‘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. Continue reading “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.
‘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. Continue reading “Parn Essentials: Clos la Coutale, Cahors”
Shameless. Fucking shameless.
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.
In which Old Parn explores his difficult relationship with authority, his deification of Waitrose, and his peculiar peccadillo for the eponymous Bordeaux sub-region.
I 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.
Ghemme, Ioppa, 2004. A wine that smells like all those memories you goddamn wish you had. But you don’t. You loser.
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.
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 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.
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
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 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
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 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.
… is a plump, florid, indulgent kind of wine — a hint of that chardonnay roundness and chubbiness, overlaid with a sprinkling of spice and pepper
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!
… 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
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.
… comes dressed in an attention-seekingly sparkly top and laughs raucously enough to distract you from your own conversation.
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?
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.
Now, here’s 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.
… has got some chub — and is (perhaps) wearing clothes that’re ever so slightly too tight to be quite becoming
Today, a humble South African Chenin Blanc did battle with THE GARCLICKIEST PESTO IN THE WORLD. A meal so astoundingly garlic-laced that my colleagues tomorrow will be fucking reeling at the stench of it off me.
Anyway — how did our plucky Chenin Blanc stand up to it all? Not too badly, really. I mean, it fizzes a bit in the gob (in protest, I guess), but the acidity and body mean that it’s not utterly overwhelmed. A respectable performance.
And the wine itself (when experienced outside the blast radius of the garlic)? Perfectly nice. There’s a slight veginess to the smell that I’m not totally wild about: it’s not the classiest honker, to be honest. But absolutely fine. Some (not unpleasant) soap and flowers wafting around there.
Taste-wise, again, it’s perfectly acceptable. That vegetable quality is there (though, I should emphasise, in the background). Otherwise, there’s a homely cheniny podginess to it — fullfruited, syrupy, yet acidic. A wine that’s got some chub, and (perhaps) is wearing clothes ever so slightly too tight for it.
So what do I think? Acceptable. And, yeah, it’s fairly cheap (indeed, bloody cheap, if you pick it up before 2 May as part of Majestic’s 20% off South Africa deal)
But I love Chenin Blanc. And this doesn’t really zing and sparkle in the way the grape can. Most of all, I’d like it to be fresher. And to lose that slight ponk of compost.
Then again, given the amount of near-raw garlic in me right now, I’m scarcely in a position to talk.
… is furlongs away from those horrible, flippant, fruit-stuffed wines that taste as if the producer were aiming at 10 year old schoolchildren
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.)
… will seduce you with a heady waft of fruit, then pull you up, slap you and strap you, look you fucking DEAD in the eye and ask you: ‘Do you think you’re hard enough?’
I’m sorry, but that was fucking amazing.
Rare, rare — fuck, practically endangered — sirloin steak. Meat so tender its fibres splay apart like fishnet. And a big, chunky Cotes du Rhone. Nothing too venerable or refined — still young enough to play loud music and pout when its parents come and tell it to quiet down.
Something avec spunk.
And Domaine de Mourchon’s got spunk. At the same time as being rather complex. Sure, it may play loud music, but it also surreptitiously reads William Blake and watches film noir.
The combination of spunk and complexity doesn’t always come cheap. But I don’t begrudge a sodding penny of the £14.50 I spent on this wine; nor of the £5 I spent on 200g of the best steak I could find. So take your ‘Dine in for £10’, Marks & Spencer, and stuff it up the rotisserie-ready orifice of your choice. Because I’m dining in for £20 — yeah, just me — and it’s STILL A PRIVILEGE.
Yeah, the wine. That’s what we were talking about, wasn’t it?
So — it’s got that initial jubilant fanfare of blackcurrant that you so often find in new world wines from these grapes (Domaine de Mourchon is made from 60% grenache; 40% syrah) — but, here, that gleeful fruit isn’t allowed to dominate. First of all it’s softened up by a delicious — almost bready — savouriness. Then it’s wrestled to the ground by stern tannins, their muscles laced with dark veins of pepper, spice, wood, leather.
And all the while there’s an alluring slip of aniseed waifing around, smiling coyly, just to confuse you.
I don’t know about you, but I go weak and jibbly for wines that seduce me with a heady waft of fruit, then pull me up, slap me and strap me, look me fucking dead in the eye and ask me if I reckon I’m hard enough.
I suspect I’m not hard enough.
But get enough blood-oozing red meat and Domaine de Mourchon down my gullet and I might start to think I am.
… 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
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.)
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?
… will put you on a level with Vladimir Putin — or else leave you yearning for a cellar
We all have our own milestones in life.
Some people tell themselves they’ll have made it when they finally get that bmw they’ve always lusted after; others, when they have their first child. Or their first million. For other people still, their life truly attains meaning only once they have undertaken a stage-managed execution of a large predatory beast that, thanks to odds stacked monumentally in its disfavour, has absolutely no fucking chance of defending itself.
(Ah! To be a True Man!)
But I? I, dear reader, am — relatively speaking — humility itself.
I tell myself that I’ll have made it when I have my own cellar.
NO, NOT IN A JOSEF FRITZL KIND OF WAY, YOU ABSOLUTE FUCKING MESS. GET OUT NOW.
Unfortunately, see, Old Parn is forever schlepping his arse from one rented hovel to the next. And the rented hovels of Oxford, it seems, are low on cellars.
(They are also, FYI, low on pianos. Irrelevant but true.)
The point? For, of course, there is always a point, my pretties, isn’t there? Yah. The point is that the very best place for the above-depicted bottle of Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 would be a cellar.
A cellar. Alongside 11 other bottles of Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, if you please.
Because this is a wine I have done something of a disservice by killing before its prime (and, seamlessly, we’re back to Vladimir Putin again). In 5–10 years, it’ll be fucking delicious. No mistake.
Right now, it’s formidable — commingling fruit and wood and frost and metal. Bracing stuff. In the same way that rugby on a frost-hardened pitch in mid-January was (apparently) also bracing.
As you’d expect (if you’ve been paying attention so far, not allowing your mind to wander to fleeting visions of the Russian President’s naked torso), there’s a welter of tannin going on in this mouthful, which gives it more backbone than a frigging brontosaurus.
It filleth thy gob.
There’s pepper and, yeah, fat juicy black olives squished between the back of your tongue and the roof of your mouth. That bit where it’s all slimy and squishy. Yes, right there. But don’t keep poking around, alright? You’ll only make yourself sick.
What else? In the catalogue of flavours (never convinced how interesting this is to read, but still) we have ticks next to liquorice, parma violet and young sour blackberries.
Sniff (if you dare) and you’re hit with that huge, almost impenetrable board-pen smell. Well, obviously it doesn’t actually smell like a board-pen. That would be horrible, and this is, in fact, lovely. But you know how a board-pen’s smell absolutely fills up your whole nasal world and makes you almost cry with the intensity of it?
(NO I HAVE NOT BEEN ABUSING SOLVENTS.)
Well, this is like that in its intensity. Dude.
The length is great, the balance is great. The wine is powerful, matt, complex.
All great, then. And drinking it right now, I’d give it three solid, solid stars. If that’s what you’re going to do, then you should definitely decant the old boy well in advance to let him breathe and relax a little. To, um, massage that huge backbone a little, y’know.
But, oh sweet messiah, how those three stars would multiply (I have no doubt) after a good few years in the quiet, the cool, the dark.
A good few years in my non-existent cellar, in other words.
In anticipation of which, I’m upping the rating to 4. But only if you’re patient.
Well, you big smug cellar-owning bastard, buy a case of it then, why don’t you? Leave a comment with a link to a photo of it in your goddamn cellar, alongside you, smirking like a fat little oik.
I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY NOW.
… will sweep you off your feet with its gnarled hands and unshaven chops
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.
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.