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.

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.

Mischievous Italian flirtation, with a hint of gruffness

… will flirt fruitily with your nose, before getting gruff with your gob

The label of this bottle of Falerio shows crest and vineyard

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.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region Falerio dei Colli Ascolani (South Italy)
Grapes Passerina and Pecorino
ABV 13%
Price £6.25 from The Wine Society

Fiano Sannio 2010 review

… 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.

Macro closeup of the label of Marks & Spencer's Fiano — black lettering on a golden crestMy 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.

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good) — though, reduced to this price, it’s worthy of 5.
Region Sannio
Grape Fiano
ABV 13.5%
Price £7.99 from Marks & Spencer, reduced to £5.99 until 4 September

Allegrini Valpolicella review

… is a happy wine. And the perfect stimulus for a collaborative essay about contemporary art

The label of a bottle of Allegrini: red and grey lettering on a neutral backgroundIf you ever find yourself needing to write a collaborative essay on a piece of contemporary art, may I suggest you take along a bottle of Allegrini when you’re meeting up with your fellow writers? After all, it’s a situation we’ve all been in, at one time or another.

As one of my collaborators-in-arms, Satu, said, upon our first mouthfuls of Allegrini, ‘Oh — this is a happy wine.’

Yes, indeed, Satu. I couldn’t have put it better myself. So, um, I won’t.

Allegrini is a happy wine. It’s warm, soft, gentle. Fruited. There’s cherry and chocolate and a smidge of coffee at the end. It’s summer evenings on a roof terrace in Tuscany. On a holiday with more than half its duration remaining.

It’s not dazzlingly unusual, but I reckon it might make you smile.

Now, stop procrastinating and get on with that goddamn essay.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region Valpolicella
Grape Corvina
ABV 13%
Price £8.50 from The Wine Society (2010 vintage)

Bricco Rosso Suagna Langhe Rosso 2006 review

… is neither despicable nor mucky. Or, if it is a tiny bit mucky, only in a reassuringly rustic kind of way.

A bottle of Suagna from The Wine SocietyYet again, a staggeringly good value Italian red from The Wine Society. If they’re not careful, they’re going to start topping consumer satisfaction lists, y’know?

I mean, look at the despicable muck you could be buying for £3.50 more than this. Look at it. Weep.

I said WEEP.

This is neither despicable nor mucky. Well, maybe it’s a tiny bit mucky — but only in a reassuringly rustic kind of way. You know. Aniseed, a bit of leather and bramble?

Nothing wildly unexpected, I suppose. But that’s not the point, is it? The point is that it’s £6.50.

Good point.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region Piedmont
Grape Dolcetto
ABV 13.5%
Price £6.50 from The Wine Society

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Follonica) at Branca Restaurant, Oxford

… scores a little bit lower than a waiter with a funny-shaped head

A curiously-shaped bottle of verdicchio beside a wine-cooler in Branca Restaurant, OxfordThe scene: Branca, a good Italian restaurant in Jericho, Oxford. Two chums — Old Parn (OP) and Faith Amurao (FA) — sit toying with the remains of ham-ensconsed halibut. They are drinking wine from a curiously-shaped bottle, which their waiter has confidently declared (unprompted) to be ‘really drinkable.’

OP: So. The wine. How many stars (out of five)?

FA: Two and a half.

OP: Okay. I think two. Anyway, you’re not allowed half stars. You can’t have a half star.

FA: But you could do it. You could do it with shading…

OP: Check your telescope, Faith. If you can find me a half star up in the night sky, you can use a half star in your rating for this wine. Until then, no half stars for you.

FA: Anyway, now that you said it, I think it actually is a two as well. I wish I’d said two at first. But I think I wanted to give it an average mark. So as not to be too disparaging. Two means slightly worse than average, right?

OP: 0 means terrible; 1 means some flaws; 2 means okay; 3 means good; 4 means very good; 5 means outstanding.

FA: Okay. If three means good, it’s definitely a two.

OP: I’m actually impressed that you even answered the question. You’re good at giving ratings, obviously. How about our waiter, then? How many marks would you give him (out of ten) for hotness?

FA: Four.

OP: Haha.

FA: His head is a bit squashed. He’s slightly below average. Maybe 4.4?

OP: And what about the man who slipped you his number in Wagamama the other day?

FA: He’s actually quite similar to our waiter. His head is quite small too. I’d give him 4.6.

So, there you have it. One below-average wine in a weirdly-shaped bottle; two below-average men with weirdly-shaped heads. And not one of them exciting enough to win Faith’s affections (or, I might add, Old Parn’s).

If you’re drinking in Branca in Oxford, then (food: very good, by the by), I’d choose something other than their Verdicchio.

They probably won’t, however, let you choose your waiter.

Rating ??
ABV 12%
Price £8.99 from The Co-op (currently reduced — would you believe it? — to £4.49. At which price, fair doos, try it for yourself). Needless to say, it costs a fair crack more than that at Branca.

Santa Lucia Primitivo 2009 review

… will grant you that delicious deep, scented freshness of your garden after a summer rainstorm — but without the risk of some bastard tree dripping down your neck

The Wine Society's Santa Lucia Primitivo from Puglia. Black, yellow and cream label with a crest

Inky and polishy — a rugged, straight-down-the-line kind of wine. Full in the gob, spicy, big and macho. Dark fruits and cocoa.

There’s a good dose of that rough, mouth-gripping tannin in there, so this bad boy sits comfortably alongside punchy, rustic fodder. Tomato sauces, meatballs, you know the drill.

‘Rugged’, ‘macho’, ‘rough’ — yeah, alright. But I wouldn’t want you thinking this is entirely a wham-bang-thank-you-ma’am wine.

Take a waft of it, for starters, and you’re met by that delicious, deep, woody, scent-laden freshness you get if you step out into the garden after a summer rainstorm. Except, this way, you don’t get some bastard tree dripping icy water down your neck.

That said, this isn’t your port of call if you’re looking for scintillating complexity. But, um, have you seen how much this costs? Yup. Chuck it down you when you’re after a comforting, grown-up evening fix that’ll blot out the buffets and dents of the day.

Rating ??? (3 stars)
ABV 14%
Price £6.50 from The Wine Society

Picco del Sole Falanghina 2009 review

… will give you jelly babies, aniseed and bolognese sauce — but only if you manage to decork the blighter

A bottle of Falanghina, an Italian white wine. Simple black and yellow label. The bottle, fresh from the fridge, is misted with condensation

So — bottle 4 of my six-bottle taster case from Naked Wines (previous Naked reviews: Mistral Sauvignon Blanc, Tor del Colle Montepulciano and Burgo Viejo Rioja). How will this little Falanghina fare?

Crack the blighter open (may I mention, en passant, that this is the third Naked bottle I’ve had that’s been an absolute rotter to uncork? A proper strenuous veins-standing-out-from-your-temples rotter) and you’re greeted by a delicious aroma. Cut grass, lemon sherbets, exotic fruits.

Yum McYum.

At a waft of this (if you’re anything like me), you’ll be slopping wine on the table in your eagerness to slosh it into your glass.

And, yes, in the gob it’s lively, too. I have to say, it doesn’t quite live up to the fizzing promise of its smell, but it’s still good. That lemon sherbert carries through, along with smidgins of other confectionery (green jelly babies, mayhap, and a good dose of aniseed). There’s a plump helping of mango there, too.

It’s tempered with a hint of bitterness (a pleasant quality in a white like this, I always think) — and, most interestingly, it has a pronounced savoury quality that puts me in the mind of a bolognese sauce. Sounds a bit quirky, eh? Well, don’t get me wrong: it’s not powerfully meaty. But I’d say the flavour is quite noticeably there.

It’s certainly not your usual mass-market Italian white.

There is, though, a little bit of mouthshrivel at the end, so (if you’re not drinking with supper) have it with some crisps, salted nuts or what have you. If this quality were eliminated (as in the delicious Contesa Pecorino I reviewed the other day), I’d like it even more.

Verdict

In my Mistral review, I raised a small doubt about the Naked Wines price model, and, yeah, my words broadly hold true for this wine, too: at Naked member price (£6), it’s a friggin’ steal; at full price (£9), it’s certainly not a rip-off, but I reckon I could find better.

But if you’re Naked? Get in there with Falanghina, I say. Just be prepared for a bit of wrestling and heaving beforehand.

Rating ★★ (2 stars)
ABV
Price £8.99 from Naked Wines (members receive 33% off). Link is to the new 2010 vintage.

Pecorino Colline Pescaresi, 2009, Contesa

… will make your stomach purr with delicious minerality, lissom-lingering fruits and distant cream

A bottle of Contesa Pecorino. Simple white label with a golden crest and clean, elegant typography

Here’s a wine from made from pecorino.

No, not the cheese. You wag.

For it seems that Pecorino is also a white grape variety. A white grape variety that (on the evidence of this example by Contesa) makes dry, deliciously mineral-laced wine.

Yeah, mineral. As opposed, I guess, to animal or vegetable. Contesa’s Pecorino has a stony, chalky dryness. But not — let me reassure you, if that all sounds a bit gullet-rasping — in a harsh way. Because it’s also poised, rounded, cultivated. So more of a meticulously-kept gravel bed than a heap of shale. There’s some cream, some distant fruit in there as the flavours linger (and linger they do, most lissomely) in your mouth.

Verdict

I love mineral-dry whites. They achieve a mouthwatering, stomach-purring appetiser effect — yet need not be excessively acidic. This is a very nice wine to drink before dinner.

And during dinner. And after dinner.

I’m a suggestible old fart, what’s more, so I can’t help but taste — after all — a certain pecorino cheese thing. Yeah, deride me, sure. But there is something about that intensely flavoured, appetising dryness than reminds me of snaffling wafer slices of pecorino, cut from a freshly opened block, when you’re meant to be grating it.

Not that I ever do that.

Rating ★★★★ (4 stars)
ABV 13%
Price £9.95 from The Wine Society