Shoehorn in a Tube strike reference, why don’t you?

Shameless. Fucking shameless.

Bottle of Lunate Fiano on a chopping board

Wowch, hello, Lunate Fiano.

This is a properly powerful character. Lots of Fianos are the kind of middling, inoffensive cack that’s practically crying out for a Tesco’s Finest label. This one isn’t.

It’s bloody full, for a start. Sort of like Earl’s Court station has been, lately. But it smells a fair bit better.

(Jesus God, imagine if Earl’s Court smelt like this…)

I like white wines that give your gob something to grab onto, rather than dancing lithely away like smoke. That savoury, stony, dominant quality. (Oh, why do you always wilfully misinterpret me when I say dominant? Yes, you.)

It’s not a fabulously intellectual wine. It’s not, ultimately, going to make a load of irritating winos crumple up their little faces in appallingly pseudo-orgasmic delight. Thank Christ for that. But it’s interesting, it’s got a character, and it costs less than a tenner. It’s the kind of wine I want to crack open when I’ve crawled past the middle of the work-week’s seesaw and am starting to feel the bastard tip downward.

Especially when I had to change trains at Earl’s Court in the middle of a fucking Tube strike.

This bottle was received as a free sample from Fine Wines Direct UK, where it costs £7.99. And I reckon I’ll give it 4 stars in a spirit of post-commute largesse. If you have a problem with that, do piss off.

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.

Lemons, stones and sunshine for a sodden marmoset

Tresolmos Verdejo from the Wine Society is exactly what you need after battling through the bleak London rain

A bottle of Verdejo; in the background, the blurred, rainy street lamps of London

What do you need after battling through the bleak London rain? What do you need after huddling shivering and sodden on the back seat of a bus whose windows have been inexplicably flung open by some masochistic Chelsea commuter?*

You need a glass of Tresolmos Verdejo, you miserable, trauma-eroded marmoset, you.

Because it’s very nice. And (which is One Of The Reasons For Which I Love The Wine Society) it defibrillates your tastebuds with a flavour you can’t pick up off the shelf at your local express supermarket, that’s for sure.

Defibrillation for £7.50. Save the NHS a few quid and do it my way.

So, as I jerk back to consciousness, my gob’s suddenly alive with bitter, gripping zest — lemony pith. But alongside the electric, citric jangle, there’s that fullness. That almost indecent fullness, set alongside all that bite and the zing. But it’s not a bit oily, not a bit flabby. It’s cialis online to buy like a slim, clean sort of chap who goes to yoga five times a week: he may look slender, but he’s strong.

I drink Tresolmos Verdejo and it makes me think of being outside when it’s not actually freezing and hosing down with rain. If you can picture that scene even vaguely. Makes me think of lemons and the oil of lemons on my fingernails. Of stones and sunshine.

And of a beautifully aerated number 22 bus.

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Region Rueda, Spain
Grape Verdejo
ABV 13%
Price £7.50 from The Wine Society. But — ye gods! — I now find it’s sold out.  Back in stock!
* Yeah, so, according to guardian angel of the online wine community Robert McIntosh, the fresh air is good for me. What-ev-er.

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 buy furosemide tablets 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, buy lasix 40 mg 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.

A sherry suckerpunch of Manzanilla mouthjoy

…is one half-bottle-sized suckerpunch of mouthjoy — the sea-wind bite, the roll of it, the swell of it, the crescendo

A bottle of sherry and a condensation-beaded glass -- on the background of a floral print

Sherry, sherry. I adore sherry. I adore it in its many guises and manifestations. Whenever I’m passing through a decent wine shop or supermarket, I scour the shelves for half-bottles of sherry. Because half-bottles of sherry, my dear friend, are like anchovies: my kitchen is bereft without them.

So last time I was salivating my way round Whole Foods, I tossed a half of Fernando de Castilla Manzanilla into my basket.

And Manzanilla (oh! Manzanilla!) is possibly the sherry I adore most of all.

Why? Because of its richness, its depth and its bite. This one is a half-bottle-sized suckerpunch of mouthjoy. The impossibly woody, dense, complicated smell. The sea-wind bite — like spray from the cold Atlantic. The roll of it, the swell of it, the almost overwhelming crescendo of the flavour once you have it there in your gob.

The way it leaves you gasping for another mouthful.

This is an excellent Manzanilla. I can imagine drinking it with some of those anchovies. And lemon. Salt. Bite. Yeah. That would be fucking lovely.

Staggering, mouthwatering, delicious.

Drink it. Drink sherry. Drink!

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Region Jerez
ABV 15%
Price £6.49 (half bottle) from Whole Foods, High Street Kensington; £10.95 (whole bottle) from Stone & Vine

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 fresh, thunderstorm-clearing Alsace Riesling

… is a wine for rooftop terraces and golden sunshine

A half bottle of Trimbach Riesling, with distinctive bright yellow label, sits on a tabletop

Fresh!

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.

Delicious.

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Grape Riesling
Region Alsace
ABV 13%
Price £6.25 for a half-bottle from The Wine Society; £10.95 for a full bottle.

Pedro Ximenez Don Marcelo Jerez review

… is delicious, extraordinary and quite goddamn sexy. Even if it *does* taste of raisins. Because wrinkles can be sexy, too.

A dark brown bottle of Pedro Ximenez sherry, with out of focus daffodils behindOkay. 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.

A small terracotta dish with ice cream, scattered with dried rose petals

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.

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Region Jerez
Grape Pedro Ximenez
ABV 16%
Price I got mine from The Wine Society some time ago for about £9 (half bottle). But it ain’t there no more, I’m afraid. Sozamonia.