This wine put me in a good mood before I’d even opened it: any booze that makes me think of Arrested Development is onto a winner.
And it’s just as good as Arrested Development. Oh boy, yes.Continue reading “Domaine Maby Lirac Blanc 2018 Review”
Quickly, today, while the sun shines, let me talk to you about a fabulous white Rhône to brighten and enliven your lockdown with its circus antics: Lirac Blanc La Fermade from Domaine Maby.
This wine put me in a good mood before I’d even opened it: any booze that makes me think of Arrested Development is onto a winner.
And it’s just as good as Arrested Development. Oh boy, yes.Continue reading “Domaine Maby Lirac Blanc 2018 Review”
‘Do you like Dickens, sir?’
‘I don’t know. I’ve never been to one.’
That was a favourite joke of Mr Jarvis, my A Level English teacher. To the degree, I seem to remember, that he had to ask someone in the class to provide him with the setup question in order that he might triumphantly deliver the punchline. Which is nice for you to know.
What’s also nice for you to know is that Copperfield Gin may be the most handsomely packaged gin I’ve seen. Obviously I dig it because it’s literary, innit, and given that my idea of a perfect sitting room is one bedecked with books floor to ceiling, how could I not be seduced by a book-themed gin bottle? Or, at least, one so bloody well executed. Hats off to the designers, who presumably like Dickens.Continue reading “Copperfield Gin Review”
I mean, when a gin’s called Boxer, how am I meant to avoid the most bloody obvious metaphor? Christ. Give me something to work with. Fortunately, Boxer Gin does exactly that, in abundance, as soon as you get it into your gob. Here’s how it measures up.
I bought Boxer Gin because it was the gin of choice at Poco Tapas Bar, the excellent Bristolian tapas restaurant at which I first discovered the Negroni Manzanilla. And given my predilection for punchy gins and stooping to lowest-common-denominator wordplay, what could be more auspicious than a gin that is literally punchy?Continue reading “Boxer Gin Review. Punchy or Paunchy?”
Jesus, if this is what Putney smells like, no wonder SW15 property prices are so bloody high.
Stick that on your label, Clos Triguedina, why don’t you? Putney! Sweet, odiferous Putney, home to possibly the most polluted highstreet in London. Putney, the place in which weekly wipe-downs of my kitchen windowsill would stain cloths black. Ah, Putney!
‘I mean, it’s the kind of wine you used to give me in your flat in Putney.’
O reader! What the hell went wrong, I ask myself, since Putney? Why am I not giving Amy wine like this every sodding evening (or, at least, weekend, in moderation, in a manner consistent with government guidelines on alcohol consumption)? I mean, Christ, I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job, here in Ealing, but no; relative to my barnstorming debut in SW15, my domestic sommelier performance in W5 turns out to be the ‘difficult (ie. shit) second album’. I guess I’ll have to try harder.
…Which might, I suppose, just mean ordering a few cases of Clos Triguedina.
Because it’s bloody good. I mean, you should know, I guess, that the level of aggression behind my fandom of Cahors is sufficient to put your average English football hooligan to shame. I’d certainly start chants about it, if not all-out fistfights. If I could be arsed, I’d steer this already ludicrous comparison off onto some otiose tangent whereby I’d exploit the fact that the letters QPR not only stand for an English football club (so I gather) but also for the phrase ‘quality:price ratio’. But you and I, my buttery little reader, we are beyond such fripperies, aren’t we? I’ll give you the dots; you join ’em. #engagement
Anyhow. Because it’s a Cahors from The Wine Society, I’m predisposed to like this quite a lot. But even bearing that in mind, it’s jolly nice. Dark, blue-tinged, rich, spicy. Tantalisingly vampiric. And all the usual good stuff. Hedgerow fruits, tobacco and darkness.
If I were a patient man, I’d perhaps have kept this a tad longer; I’m pretty sure it’ll be even nicer in a year or two. But I had a thick chunk of bavette steak and a thirst. And perhaps, somewhere in the recesses of my lizard brain, a hankering to cast myself back to those soot- and Malbec-sodden days of Putney Hill.
Domaine Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet should be chilled and ready in your fridge to be snatched out at the first signs of autumn’s fleeting sunshine — or a farting dog
A quickie, today.
So here’s a smashing Pee Pee de Pee from The Wine Society. Yes, that’s the same Wine Society that just won Decanter’s National Wine Merchant of the Year award. For the second time running. Which just goes to show two things: 1. that this blog is occasionally (if only coincidentally) capable of vague topicality, and 2. that Decanter Magazine does occasionally manage to do/say something that isn’t as annoying as a farting dog on a rush hour tube.
Anyhow, back to the Picpoul. And a bewitching character it is. The first thing that hits you is the smell: bright, ringing, clean. Delicious. Then you get it into your gob. It’s proper, grown-up, complex, with that stony, bracing quality: while it may be light, it sure as hell ain’t lite.
Elegant, poised and deeply, deeply satisfying. Have a bottle in your fridge and snatch it out when autumn next sees fit to unveil her fleeting sunshine.
Or when you next get home after a long commute alongside someone’s flatulent pet.
In which a glass of delicious Valpolicella is pressed into the not-remotely-reluctant hand of Old Parn, and he feels guilty, the next day, for his inability to review it properly
But you still notice when that wine happens to be a lovely fucker, don’t you? And if you have some kind of weird disorder whereby you actually feel a bit guilty for not reviewing a lovely wine (as though the wine’s feelings might be hurt by this scandalous omission), you end up resolving two things:
So. My boss (who has a very generous way with the wine, I might add — a generosity that has its drawbacks, the following day) pressed a glass of Bussola Valpolicella into my hand. And — jeeps, boy — it was very lovely indeed. Huge, intense, strong — but soft, yielding, gentle.
The wine, that is; not my hand.
Though my hand is also all of those things.
Anyway. Bussola Valpolicella is a delicious wine. I’m not going to give it a star rating, because this ain’t a real review. But if you’re in Majestic, I’d grab a bottle (it’s £22). You don’t have to review it, either. Just drink the old bugger and enjoy it. Sharing it with your boss is optional.
… is a wine for rooftop terraces and golden sunshine
This is like walking outside into air just cleared by a spring thunderstorm (pavements still wet) after a day in a stodgy, stuffy office. It is delicious. Sharp (grapefruit sharp; stiletto sharp), with a flavour that rings out like a clean-struck bell.
A wine for rooftop terraces; a wine for golden sunshine.
In which Old Parn recounts the tale of his first serious wine purchase — and muses on the notions of choice and experimentation with the aid of a very nice bottle of white Rioja
I have an embarrassing — borderline clinical — compulsion to try new things. To try ALL THE NEW THINGS IN THE WORLD EVER. When I was a student, I spent a ludicrous amount of my loan (Go Team Maximum Student Loan!) on spirits. ‘Typical bloody student,’ you’re probably muttering, as you rustle your Daily Mail disapprovingly. But, y’see, I spent my loan on every spirit/liqueur I could find. Frangelico? Check. Framboise? Check. Creme de Cacao? Check. Amaretto? Check. Mine was not the shopping list of the typical student, I like to think.
(Christ alive, Parn, eradicate that entirely unwarranted tone of pride from your writing right now.)
Yeah. I wanted ALL THE SPIRITS. Because I wanted to be able to make ALL THE COCKTAILS. As a result, my university bedroom resembled a well-stocked off-license in a wealthy London borough. Except with Radiohead posters and the unmistakable stench of adolescent pretension. People came round to my room for a drink; I gave them a sodding menu.
But then I discovered that — actually — spirits were boring*. The apparent variety of the supermarket spirits section was nothing compared to the variety in my first case of wine. From Majestic.
Let me tell you about that first case of wine. I’d just moved into my first non-student abode. My first shared house. I’d landed my first BIG JOB (putting books back on shelves). I was almost like a Real Grown Up. And as such I decided to do what Grown Ups do: order a case of wine.
(Make your own deductions about my warped conception of adulthood. I don’t care.)
For someone who’d previously chosen his wine from the shelves of Sainsbury’s local, this was a revelation. So much choice! So many unfamiliar names!
I still have that same excitement whenever I browse wines in a good shop (online or off): that vertiginous thrill of bewildering, tantalising choice. The terror of knowing that even if I never drink the same wine twice, I still have no hope of trying them all. And I sincerely cannot imagine being faced with all these tantalising, exotic, unfamiliar names — and then putting a big-brand Australian Chardonnay into my basket. For me, that’d be like going to Thailand and having dinner in Burger King. I don’t mean that to sound snobbish. Because I think that the ‘safe’ ubiquity of big-brand wine is in no goddamn way the fault of customers who are intimidated by incomprehensible choice. Not everyone is a weirdass novelty-seeker like me — and if normal people don’t feel they can explore the unknowns of the wine world, that’s a failure on the part of the industry. But that’s another subject, eh?
So I filled my Majestic basket with unfamiliar fruits. Sure, lots of ’em would be well-known to me now — but then, everything was glimmering and new.
I still remember the first bottle I drank from that case, along with some friends: a white Rioja. And I thought: ‘Whoa. This is interesting. This wine kind of smells a bit like sheep’s cheese or something. How the hell does that work?’
(Nobody else knew what the hell I was burbling about when I said the bit about sheep’s cheese, by the way. They probably thought I was having a stroke.)
If you want to check out the sheep’s cheese thing yourself, I suggest you snap up a bottle of Navajas White Rioja from The Wine Society (****) It’s got that slightly sharp sheepy tang (boy, how appetising I make it sound) that took me right back to that first Majestic bottle. But when you get it into your gob, you’re cavorting with apricots and peaches. It’s dry, mind — and brilliantly, grippingly acidic, holding that jubilant fruit entirely in check.
And it costs £7.25 a bottle.
To me, £7.25 is a miserly amount to spend on a sensory experience that’s so goddamn unusual (so goddamn nice). That £7.25 wouldn’t even buy you a bottle of big-brand plonk in a Bethnal Green off-license (quoth the voice of bitter experience). But here it buys you apricots and sheep’s cheese and nostalgia.
Isn’t that, really, when we get down to it, pretty fucking exciting?
… is delicious, extraordinary and quite goddamn sexy. Even if it *does* taste of raisins. Because wrinkles can be sexy, too.
Okay. It’s Valentine’s Day. And in celebration thereof, what better alcoholic beverage than one that tastes MIND-BLOWINGLY STRONGLY of raisins? — thereby reminding you that whilst you may be taut-skinned young grapes right now, one day, you’ll both be shrunken and wrinkly.
BUT YOU’LL STILL TASTE LOVELY.
(Realism beats Romance every time, eh? Just ask TS Eliot if you’re unsure.)
Anyway, I maintain that this is a Romantic wine. It’s big and swingeing and unashamed. It scatters your bed with petals and serenades you with sentiment-sodden ballads. And tenderly crams handful after handful of raisins into your gob.
It is sweet. Really, really, really sweet. Even as you’re pouring it, you’re thinking of molasses and treacle and whatever other viscous liquids you might find appealing. And it’s almost impossibly rich and dark when you get it into your mouth.
It’s hard to believe, in fact, that something can be as sweet as this and still seem, y’know, even vaguely grown-up. Especially when drinking it puts you in mind of cramming your stubby fingers into those little boxes of Sunmaid to extricate the pieces of fruit that’d wedged themselves right into the bottom corners. But it is grown up. Possibly because it’s so outrageously goddamn decadent-tasting. And also because it’s not sickly.
Or, at least — and here, once again, the raisin likeness holds — it’s not sickly unless one consumes it to excess.
In summary: delicious, extraordinary and quite goddamn sexy.
Oh. And may I leave you with a ludicrously specific serving suggestion? Put a glass of this alongside a bowl of rosewater and cardamom ice-cream. Buy the dried rose petals from a nice man in the Iranian deli on High Street Kensington. He may even give you a free biscuit. Then simultaneously boast and congratulate yourself for doing all of the above by photographing it and posting it on your silly little blog.
You pathetic specimen.
… 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
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.
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.
… is like the taste equivalent of a massage that makes every single part of your body feel amazing. It’s a perfect, coruscating globe of flavour, tickling every tastebud, expanding to fill every corner of that slavering gob of yours.
Perhaps mercifully, this blog will concentrate purely on the wine-related amongst them.
Which is the cue for Brundlmayer’s Gruner Veltliner to make its suave entry upon the stage. Yes, with the dregs of Vina Arana Rioja barely rinsed from our glasses, it’s time for another five star rating. Bearing in mind the fact that, over the course of this blog’s existence, I’d previously only awarded five stars to one sodding wine, this is somewhat remarkable. And altogether quite a splendid thing.
Well done, Brundlmayer. Take a bow. Not a deep bow, though. We wouldn’t want any of you spilling.
So what makes it good? It’s like the taste equivalent of a massage that makes every single part of your body feel amazing. It’s a perfect, coruscating globe of flavour, tickling every tastebud, expanding to fill every corner of that slavering gob of yours.
Often, the more complicated and joyously symphonic a wine is, the less point there is in describing its flavour in any detail. Because I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty damn hard to conceptualise an enormous itemised list of flavours. But let’s pick out a few of them, shall we? Just for shits and giggles.
So it’s woody and fruity and rounded. Golden, honied, rich. There’s aniseed there, and spice and a fucking ecstatic (almost chilli-like) kick somewhere in the middle of it all, just in case you’d stopped paying attention (you hadn’t). Very goddamn nice. And pear. Pear! Juicy, ripe, mellow pear. (Like that pear you gave me, Amy. That was a nice pear.)
I hadn’t had an aged Gruner Veltliner before. On the strength of this, I’d do more than recommend it. I’d put you in a headlock until you agreed to try some too. It’s still got that sexy leanness I associate with the grape, but with a whole new layer of controlled richness and blossom and goldenness that makes me think of a lovely (and doubtless expensive) white Burgundy.
Oh. Yup. This was good. Boy, this was good.
So here’s to sensory experiences, eh? Bring it on, January. Bring it the fuck on.
… is like a sweet mouthful of ripest autumn — and is the nicest wine to grace Old Parn’s palate so far this year
Vina Arana’s Rioja was the nicest wine I drank this year. As such, I wrote about it effusively.
Then I goddamn well managed to save over the file. What a tremendous great pillock.
So now, like someone on a contrived, low-budget TV documentary, I have to attempt to relive that bygone experience at second hand. Ideally, I’d have some unthreatening smalltime celebrity meet me at my house (he’d knock on the door and I’d answer it as though we’d never met and there weren’t a frigging filmcrew standing five feet away) and interview me about Vina Arana. They’d do some Ken Burns effect stuff with slow, repetitious voiceovers, to conceal an embarrassing dearth of actual material, play some music and make it all (no doubt) rather delightful.
But I don’t have the resources for that shit. Even though I am pretty good at concealing an embarrassing dearth of material. So you’re going to have to make do with me embroidering some notes I wrote on my iPhone. Sozamonia.
So. Drinking Vina Arana is like taking a mouthful of autumn. It’s all russet and ripeness and deciduous nostalgia. Juice-dripping plums, spices, that kind of shebang.
There’s this quality called balance that wine writers burble on about. In fact, as things that wine writers burble on about go, this is one of the less pelvis-gnawingly irritating. Because it’s an actual word that a normal person might understand. But still. What balance means in the case of Vina Arana is that this wine is on a knife-edge of ripeness.
You know how there’s that (maddeningly brief) period during which fruit — a punnet of raspberries, say — is perfectly ripe? A day less and it’s still a tiny bit young; a day more and it’ll start going ever so slightly rotten and degenerate. But right now? Right now, it’s perfect. Right now, that fruit absolutely fucking sings.
And that’s where this wine is. Right goddamn there.
It doesn’t have that loose, woofy, over-the-top quality where the flavours start to become caricatures of themselves. But it could hardly be more ripe. And — like perfect fruit — it’s all about acidity underpinning sweetness.
It’s soft but strong. Firm but gentle. Confident but seductive. It yields and it withstands.
I like wine like this almost as much as I like people like this. (Oh, boy: people like this.) And, like I said, it was the nicest wine I’ve drunk all year.
Now to post this goddamn review rather than cretinously deleting it.
… doesn’t play remotely hard to get: extrovert, fruit-laden, immediate
This 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?
… will help you avoid meting out acts of equine violence should you be confronted with the prospect of a Pinot Noir Twitter shindig
Way back — way, way back — there was some kind of pinot noir ‘event’ on Twitter. ‘Let’s all drink pinot noir,’ the governing philosophy of said event seemed to be, ‘and pretend that doing so has some kind of higher purpose or conceptual justification.’
Well, Old Parn doesn’t necessarily need conceptual justification to wrench the cork from a bottle of PN. But one doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, does one? (Or, in the words of Young Parn, many years ago, one doesn’t knock a gift horse in the mouth. Which would be even more churlish.)
Anyhow. Conceptually justified to the max, I took out the above-depicted half bottle of Kuentz-Bas. And rather fine it was, too: poised and sharp, fruited and taut. Its colour was pale, russet-tinged. Once it’d been out in the glass a while, it really bloomed and softened. Relaxed.
(A little like that gift horse did, once it realised I wasn’t about to crack it a swift uppercut to the jaw.)
Supple and smooth, with a tiny gruff stemminess at the back of it. Beautiful to hold in your gob. Light, effervescent.
It is an absolute avalanche of joy to be able to buy a wine like this in a half bottle. Thank you, once again, Wine Society; thank you. And thank you, Pinot Noir Day. Or whatever your name was.
… is the kind of white wine I’m very happy to shove in my face, repeatedly, perhaps even to excess. And at this price, you should shove it into yours, too.
God knows. Because you should already be halfway to your nearest Marks & Spencer to seize a bottle (or twelve) of this Fiano. It’s bloody good, you see. And, until early September, it seems to be reduced to an almost insultingly cheap £5.99.
It’s a lemony ol’ bugger — with a pleasantly zesty, unapologetic waft to it. A proper noseful.
And once it’s made its way to your gob? Again, unapologetic: it’s not timid, thin or reticent. It doesn’t linger around on the fringes; it dives on in. A good, solid mouthful, with a zip and a skip to it. It’s rounded, balanced. You can drink it without food and your mouth won’t shrivel up like an old woman in a bath.
Listen, what I’m saying is that this is really nice — and, right now, a staggeringly good bargain. In no way do I expect to run up against a wine like this for less than £6. It’s the kind of white wine I’m very happy to shove in my face, repeatedly, perhaps even to excess. And at this price, you should shove it into yours, too.
… doesn’t have that too-big-for-its-clingy-dress quality that some New World Rieslings have, thank the risen Lord
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, 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.