Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2008 review

… will take you out of the savage claws of Abu Hamza into the delicate paws of the BFG — all the while putting you in the mind of a bullock on a tightrope

A bottle of Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay: simple typographic label

You’ve suffered (haven’t you) through glasses of chardonnay that have all the subtlety of a back massage from Abu Hamza? Glasses of chardonnay, in other words, that purport to be dealing out a luxurious experience, but are actually a savage, raking assault.

Well, this chardonnay is more like a back massage from the BFG. Powerful, sure — but also surprisingly sensitive, surprisingly deft.

Yes, this wine is big. Big enough to make me mutter ‘Boosh!’ under my breath at my first gobful. It’s enormously rich, peachy, full of straw and opulent summer.

But for all its boosh, this wine has a damn impressive balance to it. You can swill it round like mouthwash (if you must), keep it in there for 5 seconds, 10 seconds — and it can take it. Big but not domineering or aggressive.

It’s like watching a prize bullock nimbly walk across a tightrope. A mesmerising combination of weight and balance.

Which is pretty awe-inspiring, even if you aren’t really into that whole bullock-circus thing.

Rating ★★★★ (4 stars)
ABV 13.5%
Price £15.50 from The Wine Society
I doff my hat to the excellent Rebecca Mosley, who supplied me with the BFG simile, above.

Bellingham ‘The Bernard Series’ Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2010

… comes dressed in an attention-seekingly sparkly top and laughs raucously enough to distract you from your own conversation.

Closeup of the typographically elegant label of this bottle of Old Vine Chenin Blanc

I came to this wine thirsty and optimistic. Optimistic because it has a beautiful label, with elegant, restrained typography of the kind that floats the Parn boat. So — does the taste match the typography?

Nope.

Which isn’t to say it’s bad; it’s merely of a totally different character. Whereas the label is stylishly minimal, the wine itself is confident. Confidently podgy. A fat, extrovert wine, dressed in an attention-seekingly sparkly top, who laughs raucously in restaurants and distracts you from your own conversation.

Altogether, it smacks you in the chops in a pretty unapologetic kind of way. It’s boshy and veggy and clompy and — mm hmm — not perhaps distinguished by its finesse. And, curiously, there’s an almost chickeny quality to it. Make of that what you will.

Verdict

Now, here’s order viagra 25 mg online where individual taste comes in. Because, for me, a tub-thumping white like this is too full-on. I know some people love this kind of thing, but me? Not so much so.

No. I wouldn’t call this a lovely wine. It’s too chubby and loud. Then again, it’s certainly not flawed — in fact, I’d say it’s well-made — and I rate it accordingly. It’s the kind of thing I might occasionally fancy — a bit of a sensory blast — but afterwards end up feeling I’ve spent a fair wodge on an experience I didn’t really find terribly luxurious.

A bit like a meal in a restaurant — on the table next to the hen party.

Rating ??? (3 stars)
ABV 14.5%
Price £10.99 from Majestic

Santa Lucia Primitivo 2009 review

… will grant you that delicious deep, scented freshness of your garden after a summer rainstorm — but without the risk of some bastard tree dripping down your neck

The Wine Society's Santa Lucia Primitivo from Puglia. Black, yellow and cream label with a crest

Inky and polishy — a rugged, straight-down-the-line kind of wine. Full in the gob, spicy, big and macho. Dark fruits and cocoa.

There’s a good dose of that rough, mouth-gripping tannin in there, so this bad boy sits comfortably alongside punchy, rustic fodder. Tomato sauces, meatballs, you know the drill.

‘Rugged’, ‘macho’, ‘rough’ — yeah, alright. But I wouldn’t want you thinking this is entirely a wham-bang-thank-you-ma’am wine.

Take a waft of it, for starters, and you’re met by that delicious, deep, woody, scent-laden freshness you get if you step out into the garden after a summer rainstorm. Except, this way, you don’t get some bastard tree dripping icy water down your neck.

That said, this isn’t your port of call if you’re looking for scintillating complexity. But, um, have you seen how much this costs? Yup. Chuck it down you when you’re after a comforting, grown-up evening fix that’ll blot out the buffets and dents of the day.

Rating ??? (3 stars)
ABV 14%
Price £6.50 from The Wine Society

Dao Sul Cabriz 2007 review

… is furlongs away from those horrible, flippant, fruit-stuffed wines that taste as if the producer were aiming at 10 year old schoolchildren

Label of a bottle of Portugese red wine produced by Cabriz. The label is relatively plain with a simple illustration of a building

Briefly.

This is a brawny gob-pleaser of a wine. A blend of Alfrocheiro, Tinta-Roriz and Touriga-Nacional grapes. Not, in other words, the famous ones.

And, you know, what? You should try it.

You should try it because it’s only £6.50. And for that price, this is sodding impressive. It’s not hard-going: there’s a welter of dark, dark fruit in there — but it certainly has an unapologetic bolshiness to it. It’s serious, it’s big. Furlongs away, in other words, from those horrible, flippant, fruit-stuffed wines that taste as if the producer were aiming at 10 year old schoolchildren.

There’s a fair old spedaddle of oak in there (aged six months, we are told, in French oak barrels), which smooths the old boy down a bit.

I say again: fantastic value. This easily equals (or beats) plenty of £10 bottles you could buy in the supermarket/off-license.

(Hap-tip to Graeme Semple, on whose recommendation I bought this bottle.)

Rating ★★★ (3 stars)
ABV 13%
Price £6.50 from The Wine Society — but (arseflaps!) they don’t have it any more. So my ‘you should try it’, above, is arguably redundant.

Bon Cap 2009 Viognier Review

… will knock you out and stuff a crapload of lilies right in your face. Next thing you know, you’re waking up in a coffin

The label of a condensation-misted bottle of Bon Cap Viognier

Reader, I have a problem. I keep attracting big, butch whites.

It’s not that I have anything against big butch whites. It’s just that, well, I find them a tad overwhelming. I have this old-fashioned tendency to prefer a bit of subtlety. A bit of femininity, dare I say?

OH CHRIST HOW RECHERCHE.

But the big butch whites just keep coming.

My first warning ought to have been the alcohol level of this wine. It’s 14.5%, by the risen Lord! But the alcohol level isn’t my biggest problem.

No. My biggest problem is that this wine makes me think I might actually be dead.

Because some bastard has apparently stuffed a crapload of lilies right in my face and I can’t seem to shove them away.

That’s the overriding aroma. Lily. You might call them ‘lilies of the field’; I call them ‘lilies of the mortuary’. Bleurgh. That heavy, languid, vulgar scent that overpowers your senses like chloroform. The smell of intoxicating death. Cadaver in a wedding dress.

(Sorry, all you lily fans out there, if I’m pissing on your funeral. But I really don’t like that scent. It’s depressing, that’s what it is. Surely I’m not the only one to think this? Come on, drop me a comment if you agree. Join me in my battle against the conspiracy of (lily-livered?) lily-lovers.)

Anyhow, yeah, Viognier isn’t (I realise) the subtlest of grapes. So what did I expect? And I must credit the chaps at Bon Cap with managing to keep a rein on this wine, despite its headstrong ABV. Particularly in light of the fact that the grapes are organically grown, that probably takes a fair bit of winemaking skill. Not that I know the first thing about the technicalities of it, so I’m really just guessing.

(Yeah, I know, you’d all desperately have preferred a 2,000 word essay, here, on the technicalities of Viognier winemaking, wouldn’t you? Well. Sozamonia.)

Verdict

Anyway, the thing is (what I really me-e-ean): it’s not a bad wine — hence my strenuously impartial rating — it’s just not to my taste.

Amongst the lilies, then, we have a floral abundance: lavender, violet, the usual heavily aromatic suspects. There’s a nice old lacing of dark muscovado sugar as you exhale (yes, lungs, exhale! You’re not dead, remember?) In your slack-tongued gob, it’s heavy, too.

Bottom line: if you happen to fancy an alcoholic reminder of your fragile mortality, you could do a good bit worse than Bon Cap Viognier. It’ll give you all the wino-goth thrills you could wish for. But you’ll excuse me, won’t you, if I go for something a little sunnier?

Rating ★★★ (3 stars)
ABV 14.5%
Price I got mine for £9.49 (I think) in The Wine Society’s sale (was originally £11.49). But it’s all gone now.

Marks & Spencer Dry Old Oloroso Review

… will allow you to live the dream of swigging 20% ABV sherry from a beer bottle. LIKE A MAN.

Closeup of the text of the Dry Old Oloroso bottle

First things first. This is a bottle of dry oloroso sherry. Indeed, it’s a half bottle. And I’ve made my admiration of both half bottles and good sherry abundantly clear in the past.

The bottle of the Dry Old Oloroso: dark brown, somewhat squat, unpretentious — for all the world like a bottle of beerMy admiration for this half bottle, though, goes a step or two further. Because this is sherry in a beer bottle. FINALLY MY DREAM HAS COME TRUE: I can slyly swig oloroso sherry from the bottle whilst hanging out with the lads — yet not compromise my appearance of nonchalant masculinity.

(An area in which compromise is a fearful prospect indeed.)

So, the only question should be: is this the sherry you’d want to swig? Or should you carry on rinsing out old beer bottles and laboriously refilling them from that tank in your cellar?

Let’s see.

So, uncork the blighter (yeah, they haven’t introduced a bottle-cap yet) and you’ll be greeted by a delicious waft: full, mellow, barrelly. It smells lovely. Once it makes its way into your trap — well, it’s still pretty nice. Nutty, yes, and spicy too. Like spicy nuts. Or nutty spices, I suppose. At first, it’s delightfully smooth. But let it linger in there and it’ll give you a belt around the tastebuds, enough to bring tears to your eyes.

(Or maybe I just cry easily. Nonchalant masculinity, like I said.)

Verdict

So, yeah, it’s not the most refined of sherries. That’s a shame, because I’d dearly like that woody sweetness it has to develop more in my mouth — but I daren’t let it, for fear that my ‘mates’ will discover me weeping over what appears to be a bottle of beer.

Nevertheless, it’s a handy thing, to have sherry in a 37.5cl bottle. And a glassful of this made a goddamn mean sauce for my seared tuna steak with caramelised onions. Which surely has to count for something.

So: a creditable performance, but a tad eye-watering for Old Parn. Sly sherry-swiggers may note with excitement, however, that M&S has a whole range of sherries, all bottled thus. And I’m clearly going to work my way through them all.

Rating ★★
ABV 20%
Price £7.49 from Marks & Spencer

El Seque 2006 Alicante

… will sweep you off your feet with its gnarled hands and unshaven chops

A bottle of El Seque 2006 from Alicante, SpainA massive, dark wine. A depth-charge of earth and plumstone and fire. Muscle and silk.

This was my first encounter with Alicante. I hadn’t known what to expect.

Yes, it’s a hefty, uncompromising, gobfilling beast. But a fine beast, a noble beast. This was like very good southern French Vin de Pays, or perhaps a good Rhone wine. It has that rustic, unpretentious grandeur to it.

Very deep, inky and intense, it has a fantastically long finish, remaining silky and substantial in your mouth throughout.

It’s the kind of wine that makes you want to take a big gulp and set it swirling round your mouth for as long as you can bear it, until your whole face tingles and your sinuses thrill and burn.

Verdict

Not demure, not soft, not gluggable. Who the fuck wants gluggable, anyway? Some arsehole who hasn’t discovered water yet?

No, this is a wine that doesn’t apologise, doesn’t smarm, doesn’t pussyfoot. It’s seductive, though. In a gnarled hands and rough, unshaven chops kind of way.

(See, there — I did a non-feminine wine personification. Happy now?)

I reckon it’s a pretty dashed good wine. Crack it out to accompany a dark, wintry stew, why don’t you? Give the beast a whirl. See if he doesn’t sweep you off your feet a little.

Rating ★★★★
ABV 14.5%
Price £14.50 from The Wine Society (no longer in stock, alas); £20.85 (£18.75 case price) from BBR

Castelmaure Grand Cuvee 2005, Corbieres

… would be good in a scrap with some orcs

Castelmaure Corbieres 2005 Grand Cuvee

As you’ll see from the photo above, the best thing about Castelmaure Corbieres could so easily be its rather fine label. The lettering of the name is particularly superb, recalling some kind of 90s fantasy role-playing game. Escape From Castelmavre!

Fortunately, the wine itself is similarly good, and the only tedious quest involved (if your domestic organisation is as deranged as my own) is finding a corkscrew.

This is a wine of earth and blood and leather. It’s pretty goddamn massive (as the 14.5% ABV might lead to you expect), filling your mouth with pepper and smoke. A terse barbarian, you might say, rather than a flighty elf.

Although there are scents of cherry, this isn’t – as you’ve perhaps gathered – a fruity viagra 100mg online uk crowd-pleaser. It’s inky and enigmatic. It’s also packed with tannin, and could (I daresay) stand a good few years more in the bottle.

Verdict

This is a good, serious wine. It’s not perfect (I’d like a slightly thicker texture – which is by no means to imply that this is thin, just that the punch of its flavours isn’t quite matched by its feel in the mouth), but it’s very good.

If you like your wines brusque yet deep, soily and elemental, I recommend Castelmaure Corbieres. Perhaps snap up a few bottles and leave them in the cellar a year or two.

Just be careful you don’t run into any orcs down there, eh?

Rating ?????
ABV 14.5%
Price £10.95 from The Wine Society

Thomas Mitchell Marsanne, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this wine otherwise tastes more expensive than it is.

Verdict

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

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

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