Parn Essentials: Clos la Coutale, Cahors

The finest car interiors you ever smelt. Thwack a few bottles of this bloody decent Cahors into your wine rack, if you please. Then go off and read the next chapter of Melmoth the Wanderer.

Bottle of Clos la Coutale Cahors from the Wine Society

‘This is a good one, isn’t it?’

That’s Amy, just based on an initial snoutful of Clos la Coutale. She’s not wrong.

Amy detests it whenever I try to make her guess what she’s drinking (perhaps she’s read this), and inevitably demands to see the bottle. Fortunately, the label on this one resonates powerfully with her (bizarre and reprehensible) predilection for all things Gothic. I mean, for Christ’s sake, she reads tat like this:

Melmoth the Wanderer novel

Back to Clos la Coutale: she likes the smell, she probably likes the label (I didn’t ask). And she likes the appellation, one assumes:

‘Ca-hors… Ca-hors… Ca-ORRR!’

Amy did A-level French. Many years ago.

But what does she actually think of the wine?

‘Car interiors.’

There’s a huge pause after this. Should I be concerned that car interiors are the sole feature of this wine? Especially when I have plentiful firsthand experience of Amy’s car interior.

‘It smells purple. Definitely car interiors.’

The interior of Amy’s car is definitely grey (offset by yellow Labrador hair). But she’s right: Clos la Coutale does smell purple, and has that pleasantly headache-inducing, solvent-imbued fullness of scent you get from a new car.

It’s got a good grip to it (like Amy’s car), and (like our friend Melmoth the Wanderer, I suppose) it’s satanically dark. My own notes (yeah, despite how it may seem, I don’t actually write my blog posts off the cuff; they just read that way) say that it has ‘that gritty hot smokey thing’, whatever the crap that means. It’s got the snap of acidity to it that’s so necessary in a wine like this, keeping it focused and articulate.

What else? It’s Autumnal — ‘rainy’, in Amy’s word (which is brilliant).

At this point, I’m aware that I’ve effectively outsourced the writing of this blog post to Amy. But isn’t that — dear reader — a good thing? Frankly, I’m more interested in Amy’s adjectives than those of a Master of Wine.

I realise that sounds cheap. I have immense respect for Masters of Wine and seek not to denigrate them and their kind. My point is about context. If I were a supermarket buyer, I’d want the MW’s verdict, for sure. But in my kitchen, one negroni in, it’s not really relevant.

Anyhow. Clos la Coutale (which you can and bloody well should order from The Wine Society, £8.50) is the inaugural member of a new series, which I’m calling Parn Essentials. In Parn Essentials, I’ll introduce you to the bottles that most frequently lurk in my wine rack; my vinous staples. I realise it’s scarcely an original formulation, and I spent at least a minute trying to think of a wittier name for the series. Without success.

‘That’s your problem, Parn: your lack of imagination holds you back. That’s why you’ll never be a successful wine blogger.’

Oh Amy. You should read some successful wine bloggers.

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.

The Irrational Purchase of St Emilion

In which Old Parn explores his difficult relationship with authority, his deification of Waitrose, and his peculiar peccadillo for the eponymous Bordeaux sub-region.

Me, holding a bottle of Waitrose St Emilion 2011I have a problem with authority. Yeah, I bleached my hair and defied my school dress code to exactly the calculated degree of defiance that’d piss people off but not get me told off. But that’s not what I mean. I have a problem with being arbitrarily dictated to, sure. But I also have a problem with dictating.

You see, I’m not a rational wine-drinker. And I don’t really know that much about wine.

And I think it might actually be a turding great problem, y’know, that — when writing about wine — there’s a huge pressure to be an authority.

The only context in which we engage with wine opinion, most of us (if we engage with it at all), is a context in which the one with the opinion is authoritative and definite; objective.

But most of our own personal engagements with wine (even — dare I venture? — those of us who write about the fucking stuff) are leagues away from objectivity.

Here’s an example.

I’m, right now, drinking a bottle of Waitrose St Emilion (currently 25% off, making it £9.99). Why am I drinking it? Well. First up, it was on offer. I don’t typically buy wine because it’s on offer (as — working in retail myself — I nurture an informed suspicion of retailers’ motives in discounting). But when it’s a Waitrose own label, I figure that’s okay. Because saying a product is Waitrose own label is a bit like saying a person is Jesus own label.

So, it was on offer. Fine.

I was in the supermarket, at 7pm, buying myself dinner. My stock of wine at home was running low (normal people look in my wine cupboard and laugh incredulously when they see my idea of ‘low stock’. I realise this).

I saw the St Emilion and I picked it up. Why? I’m not sure. Rationally, I wouldn’t tend to buy Bordeaux at £10–15 from a supermarket. I’d calculate that my money would be spent better elsewhere, in terms of the quality of wine I’d probably end up with.

But I didn’t make my decision rationally. I often don’t. This evening, I bought St Emilion because I loved the idea of St Emilion. I love the fucking words St Emilion, alright? I love the fact that it’s characterised as a kind of underdog amidst the Bordeaux sub-regions, in exactly the same irrational way in which I love Armagnac for not being Cognac. I love the way it sounds so much more elegant than Pomerol or Medoc.

I didn’t think (even bearing in mind the discount) that this bottle would be the best way, objectively, of spending my ten quid in Waitrose’s wine department. Honestly, I didn’t care that much.

I wanted the idea of a St Emilion more than I wanted to make an objective decision.

And now that I’m drinking the blighter, I’m at a loss as to whether I should write much more about it. On the one hand, I shouldn’t — because I’m so far from impartial. On the other hand, I should — because I’m so far from impartial.

Y’SEE WHAT I’M SAYING?

We don’t engage with wine in objective ways and situations, unless we’re (a) in a tasting, (b) being asked our opinion in a rather serious manner or (c) the kind of dull wanker who writes a wine blog.

In the same way, we tend to choose the restaurant meal we fancy, rather than the one we judge objectively will be best.

I’m enjoying this St Emilion, incidentally. I’m enjoying it because I’m writing to you about it (natch), and you’re a really great listener. And I’m enjoying it because it’s sort of reminding me of the time when I went to look round a prospective houseshare and one of the people living there was studying for one of the various wine qualifications and was partway through a blind tasting. He gave me a glass of the wine he was trying to identify (which turned out to be a modestly priced generic Bordeaux), and the St Emilion I’m drinking right now sort of reminds me of that.

Which was goddamn ages ago. But the past was quite nice at times. When it wasn’t being almightily tedious.

I’m enjoying it because it’s Friday, and because I had a damn good martini beforehand. And I’m enjoying it because I like the idea that I’m drinking a Waitrose own St Emilion with a chunk of rare meat and a mushroom and onion sauce.

Is it good? I don’t — honestly — care all that much. I mean, it’s not bad. I’d care if it were bad. It’s somewhere between nice and very good, and might even be excellent. But might, after all, just be nice.

I couldn’t give a crap. And I hope that’s alright with you.

Yeah, it’s been ages. No, I’m not sorry.

Ghemme, Ioppa, 2004. A wine that smells like all those memories you goddamn wish you had. But you don’t. You loser.

Bottle of Ghemme Ioppa with a teapot in the background

Smell. Smell is the most evocative sense, innit? The one that can yank you (via a chance waft of teenage perfume) back to that time when you first kissed that girl. You know. That one. Or to that time when you walked out in the field and the air was heavy with summer and you knew that in two weeks’ time you’d be going into the big school. Or to that time when a dog pissed on your bag.

Yeah. Smell.

So let’s talk about the smell of a wine called Ioppa. I like the fact that it’s called Ioppa, because it sounds like the kind of word a maladroit Italian waiter might exclaim as a plate of food buy clomid online medication slips from his helpless hand and crashes onto the floor.

And I like the fact that it smells a-fucking-mazing.

It smells of sweet, sweet, squashy red fruits, heaped with dark (satanically dark) muscovado sugar. It smells like all those memories you goddamn wish you had. But you don’t. You loser.

Then you drink it. And it slides into your mouth like something that shouldn’t be there but really should. Sinuous and lithe. Before exlopding into soil and life and violence.

It’s powerful, and it is very damn nice. You should probably try it.

It’d give you something to remember.

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Wine Ghemme, Ioppa, 2004
Price £10.95 from The Wine Society

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)

Boss Wine

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

A bottle of Bussola ValpolicellaWhen your boss invites you round after work and gives you a glass of wine, you’re not reviewing that wine.

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:

  1. TO MAN THE FUCK UP AND STOP ANTHROPOMOPHISING THINGS, YOU LOSER; and
  2. to write an unabashedly subjective blog post about it, anyway.

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.

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.

Verd Albera, Emporda review

… is a plump, florid, indulgent kind of wine — a hint of that chardonnay roundness and chubbiness, overlaid with a sprinkling of spice and pepper

Closeup of the elegant label of a bottle of Verd Albera from The Wine Society: minimal typography on a textured plain label

God, don’t you get sick of me telling you about wines from The Wine Society that are sodding good value?

Well, apologies. Because here’s another. Verd Albera is a relatively plump, florid, indulgent kind of wine — it has a hint of that chardonnay roundness and chubbiness to it, but overlaid with a sprinkling of spice and pepper. So the luxuriant fruity, buttery gubbins is cut with a savoury bite. And it’s all dashed through with that matt zing of lemon zest.

Extremely nice, and tastes as though it could’ve cost a fair stack more than it does. It also looks good, in an understated, elegant sort of way.

What’s more, I’m going to send a bottle of this as a prize to the person who posts the funniest/most ludicrous example of terrible wine label writing on my post of yesterday. Quick!

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Region Emporda
Grapes Muscat and Grenache Blanc
ABV 13.5%
Price £7.95 from The Wine Society (for the 2010 vintage)
Don’t take my word for it? [Sob.] Check out Jamie Goode’s review of the same wine — posted, would you believe, on the same day — for a second (also glowingly positive) opinion.

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