Bargain Booze: Esprit de Puisseguin Saint-Émilion from Waitrose

Today’s Bargain Booze is a Bordeaux from Waitrose. 1/3 off at the moment. It may not set your meticulously curated world alight, but it’s pretty good. A proper everyday Bordeaux.

Consider this a weary, ambiguous gesture in the direction of topicality. Another occasional series of posts wherein I’ll highlight alcoholic offers and deals that you might find interesting.

Today’s is Esprit de Puisseguin 2016, a Saint-Émilion that’s currently 1/3 off at dear old Waitrose, bringing it from £13.49 to £8.99. As I said: BARGAIN BOOZE.

It’s not bad stuff. Sure, there’s a bit of tannin grabbing away at your cheeks like an old granny at those of a chubby baby, but whack it into a decanter (or just a bloody measuring jug for all I care) for half an hour and it softens up nicely.

It’s not going to set your meticulously curated world alight, but it’s pretty good. A proper everyday Bordeaux.

I’ve said before that I don’t tend to buy supermarket Bordeaux in this price bracket, as I think there tends to be better price:quality ratio elsewhere — and I probably wouldn’t steer you towards old Esprit de Puisseguin at full price, to be honest. But reduced to under a tenner, it’s rather a good shout.

Also: Puisseguin in my mind has become Pissed Penguin. Extra marks.

Alsace Pinot Noir, Kuentz-Bas Collection 2005 review

… will help you avoid meting out acts of equine violence should you be confronted with the prospect of a Pinot Noir Twitter shindig

Closeup of this Alsace Pinot Noir's label: gold and brown, with a simple crest and typographic focus

Way back — way, way back — there was some kind of pinot noir ‘event’ on Twitter. ‘Let’s all drink pinot noir,’ the governing philosophy of said event seemed to be, ‘and pretend that doing so has some kind of higher purpose or conceptual justification.’

Well, Old Parn doesn’t necessarily need conceptual justification to wrench the cork from a bottle of PN. But one doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, does one? (Or, in the words of Young Parn, many years ago, one doesn’t knock a gift horse in the mouth. Which would be even more churlish.)

Anyhow. Conceptually justified to the max, I took out the above-depicted half bottle of Kuentz-Bas. And rather fine it was, too: poised and sharp, cialis online to buy fruited and taut. Its colour was pale, russet-tinged. Once it’d been out in the glass a while, it really bloomed and softened. Relaxed.

(A little like that gift horse did, once it realised I wasn’t about to crack it a swift uppercut to the jaw.)

Verdict

Supple and smooth, with a tiny gruff stemminess at the back of it. Beautiful to hold in your gob. Light, effervescent.

It is an absolute avalanche of joy to be able to buy a wine like this in a half bottle. Thank you, once again, Wine Society; thank you. And thank you, Pinot Noir Day. Or whatever your name was.

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Region Alsace
Grape Pinot Noir
ABV 13%
Price £7.50 for a half bottle from The Wine Society

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)

Marques de Caceres Rioja Blanco review

… conspicuously lacks the dance, the verve, the pizzazz — in both its label and, alas, its taste

The green and gold label of Marques de Caceres' white Rioja — rather lacking in design style

Take a look at the label. What do you reckon? Any reaction? Any strong feelings?

Or just a blank expression? A shrug?

Yeah. Slightly ugly in an unremarkable kind of way, right? Not horrific. Just mediocre.

Well, in this case, it turns out that label and wine aren’t far from being in accord. Because this is a fairly unremarkable wine. Not offensive, but, really, I can’t see too much of a reason to buy it.

It’s a bit empty, a bit veggy, a bit harsh and globby. Not much finesse. Sure, it’s got a fair old bit of presence around the sides and back of your trap, but it’s conspicuously lacking the dance, the verve, the pizzazz at the front.

And I’m all about the dance. The verve. The pizzazz.

It’s trying to be fruity & summery — but if it’s fruity & summery you’re gagging for, you’d be better off (at this kind of price) with something like Sainsbury’s Gruner Veltliner or Benny D’s Picpoul de Pinet from Naked Wines.

For the price, I guess it’s acceptable (I wouldn’t complain), but — at the same time — there’s better to be had. And better labels, too.

Rating ★★ 2 stars (average)
Region Rioja
Grape Viura
ABV 12.5%
Price £7.99 from Majestic; £6.99 if you buy a couple.

Potel Aviron Moulin-a-Vent 2005 review

… triumphantly reminds us that the word ‘fruity’ actually refers to real, honest fruit — not the synthetic sugar-water peddled by oily bell-ends in ugly suits

Label of this bottle of Beaujolais from Moulin a Vent. Simple, text on white

What have we here? A bottle of Beaujolais, yeah. This’n hails from the region of Moulin-a-Vent — one of the ten so-called ‘crus’ (specific small areas of Beaujolais that are classified as the top regions).

Which is all, doubtless, very nice to know.

The reason I mention it, though, is that you may already have an idea what to expect of a nippy little Beaujolais. And this Moulin-a-Vent may upend your expectations.

Because Beaujolais is the Lolita of the red wine world, except (I damn well hope) with a bit less implicit moral degeneracy. We expect a Beaujolais, don’t we, to be consumed in the very bloom of its youth? All flowers and fruits and heady perfume.

But it needn’t always be thus. And this is one wine that you may not want to tip down your gullet before it’s even reached its second birthday.

And so — with the aid of my parents and some damn nice lamb leg steaks — I decided to give this six-year-old a whirl.

And a rather damn good whirl it was, too.

Verdict

First, can I just say: fruit. Fruit. This is what I want to taste when someone tells me a wine is ‘fruity’. I want it to be — like this — as if I’d just crammed my thirsty gob with a handful of sharp, wild berries, picked from, oh, I don’t know, a forest thicket or something. All bright and sharp and savage, the shudder-inducing burst of flavour giving way to the bitter, matt cud of the skins.

That’s fruity. Let us never forget, and allow some oily bell-end in an ugly suit sell us the notion that ‘fruity’ actually means ‘tastes like fucking synthetic fruit-flavoured sugar-water’.

So this is fruity like wild cherries fished from your the pocket of your grandad’s tweed jacket — overlaid with spice and tobacco and polish and leather. Still youthful, oh yes — but this is a kind of autumnal youth, a rustic youth. Not a lab-grown, foetal youth.

I love wine like this — wine that combines a come-and-get-me vitality with a self-confident integrity.

And reminds us that the word fruity belongs to us, to the hedgerows, to the soil — not to some bunch of pink-tied FMCG wankers.

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Region Moulin-a-Vent, Beaujolais
Grape(s) Gamay
ABV 13%
Price £10.99 from The Wine Society (no longer available)

English Bacchus Reserve, Chapel Down

… will give you a subtly blossomed English caress — but perhaps leave you dreaming of ecstatic frenzy and phallic symbolism

A bottle of English Bacchus from Marks & Spencer. Stylish black, red and gold label

Trust the Romans, eh?

Those unimaginative Romans, who came along and — without a by-your-leave — pinched the Greeks’ pantheon of gods, slapped a bunch of considerably less poetic names on them, carried out a few changes to make them altogether that bit more shit, and touted them as their own.

The Romans were a bit like Microsoft.

Anyhow. Bacchus was the Romans’ rebranded version of the Greeks’ Dionysus, god of wine — a tantalisingly androgynous kind of chap, holding (according to the oracular Wikipedia) ‘a fennel staff, tipped with a pine-cone and known as a thyrsus’.

For my next profile picture, incidentally, I intend to brandish a thyrsus, sure in the knowledge that I’ll thereby attract a large following of ecstatically raving bacchantes — female devotees who, via dancing and intoxication, ‘lose all self-control, begin shouting excitedly [and] engage in uncontrolled sexual behaviour’.

(Not to imply that I don’t already enjoy such a following, natch.)

Anyhow. Bacchus is also — and I hope this doesn’t come as too much of a crashing shock to you, after all that deity stuff — a grape variety. Grown in England, of all places.

So from Olympian heights, we find ourselves in the wine aisle of Marks & Spencer.

Mundane enough for you?

But let’s stave off thoughts of our own desperate mortality and get some of the stuff down our gullet, shall we? (Reminder: if you actually are in the wine aisle of M&S, you should probably buy the bottle and get it home before you do this.)

So — what’ve we got? First off, bacchus bears more than a passing likeness to sauvignon blanc. It has that springy zing to it. But here, there’s an appley softness, too. A subtly blossomed caress, if you want to get all wanky about it.

Yeah, it’s rounder, more welcoming, less showy-off than your everyday sauvignon blanc. Not quite as ‘June is bustin’ out all over’, y’know? But still with that crispness, that green taste to it — if you’ll forgive me coming over all synesthaesiac on you.

Nice and long and dry, with rather a lovely balance.

Yeah, it’s on the pricey side (which keeps it from earning that oh-so-coveted fourth star) — but perhaps that’s what you have to stump up for a subtly blossomed English caress, these days.

Alternatively, blossomed caresses be damned: just get yourself a thyrsus and bring on the ecstatic frenzy of those bacchantes. Who’s with me?

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
ABV 12.5%
Price £10.99 from Marks & Spencer

Momo Pinot Noir 2008, Marlborough review

… is stuffed with more fruit that a small child at a pick-your-own fruit farm. But matures a hell of a lot more quickly

Closeup of the logo on a bottle of Momo Pinot Noir from New Zealand. A simple typographic logo with lots of white space. Gill Sans is the font, or something like it.

Another day, another pinot noir.

This time, it’s from New Zealand — Marlborough, specifically. And quite a different specimen from the last pinot noir to cross our threshold, the restrained, poised Palataia Pinot Noir from Germany. A good few quid more expensive, too, I might add.

Momo is a far more extrovert manifestation of the pinot noir grape. Like a small child on the way back from a Pick Your Own fruit farm, it’s stuffed with red fruits. Unlike the small child, though, Momo isn’t going to start bawling for your attention in about an hour with a stomach ache. Thank Christ.

Instead, give it an hour in the open air and it’ll get a fair bit more serious. Some bitter undertones develop, a savoury, lasix water pill reviews smoky complexity. Which is most welcome.

Texturally, it’s delightful: that silky, silky pinot noir seduction. And whilst it may be accessible, thanks to all that fruit, it’s far from simplistic. As well as the smokiness, there’s pepper, cinnamon, roses, soil. And a smidge of caramel (but only a smidge).

Verdict

A very enjoyable, stylish kind of wine. Nothing, I must say, to set the Parn palate ablaze — but very creditable, very accessible. Closer to an airport paperback than a penguin classic, admittedly. But a pretty good airport paperback.

What’s more, it’s a wine you’d have to work a lot less hard to love than a squealing toddler with an upset stomach and a stained mouth.

Rating ??? (3 stars)
ABV 14%
Price £11.95 from The Wine Society

Le Fraghe 2009, Bardolino Review

… will light up all the buzzers on the pinball table of your palate. For under a tenner.

Closeup of the lettering on a bottle of Le Fraghe, an Italian red wineLe Fraghe. A wee blend of two grapes: corvina and rondinella. From somewhere between Venice and Milan.

And if it has Venice’s sunset-laced romance, it also has Milan’s fashionable, metropolitan elegance.

It’s gentle, toned, soft, pristine.

And it’s rather beautiful.

In your mouth, it’s full — yet light, elegant. There’s some subdued tannin; some savouriness, some meaty depth, some spice, liquorice. And a sustained, beautifully controlled diminuendo to finish.

Stick your snout in there and inhale the cooked (but not jammy) red fruits of a summer pudding.

Verdict

I really enjoyed La Fraghe. It’s a wine that lights up all the buzzers on the pinball table of your palate. And I’d say it’s pretty damn good value for under a tenner.

Crack it out with food — nothing too honky or flavoursome, mind; probably lighter meats, fish — simple, honest ingredients, please; simply, honestly cooked …

… and (pooph!) you’re right there between Venice and Milan.

Rating ???? (4 stars)
ABV 12%
Price £8.95 from The Wine Society

Palataia Pinot Noir 2009 Review

… won’t blast you with fruit & veg like some crazed pyromaniac greengrocer. No; it’s lean, discrete, introverted. And in disguise.

A closeup of the label of Palataia Pinot Noir from Marks & Spencer

A little illustration of wine marketing, here. Look at the label above. Notice something? Or, rather, don’t notice something?

Yeah. We don’t know where this wine comes from. Sure, we know it’s made of Pinot Noir. But nowhere on the label (no, not even in the blurby writeup on the back) does it state its country of origin. No: this is a wine in disguise. It’s adopted a generic, vaguely South American-sounding brand name; our only clue is a mention of the region: Pfalz.

That’s because — yep — it’s a red wine from Germany.

And this fact, alas, is apparently a stigma to rank alongside infection with pneumonic plague.

That’s a shame, that is. Because — on the evidence of this wine — we have nothing to fear.

This is very much an Old World-style Pinot Noir. By which I mean, it’s lean, discrete, introverted. It won’t blast your gob with salvos of fruit and veg, like some rampaging pyromaniac greengrocer. Which is a relief.

Instead, it’s bitter, herbaceous, intensely savoury. It tastes — and feels — distinguished.

It’s not bereft of fruit, by the way. Indeed, to an unusual extent, this is a wine that actually tastes grapey. But I’m talking the whole package: grape skins, grape pips, grape stalks.

Verdict

Not at all bad, then. The wine’s downfall, as far as I’m concerned, is its lack of length: a mouthful is over relatively quickly; it doesn’t linger much. This gives it a tendency towards emptiness on its own, so I’d pair it with food (something simply-cooked, not too bolshy).

But Pinot Noir isn’t easy to produce. Especially in this (far more unforgiving) style. Especially at this price.

Credit to M&S, then, for carrying an unusual, serious, good value wine like this. It’s just a shame it has to appear in disguise.

Rating ★★★ (3 stars)
ABV 13.5%
Price £8.49 from Marks & Spencer

Tor del Colle Riserva 2006, Montepulciano

… will tantalise you with an all-too-fleeting whiff of bubblegum before becoming thoroughly reasonable, easy and — perhaps — a bit less racy than its Nakedness might have you wish for

The label of Tor del Colle from Montepulciano DOC. The label is typographic in nature, with elegant, refined design in two colours (black and a metallic plum shade)

Wine number two from my Naked case (read my review of Burgo Viejo Rioja Tinto for a smidgin of background about Naked Wines) was unceremoniously cracked open over the weekend. So how fared this plucky little Montepulciano upon the tempestuous seas of Old Parn’s favour?

Not badly; not glowingly. A solid performance. Didn’t disgrace itself. You get the idea.

It was at its funkiest when I’d first opened it — at which point I thought I might be in for something rather special. It had an exhilarating bubblegummy burst to it when I swizzled it round the gob, which I found rather charming.

But the bubblegum disappeared pretty quickly (in stark contrast to actual bubblegum), leaving me with a glass of something altogether more, well, normal. I wish it’d stuck around a bit longer.

Taste-wise, it’s kind of purple. And if you don’t know what I mean by that, get with the synesthesia vibe, man. There’s a bunch of black fruits in there, yeah, and some wood, some tannin to keep it from slopping all over the place (metaphorically speaking, natch.) It’s sweet-scented, relatively soft, easy on the mouth — unchallenging midweek drinking, I’d say.

(And, if you’re a Naked member (STOP SNIGGERING, YOU LITTLE RAT) you’ll get it for a relatively unchallenging midweek kind of price.)

Not sure I’d say it’s worth the full whack of £8.99, though. Think how much bubblegum you could buy for that, after all…

Rating ★★ (2 stars — could almost be 3, but only if you’re getting 33% off)
ABV 13%
Price £8.99 from Naked Wines (or get 33% off if you become a Naked Wine Angel)