‘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”
Old Parn’s Wine & Spirits Blog
Blather about booze: wine, spirits, cocktails. Stories & metaphors, not verdicts & percentages.
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”
Jesus, if this is what Putney smells like, no wonder SW15 property prices are so bloody high.
‘Ah, that smells good! It reminds me of Putney.’
Stick that on your label, Clos Triguedina, why don’t you? Putney! Sweet, odiferous Putney, home to possibly the most polluted highstreet in London. Putney, the place in which weekly wipe-downs of my kitchen windowsill would stain cloths black. Ah, Putney!
‘I mean, it’s the kind of wine you used to give me in your flat in Putney.’
O reader! What the hell went wrong, I ask myself, since Putney? Why am I not giving Amy wine like this every sodding evening (or, at least, weekend, in moderation, in a manner consistent with government guidelines on alcohol consumption)? I mean, Christ, I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job, here in Ealing, but no; relative to my barnstorming debut in SW15, my domestic sommelier performance in W5 turns out to be the ‘difficult (ie. shit) second album’. I guess I’ll have to try harder.
…Which might, I suppose, just mean ordering a few cases of Clos Triguedina.
Because it’s bloody good. I mean, you should know, I guess, that the level of aggression behind my fandom of Cahors is sufficient to put your average English football hooligan to shame. I’d certainly start chants about it, if not all-out fistfights. If I could be arsed, I’d steer this already ludicrous comparison off onto some otiose tangent whereby I’d exploit the fact that the letters QPR not only stand for an English football club (so I gather) but also for the phrase ‘quality:price ratio’. But you and I, my buttery little reader, we are beyond such fripperies, aren’t we? I’ll give you the dots; you join ’em. #engagement
Anyhow. Because it’s a Cahors from The Wine Society, I’m predisposed to like this quite a lot. But even bearing that in mind, it’s jolly nice. Dark, blue-tinged, rich, spicy. Tantalisingly vampiric. And all the usual good stuff. Hedgerow fruits, tobacco and darkness.
If I were a patient man, I’d perhaps have kept this a tad longer; I’m pretty sure it’ll be even nicer in a year or two. But I had a thick chunk of bavette steak and a thirst. And perhaps, somewhere in the recesses of my lizard brain, a hankering to cast myself back to those soot- and Malbec-sodden days of Putney Hill.
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.
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.
‘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.
Tresolmos Verdejo from the Wine Society is exactly what you need after battling through the bleak London rain
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 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.
Domaine Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet should be chilled and ready in your fridge to be snatched out at the first signs of autumn’s fleeting sunshine — or a farting dog
A quickie, today.
So here’s a smashing Pee Pee de Pee from The Wine Society. Yes, that’s the same Wine Society that just won Decanter’s National Wine Merchant of the Year award. For the second time running. Which just goes to show two things: 1. that this blog is occasionally (if only coincidentally) capable of vague topicality, and 2. that Decanter Magazine does occasionally manage to do/say something that isn’t as annoying as a farting dog on a rush hour tube.
Anyhow, back to the Picpoul. And a bewitching character it is. The first thing that hits you is the smell: bright, ringing, clean. Delicious. Then you get it into your gob. It’s proper, grown-up, complex, with that stony, bracing quality: while it may be light, it sure as hell ain’t lite.
Elegant, poised and deeply, deeply satisfying. Have a bottle in your fridge and snatch it out when autumn next sees fit to unveil her fleeting sunshine.
Or when you next get home after a long commute alongside someone’s flatulent pet.
… 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
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, 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.
… will flirt fruitily with your nose, before getting gruff with your gob
Fill your snout with a decent sniff of Saladini Pilastri Falerio and you’ll think that you’re in for a flighty, flirty, fruity kind of wine. Mischievous, light-footed, scarpersome. There’s that beguiling waft of pear drops, for one thing, that always puts me in mind of smalltime juvenile delinquency.
But swish a bit of the stuff round your mouth and you might be surprised at the amount of fullness and depth. There’s a nice hint of bitterness; a gruff quality that contradicts (or enhances, I guess, if gruffness is your thing) the flirtatious, fruity, sweet-shoppy goings on.
It’s not a blindingly extraordinary wine, but neither is it a typical one. And for the rather goddamn lovely price of £6.25 — I’d contend — this is the kind of bottle you could well be cracking open in the middle of the week and still tasting something new, something interesting.
In which Old Parn’s first guest blogger, Elly Tams, has her knickers charmed off by 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…
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.
…is one half-bottle-sized suckerpunch of mouthjoy — the sea-wind bite, the roll of it, the swell of it, the crescendo
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!
… is basically just like my parents’ blackcurrant jelly
My 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.
In which Old Parn recounts the tale of his first serious wine purchase — and muses on the notions of choice and experimentation with the aid of a very nice bottle of white Rioja
Do you want to know what I love most of all about wine? Wine is an extravagantly complex universe, with bewildering variety, innumerable secrets and surprises.
I have an embarrassing — borderline clinical — compulsion to try new things. To try ALL THE NEW THINGS IN THE WORLD EVER. When I was a student, I spent a ludicrous amount of my loan (Go Team Maximum Student Loan!) on spirits. ‘Typical bloody student,’ you’re probably muttering, as you rustle your Daily Mail disapprovingly. But, y’see, I spent my loan on every spirit/liqueur I could find. Frangelico? Check. Framboise? Check. Creme de Cacao? Check. Amaretto? Check. Mine was not the shopping list of the typical student, I like to think.
(Christ alive, Parn, eradicate that entirely unwarranted tone of pride from your writing right now.)
Yeah. I wanted ALL THE SPIRITS. Because I wanted to be able to make ALL THE COCKTAILS. As a result, my university bedroom resembled a well-stocked off-license in a wealthy London borough. Except with Radiohead posters and the unmistakable stench of adolescent pretension. People came round to my room for a drink; I gave them a sodding menu.
But then I discovered that — actually — spirits were boring*. The apparent variety of the supermarket spirits section was nothing compared to the variety in my first case of wine. From Majestic.
Let me tell you about that first case of wine. I’d just moved into my first non-student abode. My first shared house. I’d landed my first BIG JOB (putting books back on shelves). I was almost like a Real Grown Up. And as such I decided to do what Grown Ups do: order a case of wine.
(Make your own deductions about my warped conception of adulthood. I don’t care.)
For someone who’d previously chosen his wine from the shelves of Sainsbury’s local, this was a revelation. So much choice! So many unfamiliar names!
I still have that same excitement whenever I browse wines in a good shop (online or off): that vertiginous thrill of bewildering, tantalising choice. The terror of knowing that even if I never drink the same wine twice, I still have no hope of trying them all. And I sincerely cannot imagine being faced with all these tantalising, exotic, unfamiliar names — and then putting a big-brand Australian Chardonnay into my basket. For me, that’d be like going to Thailand and having dinner in Burger King. I don’t mean that to sound snobbish. Because I think that the ‘safe’ ubiquity of big-brand wine is in no goddamn way the fault of customers who are intimidated by incomprehensible choice. Not everyone is a weirdass novelty-seeker like me — and if normal people don’t feel they can explore the unknowns of the wine world, that’s a failure on the part of the industry. But that’s another subject, eh?
So I filled my Majestic basket with unfamiliar fruits. Sure, lots of ’em would be well-known to me now — but then, everything was glimmering and new.
I still remember the first bottle I drank from that case, along with some friends: a white Rioja. And I thought: ‘Whoa. This is interesting. This wine kind of smells a bit like sheep’s cheese or something. How the hell does that work?’
(Nobody else knew what the hell I was burbling about when I said the bit about sheep’s cheese, by the way. They probably thought I was having a stroke.)
If you want to check out the sheep’s cheese thing yourself, I suggest you snap up a bottle of Navajas White Rioja from The Wine Society (****) It’s got that slightly sharp sheepy tang (boy, how appetising I make it sound) that took me right back to that first Majestic bottle. But when you get it into your gob, you’re cavorting with apricots and peaches. It’s dry, mind — and brilliantly, grippingly acidic, holding that jubilant fruit entirely in check.
And it costs £7.25 a bottle.
To me, £7.25 is a miserly amount to spend on a sensory experience that’s so goddamn unusual (so goddamn nice). That £7.25 wouldn’t even buy you a bottle of big-brand plonk in a Bethnal Green off-license (quoth the voice of bitter experience). But here it buys you apricots and sheep’s cheese and nostalgia.
Isn’t that, really, when we get down to it, pretty fucking exciting?
… may not be a bona fide speed potion mixed by a malicious child — but is certainly nice enough to warrant a shambling kind of jog as you go to fetch your wallet
What was the first cocktail you ever made?
Mine was a speed potion.
In order that I may elaborate further, I’d like to introduce you to my sister — Young Parn, Koozle or Parnell’s Sister, as she is variously known — who, by virtue of being two years my junior, qualified for that most precious form of sibling love: merciless, vile-spirited deceit and manipulation.
Spare a thought, o reader, for Parnell’s Sister.
Spare a thought for her, specifically, as she sits, her eager gob agape, listening to me telling her that I am training to be a wizard.
YES, ROWLING, DID YOU GET THAT? A WIZARD. ROLL THAT UP IN YOUR FORTHCOMING PLAGIARISM COURT SUMMONS AND SMOKE IT. PARN GOT THERE FIRST.
‘What kind of magic can you do?’ asks Koozle, her eyes a-sparkle with gullible excitement.
‘Oh, well, I’m not very good yet,’ I nonchalantly reply, with the inspired modesty of the sociopathic liar. ‘But they did teach me how to make a speed potion.’
‘A speed potion?’
‘A speed potion.’
Next thing, we’re in the kitchen. Of course. And — inspired in equal parts by George’s Marvellous Medicine and innate pre-pubescent sadism — I am making my sister a speed potion.
God knows (and I hope the old chap will one day find it in his heart to forgive me for) what I put into that horrific concoction. I’m fairly sure (sorry, Katie, sorry) there was Fairy Liquid. There was definitely a spoonful of marmite, ketchup, every variety of fruit squash available, a generous measure of milk and an old fruit pastille.
And — of course — in order for the potion to have its full effect, it had to be drunk all in one go. Which, to her further great credit, Young Parn managed with aplomb. I hardly even think she tasted it, honestly, so consumed was she with manic anticipation.
‘HOW DO I KNOW IF IT WORKED?‘ she screamed, jiggling impatiently from one stumpy little leg to the other.
‘Um … Well, you know how I’m faster at running than you, normally? Well — I’ll race you to the bottom of the garden. If it’s worked, you’ll beat me.’
Reader, it is a testament to the inordinate power of the placebo effect that she might even have done so even if I hadn’t slowed my own running pace to a crawl. Because never again have I seen my sister run as she did that day — spurred like a adrenaline-pumped greyhound by the intensity of her misguided belief in her despicable sibling’s lies.
Quinta da Espiga doesn’t taste like my speed potion (or what I imagine my speed potion might’ve tasted like. I mean, Christ. You don’t imagine I was idiotic enough to try it, do you?) — but it does taste a tiny bit like the second cocktail I ever made: my own top secret recipe consisting of tropical fruit squash, orange squash and water. Mixologists, take note.
That’s not to say that this wine tastes like a mixture of cheap concentrates concocted by a malicious child. Oh dear. This is going all wrong, isn’t it? Because I actually rather like the stuff. In a yes-very-nice-move-right-along kind of way. It’s sharp and bracing and gob-parchingly dry, and, yeah, there’s a backdrop of citrus and tropical fruits that reminds me of my childhood squash-mixing — in case you hadn’t picked that bit up from the laboured anecdote which consumes far more of the length of this post than does the actual review-type bit.
AND WHAT, PRECISELY, IS WRONG WITH THAT, PRAY?
Considering it’s only 12.5% ABV, it’s punchy as you like. It’s got a kind of steeliness to it that I rather admire, and it’s a little forthright, a little dominant — in a polite, middle-class, fluffy-Anne-Summers-handcuffs kind of way.
So whilst I can’t pretend it’ll make you run across the garden at twice your normal speed, I’d contend that — at well under £7 — it’s nice enough to warrant a shambling kind of jog across to fetch your wallet and order a bottle to try for yourself.
… doesn’t play remotely hard to get: extrovert, fruit-laden, immediate
This Jurancon — made from the outstandingly named Gros Manseng grape — has that grassy, springy, verdant burst that you associate with Sauvignon Blanc. And, like Sauv Blanc, it’s mightily accessible. A garden-friendly, pub-friendly, gob-friendly kind of wine. Not remotely playing hard to get, it’s extrovert, fruit-laden, immediate.
But here’s where it beats the pub Sauv Blancs. Yes, it’s got that front-of-mouth accessibility. But it stays in balance. It doesn’t gank up your mouth or descend into sugary blandness. Instead, it’s taut and toned throughout. Balanced, yeah?
Good, simple stuff. And, yes, I’m reviewing another half bottle. Because I like half bottles. Alright?
… is just the kind of wine into whose welcoming alcoholic embrace you’d yearn to tumble after a day of bubblewrap and despair
I’m on my way to London. Right now. Yeah, check out my power-commuting ass.
(Poor beast. He really doesn’t like the motorway traffic. I knew I should’ve taken the camel instead.)
Jokes, jokes. I’m actually on a bus. A bus enchanted with the sweet, sweet magic of wifi. When I boarded this bus, accompanied by a suitcase big enough to bury me in (although, I like to think, aesthetically unfit for such a purpose: let it be noted that I’d prefer my final place of rest not to possess zips and expandable compartments), I chirpily remarked to the driver that I had ‘all my worldly possessions’ with me.
That, dear reader, was what is known in the trade as a downright fucking lie.
Because — I have discovered — the sum total of Old Parn’s worldly possessions is roughly equivalent in volume to the sum total of the worldly possessions of the dragon in Beowulf.
(Although drastically inequivalent in terms of fiscal value.)
So you may well imagine (if you have nothing better to imagine, you poor, impoverished sod) the innumerable hours of box-stuffing, newspaper scrunching and cutlery-sorting that have lately consumed my evenings. As I BUBBLE-WRAP MY LIFE.
(Or rather — let’s keep this metaphor on its toes, shall we? — as I decide that large portions of my life will probably survive the journey without bubblewrap, because I can’t be arsed with that nonsense.)
Wha’? Uh, sorry, I think I just nodded off, there. You were saying something? Wine? What? You say this is a blog about wine? Uh. Right. Okay. Jesus. Have some patience, won’t you?
Because what I was leading up to (if you’d just let me finish) was this: should you find yourself bubblewrapping your life, what you’re going to need is a welcoming alcoholic embrace into which to tumble, at the end of the tedious, tedious day.
And The Wine Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir gives a pretty comforting embrace.
First up, let’s talk price. Because people keep saying these are straitened times (though I guess they might actually, on reflection, be saying that these are straightened thymes, and I’ve been reading a wholly unintended economic subtext to what are in fact observations of niche culinary trends. It would explain why they were waving a bunch of unusually rigid herbaceous offcuts in my face at the time).
YES, LONDON, YOU ARE LUCKY TO HAVE ME. There ain’t no suitcase big enough to bury my puns.
In any case, this wine is very, very good value. It’s relatively soft. Pinot Noir can (especially at a price like this) be on the austere side. Not so here. It’s pretty ripe, y’know? Fruited, gobfilling. Very accessible. It’s a wine that gives of itself generously; no haughtiness.
To be fair, it doesn’t have anything to be haughty about — it’s not a fine wine, not a highly-strung Pinot Noir racehorse. But you probably don’t need me to tell you that Pinot Noir racehorses don’t come with a price tag like this.
So should you find yourself — drained and desperate — at the end of a day of packing, I urge you to tumble into the welcoming arms of the Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir.
As opposed to tumbling into the dark, hypnotic maw of that large open suitcase in front of you…
… is the kind of white wine I’m very happy to shove in my face, repeatedly, perhaps even to excess. And at this price, you should shove it into yours, too.
My first question: what the hell are you doing there, like some big slug, in front of your computer?
God knows. Because you should already be halfway to your nearest Marks & Spencer to seize a bottle (or twelve) of this Fiano. It’s bloody good, you see. And, until early September, it seems to be reduced to an almost insultingly cheap £5.99.
It’s a lemony ol’ bugger — with a pleasantly zesty, unapologetic waft to it. A proper noseful.
And once it’s made its way to your gob? Again, unapologetic: it’s not timid, thin or reticent. It doesn’t linger around on the fringes; it dives on in. A good, solid mouthful, with a zip and a skip to it. It’s rounded, balanced. You can drink it without food and your mouth won’t shrivel up like an old woman in a bath.
Listen, what I’m saying is that this is really nice — and, right now, a staggeringly good bargain. In no way do I expect to run up against a wine like this for less than £6. It’s the kind of white wine I’m very happy to shove in my face, repeatedly, perhaps even to excess. And at this price, you should shove it into yours, too.