with the customer. But that doesn’t mean I can’t write again. I mean, Christ. Collectively, think of the time humanity wastes on attempting to peel off a plastic seal and instead peeling off a ludicrous thread of plastic from around its rim, repeating this process at each of the carton’s four corners, before (defeated, humiliated) grabbing a knife and slashing psychopathically at the bastard cellophane until our collective shirts are spattered with ragu sauce that looks for all the world like blood.

Time that could be put to better use in — oh, I don’t know — curing cancer or eradicating poverty or watching the latest episode of Sherlock.

Oh, that Sherlock. He wears a nice dressing gown, doesn’t he? (Declare an interest? Me? Piss off.)

But don’t just think of the time. Think of the fucking psychological despoliation wreaked by this supposedly peelable cellophane. Whole generations demoralised by their inability efficiently and rapidly to prepare a godforsaken ready meal (the very words themselves a hollow mockery — for this now ungrippably-cellophanated carton in front of me couldn’t be any less ready); to follow even the unglamorous preparatory instruction — mere prelude to the complex matrix of oven types and temperatures, and frozen vs chilled states. When we see growth rates in the developed world stalling and purchases of pre-prepared food rising, do we not pause to consider the relationship between the two?

JUST AS SODDING WELL, THEN, that I have a half-bottle of Hugel Pinot Gris, 2010 (The Wine Society, £6.95) to calm my cellophane-rage. A sluicing of very pleasant-tasting alcohol to numb my brain to the injustices and indignities of the food packaging regime — analogous, one might venture, to an autocrat’s cynical pampering of an emerging middle class with the finite proceeds of a natural gas boom whose days are numbered.

SEE WHAT I DID, THERE? YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED IT, BECAUSE IT WAS QUITE SUBTLE. RE-READ THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH IF YOU’RE NOT SURE.

It’s nice, Hugel Pinot Gris. Of the Wine Society’s praiseworthy array of half bottles (several of which I’ve written about already), it’s one of my favourites. I like the way it lies, deliciously inert (like a coma coated in syrup), in your mouth. The way it rings out with fruit, but leaves your tongue free of that ganky aftertaste of the sugary muck that often gets called ‘fruity’.

(Speaking of which — fuck. When you’re pretty much living off wine from TWS and Waitrose, you sometimes forget just how goddamn withering a bad white wine can be. I was in a pub, the other week, and forgot myself to the degree that I actually ordered a glass of white wine — somehow extrapolating from the fact that most wine I drink is quite nice a kind of rule that all wine I choose to drink will therefore be nice. A rule whose inherent fallacy was pitilessly exposed by said pub and its vinous offering.)

Hmm. Somewhere between talking about presidential fellatio and rotten pub wine, I was doing a kind of wine review, there, wasn’t I? Christ alive. Sorry about that. We’ve dispensed, haven’t we, you and I?, with any kind of flimsy, cellophane-esque pretence that you’re here for in-depth or nuanced alcoholic commentary. The commentary of an alcoholic, maybe. But not alcoholic commentary. So let’s leave it at this. Hugel Pinot Gris. Easy to open (if you have a corkscrew). Doesn’t cause you to flail around with a kitchen knife. And definitely tastes better than my ready meal.

Not to mention Putin.

A Pinotage that’s all fruit and curves and perpetual smiling

Manley Estate’s Pinotage is all fruit and soft curves and perpetual smiling — and I can’t help wishing it’d make me work a bit harder

Closeup of the Manley Estate label — fairly traditional line drawing of vineyardManley, it’s not you; it’s me. You’re great. Really, I mean it. It’s just — well — you’re just too nice.

I like wines that make me work a bit. Not a lot, you understand (I’m way too lazy for that) — but a tad. And there’s something about Manley Estate’s Pinotage that is a bit too easy. It puts itself on a plate for me. Not, you understand, literally (although that would be fine: I’m happy to take my wine from whatever receptacle presents itself), but, y’know, metaphorically.

That’s not to say Manley is bad. It’s really not at all. It’s all fruit and soft curves and perpetual smiling. I’d just like to see what it looks like with a frown on its face, too.

Christ, enough with the metaphors, Parn.

So, yeah. Fine. Easy to drink. Quite full. Smiley. Could do with more brusqueness. A tad expensive. But fine. Nice.

Oh Manley. When this is all over, I do hope we can still be friends.

This bottle was received as a free sample from Naked Wines

Rating ?? 2 stars (fair)
Region Tulbagh
Grape Pinotage
ABV 14.5%
Price The 2009 is sold out, but the 2010 costs £13.99 from Naked Wines (£10.49 for members)

A Csárdás in a glass — Hilltop Hungarian White

… is a tantalising, gob-watering Csárdás of a wine that lobs a grenade of tropicality — mandarins, lychees, peaches, the kinds of fruits that ooze when you squidge them — that follows up with an aftershock of dry, icy citrus

Closeup of the purple label of this Hungarian wine. Simple typographic design.

Here’s a happy, carefree, unselfconscious dance of a wine. A Csárdás. A whooping whirligig of fruit and flavour and life. Like the best dances, it’s got energy, momentum. Which might be just an absurdly pretentious way of saying you can get through a bottle of this stuff pretty damn quickly; pretty damn happily.

Into your cavernous gob, Hilltop Estates Cserszegi F?szeres lobs a grenade of tropicality — mandarins, lychees, peaches, the kinds of fruits that ooze when you squidge them — that follows up with an aftershock of dry, icy citrus. In response, your poor mouth can only conjure up bucketloads of saliva like a really shit magician.

ROLL UP! ROLL UP! SEE THE AMAZING DRIBBLE-CONJURURING MOUTH! BE AMAZED, OR YOUR MONEY BACK IN FULL!

This — listen, now, because this really is amazing — this tantalising, gob-watering Csárdás of a wine is £5.75. It’s only 11% ABV. It’s outstanding for the price, and I’ll be ordering more. Serve it up to dinner-party guests as an aperitif and make them guess where it’s from. Indulge yourself in innumerable hungry/Hungary puns. Go on! Tease ’em! IT WILL BE FUN.

Almost as much fun as the dance.

Wines like this are the reason I’m a member of the Wine Society. Exciting, unexpected, and the kind of thing most supermarkets would dismiss with a peremptory flick of the hand.

Well — joke’s on them. £5.75, you daft plonkers. £5.75!

Time to get dancing.

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Region Hungary
Grape Cserszegi F?szeres
ABV 11%
Price £5.75 from The Wine Society

Guest post: The Ubiquity Of Fizz

In which Old Parn’s first guest blogger, Elly Tams, has her knickers charmed off by Prosecco

Closeup of the simple green label of a bottle of San Leo Prosecco

This is a grand moment: the first guest blogpost on Old Parn. Um, on the blog, I mean. Not actually on me.

Your blogger today is Elly Tams. Elly is a writer; her debut novella Scribbling On Foucault’s Walls wonders what would have happened if Michel Foucault the homosexual French philosopher had in fact had a daughter. I encountered Elly (also known as Quiet Riot Girl) on Twitter, and I liked her tweets straight away. I liked the way she spoke about her area of interest (gender/sexuality etc) with conviction, directness and simplicity. The way she didn’t hide behind abstract nouns and academic terminology.

Turns out Elly likes wine. So I asked her if she’d write a guest post. And she did. Huzzah…

***

Party Like It’s 1999

I blame the Millenium. Before the 31st of December 1999, champagne was reserved for special occasions. I mean REALLY special. Weddings, coronations, Formula One racing, Number One Singles (remember them?), losing your virginity, winning the premium bonds. But ever since that hyped-up, arbitrary, potentially computer-destroying, slightly tacky otherwise ordinary New Year’s Eve 12 years ago, the world has been awash with fizzy wine. I realised the definition of ‘celebration’ was getting a bit loose when I bought a bottle of cava to celebrate the release of my favourite band’s latest album. It’s a slippery slope.

This ubiquity of fizz has meant I have become rather familiar with the genre. Not with the crème de la crème, you understand. I still don’t know the difference between a Dom Perignon and a Crystal. The cheap stuff is my area. My favourite part of a good friend’s wedding rigmarole was a few weeks before the big day, when we did a fizzy wine tasting at her place. There is a fine line between a good cheap bottle of fizz and an awful one (hint: the awful ones seem to be trying to strip off the back of your throat and the hangovers come with headaches from hell).

If you don’t have the time or the liver capacity to do the research, my advice for finding a reliable, reasonably priced sparkling wine is simple. The answer is Prosecco.

To avoid the embarrassment of me not knowing anything about grape varieties or regions or acidity or any of the technical stuff that wine buffs dazzle us with, I will distract you with a metaphor. If all the fizzy wines were in a line up and you were choosing which one to go on a date with, Prosecco might be the quieter one. It would be handsome and well-dressed in an understated way. It would not be trying too hard to impress, because it wouldn’t need to. It would be self-assured and confident in its qualities. It would be a mistake to pass over it for the more flashy contenders.

Prosecco charmed my knickers off for the first time in an Italian bar and restaurant in Sheffield a few years ago. I will admit it. The first thing that attracted me to it was the price. Cheaper than champagne but tasting just as good – in many cases better – it has been a firm favourite ever since. The best deals are at supermarkets. Recently I found some San Leo prosecco at Waitrose for £6.95, reduced from £10.44. Four bottles later I can confirm it is a classic. I prefer brut, and this one is indeed very dry but the lovely thing about prosecco is after the first couple of bottles – I mean glasses – even the driest versions become smooth and creamy to drink.

Part of me wishes I’d bought the whole lot of reduced San Leo when it was on offer. But another, more sensible, and probably more romantic part doesn’t. Because if any type of wine can keep the experience of quaffing fizz special, it’s prosecco.

***

Thanks, Elly. I bought a mini-bottle of the San Leo myself. Purely for, um, research, you understand. And she’s right: it’s damn pleasant, accessible, celebratory stuff.

If you yourself have a wine that you’d like to talk about, do get in touch, won’t you?

Meanwhile, here’s a link to Elly’s blog, Quiet Riot Girl, and her Twitter feed.

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 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