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.

Wise up and smell the Casillero del Diablo

In which Old Parn burbles unconvincingly about branding in wine, before drawing some frankly ill-considered analogies and scattering his sheep’s pellets of wisdom in the direction of all who don’t move away quickly enough

Bottle of Casillero del Diablo red wine label

Winemakers, in general, need to wise up. Okay, sure, practically everyone (myself almost certainly included) needs to wise up. But winemakers need to wise up, specifically, because they are lamentably bad at communicating with normal people.

(Notice the ease with which I refer to normal people. Almost as though I knew some.)

Winemakers generally do a shambolic job of any kind of branding or advertising. In fact, a recent study revealed that 76% of actors taking parts in wine adverts subsequently suffered savage assault on grounds including (but not limited to)

  • Their ostentatious clinking of wine glasses
  • Their smug, bastardly laughter
  • Their smarmy hair
  • Generally being goddamn annoying

[Blah, Christforsaken blah. Listen, I’m quite tired, alright, and I’m just writing this because the charming @CuriousWines said something nice about me on Twitter. I have a crick in my neck and everything.]

The point? Oh, right, yeah. The point is that — as Robert McIntosh said, considerably more eloquently, a week or so ago — most winemakers don’t get branding. But one of them seems to have more of a clue:

I like branding. Doesn’t mean I always trust it, by the by. But I like it, and I respect the skill that goes into it.

Anyhow, having read Robert’s piece on the ad, I cracked open a bottle of Casillero del Diablo (albeit not the wines promoted in the ad) I had rolling around in my cupboard. A 2011 Chilean Reserva Malbec.

So. There’s a lot of coffee. Coffee all over the sodding place. Coffee is the first thing that hits you when you snout around in it, and coffee is pretty quick to grab your tastebuds when the wine gets itself into your mouth.

After that, though, it’s surprisingly sharp. A bit like a typical article in Vice Magazine: going out of its way to give an impression of depth, but actually rather harsh and one-dimensional.

TAKE THAT, VICE. YOU JUST GOT ZINGED.

Yeah. It’s not awful, but it’s a shame, nevertheless. And it’s sort of confusing, too — because this isn’t really the kind of wine that feels like it’s come to you from some tepid focus group — all blandness, sweetness, superficial charms. No, it’s a bit too aggressive to be a crowd-pleaser (I’d have thought).

What I’m saying is, I don’t know who’s the, y’know, target audience.

What I do know is that, for the price, there’s better to be had elsewhere. Some old fart will probably say that they should be spending less money on advertising and more money on the wine, I guess. To that old fart, I say: IN THAT CASE, MAKE YOUR OWN WINE AND DISPENSE ENTIRELY WITH THE MUCKY REALITIES OF CAPITALISM, WHY DON’T YOU?

Jesus, a humanoid figure just flew past my window. He seemed to be made of straw. God knows what that was about.

(Boy, how you must’ve missed me.)

Rating ★★ 2 stars (fair)
Wine Casillero del Diablo Malbec 2011 Reserva, Chile
Price £7.99 in Tescos and doubtless similar in many other places

Mauricio Lorca, Angel’s Reserve Malbec review

… is one angel that takes a while to grow on you — metamorphosing from an empty disappointment to a rather pleasant gob filler

The label of a bottle of Angel's Reserve — decorated with a tribal drawing of a bird

Well, here’s a thing.

You may remember (but may not, given the alcohol-marinated state of your brain) that, a few weeks back, we minced a word or two on the subject of the Angel’s Reserve Torrontes — also made by Mr Lorca.

Now, I rather liked that Torrontes.

But here’s the Malbec. And my first impressions, honestly, weren’t great. I cracked the blighter open, and snouted/throated a few doses. And found it, well, kind of empty. There’s a spiky brambliness to it around the sides and at the front of your mouth, but it dies away very swiftly.

So I plugged up Mauricio’s Malbec and shoved it to one side. Not aggressively, mind. I’m a mild and moderate chap, as you’ll scarcely need telling. But there may have been a touch of pique, nevertheless, in that shove. For I was disappointed.

Spool forward a couple of days, and you join your chum the Parnmeister as he stuffs a bunch of grated-courgette-coated pasta into his ravenous maw. And is grasped by a mighty thirst. Blindly, his quivering arm reaches out, only to encounter that same bottle of Angel’s Reserve.

And — what know’st thou? — it’s one hell of a lot nicer, tonight. That back-and-sides quality of day one has mellowed into a proper ol’ gobfiller. It’s softer, rounder, fuller: it’s gone to seed in the best way imaginable.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s not transformed into a blinder. But it’s transformed into rather a pleasant way to keep my mouth busy (in the scheme of things, y’know).

So, yeah. Even Angels, it seems, can take a while to grow on you.

Rating ★★ 2 stars (a kind of averaged-out rating, here)
Region Mendoza
Grape Malbec
ABV 14%
Price £8.99 from Naked Wines (£5.99 to members)