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

The Wine Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir review

… is just the kind of wine into whose welcoming alcoholic embrace you’d yearn to tumble after a day of bubblewrap and despair

A closeup of the magenta-dominated label of the Wine Society's Chilean Pinot Noir. The label bears an image of a flower.

I’m on my way to London. Right now. Yeah, check out my power-commuting ass.

(Poor beast. He really doesn’t like the motorway traffic. I knew I should’ve taken the camel instead.)

Jokes, jokes. I’m actually on a bus. A bus enchanted with the sweet, sweet magic of wifi. When I boarded this bus, accompanied by a suitcase big enough to bury me in (although, I like to think, aesthetically unfit for such a purpose: let it be noted that I’d prefer my final place of rest not to possess zips and expandable compartments), I chirpily remarked to the driver that I had ‘all my worldly possessions’ with me.

That, dear reader, was what is known in the trade as a downright fucking lie.

Because — I have discovered — the sum total of Old Parn’s worldly possessions is roughly equivalent in volume to the sum total of the worldly possessions of the dragon in Beowulf.

(Although drastically inequivalent in terms of fiscal value.)

So you may well imagine (if you have nothing better to imagine, you poor, impoverished sod) the innumerable hours of box-stuffing, newspaper scrunching and cutlery-sorting that have lately consumed my evenings. As I BUBBLE-WRAP MY LIFE.

(Or rather — let’s keep this metaphor on its toes, shall we? — as I decide that large portions of my life will probably survive the journey without bubblewrap, because I can’t be arsed with that nonsense.)

Wha’? Uh, sorry, I think I just nodded off, there. You were saying something? Wine? What? You say this is a blog about wine? Uh. Right. Okay. Jesus. Have some patience, won’t you?

Because what I was leading up to (if you’d just let me finish) was this: should you find yourself bubblewrapping your life, what you’re going to need is a welcoming alcoholic embrace into which to tumble, at the end of the tedious, tedious day.

And The Wine Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir gives a pretty comforting embrace.

First up, let’s talk price. Because people keep saying these are straitened times (though I guess they might actually, on reflection, be saying that these are straightened thymes, and I’ve been reading a wholly unintended economic subtext to what are in fact observations of niche culinary trends. It would explain why they were waving a bunch of unusually rigid herbaceous offcuts in my face at the time).

YES, LONDON, YOU ARE LUCKY TO HAVE ME. There ain’t no suitcase big enough to bury my puns.

In any case, this wine is very, very good value. It’s relatively soft. Pinot Noir can (especially at a price like this) be on the austere side. Not so here. It’s pretty ripe, y’know? Fruited, gobfilling. Very accessible. It’s a wine that gives of itself generously; no haughtiness.

To be fair, it doesn’t have anything to be haughty about — it’s not a fine wine, not a highly-strung Pinot Noir racehorse. But you probably don’t need me to tell you that Pinot Noir racehorses don’t come with a price tag like this.

So should you find yourself — drained and desperate — at the end of a day of packing, I urge you to tumble into the welcoming arms of the Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir.

As opposed to tumbling into the dark, hypnotic maw of that large open suitcase in front of you…

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Region Leyda Valley
Grape Pinot Noir
ABV 14%
Price £6.95 from The Wine Society

Mauricio Lorca, Angel’s Reserve Malbec review

… is one angel that takes a while to grow on you — metamorphosing from an empty disappointment to a rather pleasant gob filler

The label of a bottle of Angel's Reserve — decorated with a tribal drawing of a bird

Well, here’s a thing.

You may remember (but may not, given the alcohol-marinated state of your brain) that, a few weeks back, we minced a word or two on the subject of the Angel’s Reserve Torrontes — also made by Mr Lorca.

Now, I rather liked that Torrontes.

But here’s the Malbec. And my first impressions, honestly, weren’t great. I cracked the blighter open, and snouted/throated a few doses. And found it, well, kind of empty. There’s a spiky brambliness to it around the sides and at the front of your mouth, but it dies away very swiftly.

So I plugged up Mauricio’s Malbec and shoved it to one side. Not aggressively, mind. I’m a mild and moderate chap, as you’ll scarcely need telling. But there may have been a touch of pique, nevertheless, in that shove. For I was disappointed.

Spool forward a couple of days, and you join your chum the Parnmeister as he stuffs a bunch of grated-courgette-coated pasta into his ravenous maw. And is grasped by a mighty thirst. Blindly, his quivering arm reaches out, only to encounter that same bottle of Angel’s Reserve.

And — what know’st thou? — it’s one hell of a lot nicer, tonight. That back-and-sides quality of day one has mellowed into a proper ol’ gobfiller. It’s softer, rounder, fuller: it’s gone to seed in the best way imaginable.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s not transformed into a blinder. But it’s transformed into rather a pleasant way to keep my mouth busy (in the scheme of things, y’know).

So, yeah. Even Angels, it seems, can take a while to grow on you.

Rating ★★ 2 stars (a kind of averaged-out rating, here)
Region Mendoza
Grape Malbec
ABV 14%
Price £8.99 from Naked Wines (£5.99 to members)

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)

Arabella Reserve Shiraz Viognier review

… smells like Bulgarian woodsmoke in August; smells like respite from the guilt of being A Bit Shit With Bulgarian Orphans; smells like charmingly self-indulgent adolescent ennui

A bottle of Arabella Shiraz Viognier from Naked Wines. Black and bright yellow label, with a line drawing of a horse's head

Later, I’m going to tell you about a pretty nice red wine.

But first, let’s talk about Bulgaria.

Bulgaria, see, occupies a distinct position in my personal geography. At the tender (bruisably tender) age of 20, I spent three weeks there. Ostensibly, I was looking after orphans. In reality, I was having trouble enough looking after myself. Oh boy, was I hungry for my own attention.

Plus ça change, dear reader, plus ça change.

My memories of Bulgaria are multifoliate — and extraordinarily intense. Children running through sand littered with cigarette butts and glass shards towards a dirty sea. Children pointing at skyscrapers and Coca Cola adverts, repeating one word — phonetically, something like ‘Hubava! Hubava!’ — that turned out to mean, ‘Beautiful! Beautiful!’ Cafes selling blessed tumblers of 1-part gin, 1-part tonic — and the fucking nicest hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. And me writing a fuckload of shit, self-indulgent poetry.

And when I took a sniff of Arabella (yeah, add your own witty double-entendre here, please) — I was right back there. In Bulgaria. Sitting on a stained plastic chair outside one of those cafes, surrounded by the smell of woodsmoke and midsummer.

Which is, of course, absolutely no use to you at all. Because you (I’m almost sure) weren’t there. So you don’t know what it smelt like.

Christ, how that must suck.

But there we are; it’s official: this wine smells like Bulgarian woodsmoke in August. It smells like respite from the guilt of being A Bit Shit With Bulgarian Orphans. It smells like charmingly self-indulgent adolescent ennui.

SO PUT THAT IN YOUR SODDING BOOK OF TASTING NOTES, ALRIGHT?

Verdict

What else do you want to know, then? Apart from whether it actually tastes nice or not. Which it does, thanks.

Okay. Well, there’s spice and berry and wood. And chocolate. And coffee. And you can fucking bury me before I’ll roll those last two into one and say ‘mocha’.

But it’s pretty soft, and pretty accessible — not bolshy and severe. Yeah, sure, there’s a bit of bite (it’s not a pushover), but it’s not one of those cryptic crossword wines that’ll furrow that lovely brow of yours.

All in all, Parn approves. Parn also approves of the price.

And Arabella is certainly a good deal more hubava than those fucking tower blocks and Coke billboards.

Rating 3 stars (good)
Region Western Cape
Grapes Shiraz, Viognier
ABV 14.5%
Price £9.99 from Naked Wines (£6.66 to members, which is a frigging steal). I was drinking the 2009, but the link is to the 2010, as the older one’s all gone
Aching for a second opinion? Well, you should check out the Cambridge Wine Blogger’s review of Arabella Reserve Shiraz Viognier. Because we seem to agree. And he doesn’t say ‘mocha’, either. Good man.

Domaine du Salvard Cheverny 2009 review

… is a welcome contrast to some Sauvignon Blancs, that are a bit like ketamine-laced teenagers, spoiling for whatever it is ketamine-laced teenagers spoil for

A bottle of Domaine du Salvard — typical French wine label, signed by Delaille

Ah, that’s rather a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire. There’s the grass and the snap of it — but also a swoonsome waft of blossom. Suck’n’swirl and you may find yourself encountering bit of sweet, toffeed, fudgy stuff in there.

It’s quite soft, even if you let it linger — in contrast to some Sauvignon Blancs, that are a bit like ketamine-laced teenagers, water pill vs lasix spoiling for whatever it is ketamine-laced teenagers spoil for. You’ve seen them. The rap singers.

Yeah. It’s gently, restrained. Not too harsh or zingy — it nibbles rather than bites. Elegant. And fine, fine value for thy wodge.

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Region Loire
Grape Sauvignon Blanc
ABV 12%
Price £7.50 from The Wine Society (link is to 2010 vintage, as 2009 is sold out)

Mauricio Lorca Angel’s Reserve Torrontes review

… is perfect for a reception or a party or a sly few mouthfuls before dinner with interesting company. Or even with boring company.

A bottle of Angel's Reserve: simple white label with a green piece of tribal-looking art (a drawing of a bird)So, from those spunky folk at Naked Wines, here’s a pleasant young wine. You’ll get on nicely, I reckon. Very gentle and soft, you know? Peachy, scented, a smidge of sweetness. Ever had Gewurtztraminer? This is a bit Gewurtzty.

Very fruited but not sickly, it’s not mind-blowingly spice laden in the way that Gewurtztraminer can be — and doesn’t have the mesmerising frictionlessness of the likes of Spy Valley Gewurtz. No, it’s lighter, easier. Perhaps a little less remarkable.

Which isn’t the same as saying bad. Not at all.

This is an incredibly easygoing wine. Perfect for a reception or a party or a sly few mouthfuls before dinner with interesting company.

Or even with boring company. You’ll need cheering up, I guess.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region La Rioja
Grape Torrontes
ABV 13%
Price £8.99 from Naked Wines (£5.99 to members)