Parn Essentials: The Society’s Corbières

An essential is all very well. But is it more than an essential? Is it, you may ask, the kind of wine to engender obsessive, bewildering, blind devotion bordering on cultism? Is it, you ask me, paraphrasing to ensure I understand your query, the kind of wine about which one might full-throatedly bellow a simplistic refrain based upon its name?

‘Ooooooooah! Society’s Corbières!’

You know I like this one, of course. The post title gives it away: it’s a Parn Essential because my wine racks are seldom without a bottle or two.

An essential is all very well. But is it more than an essential? Is it, you may ask, the kind of wine to engender obsessive, bewildering, blind devotion bordering on cultism? Is it, you ask me (paraphrasing, I assume, to ensure I understand your query) the kind of wine about which one might full-throatedly bellow a simplistic refrain based upon its name? Is this humble Mr Corbières destined to be the subject of some mindless White-Stripes-bastardised chant redolent of the football stadium?

‘Oooooooah! Society’s Corbières!’

Those are good questions. I mean, really good questions. So good I can scarcely believe I didn’t construct them myself.

Let’s start with the obvious: The Society’s Corbières is red. Duh. It’s also modest. For a start, it only costs £8.25. But beyond that, it has no pretensions of grandeur. Its simple ‘Society’s’ own label telegraphs as much: it’s very much a representative of a greater whole.

I mean, you could argue that there’s a kind of meta-arrogance in adopting that kind of position, couldn’t you? But, I mean, let’s not overthink it, eh?

‘Oooooooah! Society’s Corbières!’

Jeremy Corbyn at some goddamn rally

Once you get the wine into your gob (which is, I suppose, the point of the exercise, god knows how many paragraphs in) you’ll find, though, that its modesty belies its substance. AND HERE’S WHERE THINGS GET TRICKY. Because, you know, this wine is actually just as good in reality as you might reasonably have hoped. More than that, it’s also fun. It’s full, it’s rounded, it doesn’t take itself laughably seriously. That is to say, it’s not the kind of wine that’s fucking desperate to go off on a tedious monologue about its own bêtes noires — Hugo Chávez, say, or the atrocities of Blairism. If you were talking to this wine, which hopefully you realise is testing the limits of metaphor, I think you’d find it a generous conversationalist. You know, one with give and take.

Because, y’know, it’s genuinely humble, genuinely modest. It’s not got that false humility that actually telegraphs a monstrous ego. There’s not a mite of harshness, here, of impatience. I could drink bottles of this shit (and, indeed, do). Because it’s a very easy wine to drink. But that’s not because it’s patronising. Instead, it’s like the best kind of speechwriter, who writes sentences that seem so deceptively simple, yet communicate with an audience beyond their hollering devotees.

‘Oooooooah! Society’s Corbières!’

It’s generous, too: full, and fruit-laden (without being banal and sugary, I should add). It gives you what you want without lectures or circumvention.

I mean, fuck, imagine going on a date with Jeremy Corbyn [OH CHRIST, IS THAT WHO YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT? YOU COULD HAVE MADE IT CLEARER…]

‘Well, I personally don’t believe in indulging in the wasteful and indulgent drinking of alcohol. But would you like a drink?’

And you’d get a 125ml glass of house red, wouldn’t you? If you dared even say yes in the first place.

Fucking hell, this was supposed to be enjoyable. When we set off, you and I, upon this blog post, it seemed amusingly inconsequential, didn’t it? We thought, crikey, this seems like an entertaining premise for an article/leader of the opposition, didn’t we? Oh what japes! What could possibly go wrong?

Well here we are. I hope you’re happy.


The Society’s Corbieres is £8.25 from The Wine Society (a proudly cooperative endeavour). You may freely taste it safe in the knowledge that it won’t tacitly threaten other rival wines you might like to try in future with deselection. You’ll need membership of The Wine Society rather than the UK’s Labour Party to buy it. But the former is, in my experience, an investment you’re substantially less likely to regret.

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.

Castillo de Tafalla Angel’s Selection Rose review

… is like a character in a trashy romance novel — for drinking now, asking questions later

A macro shot of the label of a bottle of Castillo de Tafalla rose from Spain

Before we start, I’d just like to tell y’all: this is a review of a free sample I received from Naked Wines. Obviously it receives no special treatment as such, but, yeah, just so you know, right?

Okay. Here’s a wine that’s simple, fruity, easy and goes down very readily. In all respects, then, it’s rather like a character in a trashy romance novel.

In contrast to roses such as the Paxton Shiraz Rose I wrote about a while ago, this one’s far lighter, without that reddy tannin, that grip on your gob.

And it’s a real fruit bomb. A fruit bonbon bomb. The raspberry bonbon, obviously. It’s even the same colour. And it’s a bit sugary, too, bit sweet. Yup, this wine is pink as you like. It’s smooth going down, leaving you very little to think about.

Which is maybe how you like it, I guess.

Me, I prefer a bit of intellectual discourse, y’know? Maybe a few minutes’ talk about the likelihood of stable democracy in Egypt, or the merits of the Oxford comma. Before the going down, I mean.

Verdict

This is a wine that fulfils a particular purpose. It’s not really a wine to criticise or review in depth (SPOT THE INHERENT CONTRADICTION IN THE PREVIOUS SENTENCE FOR A MYSTERY PRIZE). It’s a drink-now-ask-questions-later kind of wine. Where ‘later’ may be defined as ‘when you suddenly realise you’ve got reeling drunk without noticing’.

Perfectly decent, simple fare, in other words, if pretty much bereft of complexity. And very easy.

Buy it to take along a barbecue or something. Yeah, you’re always going to bloody barbecues, aren’t you? You strike me as the chilled out kind of individual who’d be coming down with barbecue invitations.

And with a bottle of Castillo de Tafalla rose in hand and an enigmatic smile, who knows what romantic plotlines you might kick off. You old dog.

Rating ** (2 stars)
ABV 12.5%
Price £7.99 from Naked Wines (£5.33 to members)

Reserve de la Saurine 2010 Review

… is an honest (if brusque) young peasant of a wine

Marks & Spencer's Reserve de la Saurine. The label depicts a French estate (and a drip of red wine has streaked its way down the paper)

Well, here’s a wine that’s not nearly as bad as I’d feared — and a good deal better than our last disastrous encounter with an M&S ‘dine in for £10’ bottle.

It’s a Rhoney kind of red (not from the Rhone region itself, which doubtless helps keep the price down, but from a satellite region and made from Rhoney grapes Grenache, Carignan and Syrah.)

It’s quite nicely rounded (though that does give way to harshness on the finish), with a tannic weight to it. There’s a bit of a metallic tang to it too, perhaps (surely I can’t be the only one who once sucked on a mouthful of coins as a child? What’s that? I am? Oh shut up.) In other words, it’s the kind of wine you’d describe as rustic. Unpretentious.

An honest, rather brusque, young peasant of a wine.

There’s some fruit, yeah (lucky peasant nabbed himself a punnet of cherries), and a herby, stalky bite. No oak, so it’s fresh and supple.

Verdict

Be warned: the tannic roughness does build up, so it’s probably more of a food-partner than a solo quaffer. All considered, though — the price in particular — it’s not at all bad.

(Still, I wasn’t too heartbroken to consign half of it to my bolognese sauce. These peasants mustn’t be allowed to rise above their station, after all.)

Rating ★★ (2 stars)
ABV 13%
Price £5.99 from Marks & Spencer

Domaine de Mourchon 2005, Seguret, Cotes du Rhone Villages

… 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?’

A closeup of the label of a bottle of Domaine de Mourchon. Relatively modern label design for a Cotes du Rhone, typographic emphasis

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.

Verdict

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.

Rating ★★★★ (4 stars)
ABV 14.5%
Price £14.50 from The Wine Society

d’Arenberg Red Ochre Review

… is an absolute pleasure to hang out with: excellent company. No fart jokes.

The label of a bottle of d'Arenberg Red Ochre, with distinctive organge/cream/blue colour bands and the d'Arenberg crest

I’d rather gladly drink a lot of d’Arenberg’s Red Ochre. I mean, I’d like to think I’d stop before doing myself a mischief. But one never can tell when one’s dealing with such a happy, carefree wine. Such a friendly, obliging wine.

For our mate Red Ochre is good company. He’s a pleasure to hang out with. He won’t do anything strange and unpredictable that might cause an awkward silence and nervous attempts to change the subject. He won’t start talking about politics, or making fart jokes. No, he’ll just help you have a good time.

So what’s he like, one-to-one?

A bit of wood, a bit of caramel, a lot of fruit. But not garish fruit. Some sharpness there — like an unsweetened bowl of fresh raspberries (so not unpleasant, then). Depth and complexity (and some tannin) to match the fruit. And, on your tongue, like silk.

On your schnoz, meanwhile, he’s a crowd-pleaser: a big fruity old dose of blackcurrant. Mouthwatering. He smells good. Not especially complex or blokey. Maybe (whisper it) rather metrosexual, actually. But good, damn it.

Verdict

I don’t think this wine (yes, yes, it is a wine, not a person. You’d almost forgotten — hadn’t you? — so evocative was my prose) is setting out to be tremendously multifaceted, shimmeringly complex. It’s setting out to be very, very good to drink. And I’m very happy with that, thanks.

It’s towards the accessible side of the spectrum (with an accessible kind of price, too), but without any of the sickliness, the formulaicism, the infantilisation that too often goes with that territory. It’s very easy to enjoy, but also rather rewarding, with unexpected depths. Brilliant value.

You can spend a whole evening in its company, in other words, without getting bored. And without a single fart joke, I guarantee.

Rating ★★★★ (4 stars)
ABV 14%
Price £7.25 from The Wine Society