Fort Gin Review: Mighty Fortress or Crumbling Ruin?

Now, a fort is supposed to protect you against danger, right? I’m not convinced. Fort Gin, y’see, is pretty damn dangerous in itself. Take a gulp and you’ll understand why…

Portsmouth! Following last week’s account of our adventures at Portsmouth Fish Market, we’re back to Pompey today — but this time we’re swapping fish for fortifications. Specifically, Fort Gin (£31.95, Master of Malt), which is made by the Portsmouth Distillery.

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Cave de Beblenheim, Grafenreben Riesling review

… will lower you into the most blissful vat of acid a secret agent could wish for

A bottle of Alsace Riesling from Cave de Beblenheim: simple label, two-colour print with crest

Sometimes you need acid. Perhaps it’s because you’ve just captured that irritatingly smooth secret agent who’s trying to foil your plan to TAKE OVER THE WORLD — and you’ve decided that the most risk-free and tax-efficient option is to lower him slowly into a seething vat of corrosive liquid. I mean, what could go wrong?

Or perhaps it’s because you’re a foreign chap called Beblenheim (in which case — could I just say? — you’re already well-equipped to be a fuck-on awesome supervillain) and you want to make a damn fine Riesling*.

Yes. Acid.

Because this wine is candied, fruited, plump. Both literally and metaphorically golden, it’s a shimmering fat jewel of flavour. Fruit and flowers. A heady brew that’s almost indecently aromatic.

And this is where the acid comes in. Not like Bond crashing vengefully through reinforced glass; no, like Bond deftly insinuating himself into the bed of a sultry maiden.

Its suave acidity is absolutely the key to this wine. A suave acidity that checks (without obscuring) those floral excesses with a razor cut of clean, bracing sharpness. Leave it lingering in your mouth for as long as you like, revelling in the luxuriant texture, the steadfast refusal to descend into banal sugar. And when you swallow, the flavours slip away without a belch, without a rasp, without a jolt.

Verdict

This, my chums, is what they mean when they say ‘balance’. A perfect alignment of classicist austerity and romantic ebullience. Reason and emotion.

A balanced wine (like a balanced person) doesn’t start off great yet gradually begin to irritate; no, it’s consistently good company for your gob. Meaning the last swig is just as beguiling as the first.

So, yeah. Old Parn has been beguiled by Beblenheim. Let’s just hope it’s not some kind of sophisticated honeytrap.

Rating ★★★★ (4 stars)
ABV 12%
Price £8.82 from Waitrose Wine
* Okay, okay, so there may not actually be a bloke called Beblenheim, as this seems to be a cooperative winery. But indulge me, won’t you?

Leon Beyer Pinot Gris 2008, Alsace review

… is a mightily exotic gobful — an olfactory rollercoaster

A bottle of Leon Beyer Pinot Gris. The label is adorned with cursive script and a line drawing of a chateau. In the background, out of focus flowers and greenery

Turkish delight. Bubblegum. Nectarine. Rhubarb. Pepper. Cream. Lavender. Honey. More cream.

Well, hot darn. Ain’t that an olfactory rollercoaster, and no mistakin’?

So, yup, this is another virtuosically aromatic Alsatian.

Compared to others of its ilk, this one’s on the acidic side of things, meaning it’s less smooth, less limpid, less pacific than some. It’s got quite a crisp old bite to it. Also (which is less welcome) it’s just a touch over-the-top — that ol’ belch of alcohol hits you if you keep it in the gob too long.

And I’m no fan of that alchbelch.

Verdict

But, mmm, yeah, it’s pretty nice otherwise. And as my initial salvo of flavours might imply, it’s a fairly exotic gobful. So exotic, in fact, that I decided to photograph it in front of some delightfully out-of-focus springtime flowers.

With a bit more refinement, it’d be a four-star. Anyhow, serve it up to people who complain that Alsace wines are ‘too sweet’.

Rating ★★★ (3 stars)
ABV 13.5%
Price £13.50 from The Wine Society (no longer available, link is to the 2005 vintage)

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.