Lockdown Scavenging: Reds from General Wine

So. How’s lockdown been treating you? Personally, I’m struggling with the cognitive dissonance wrought by (on the one hand) friends moaning about boredom, blithely sharing quizzes and sourdough diaries to fill the time and (on the other hand) my own sodding lack of any time whatsoever.

The smallest lockdown violin, I’m aware, plays for those who are still in their (absolutely, incontrovertibly) non-essential jobs. Before the mob gathers to stone me, I’ll add that I’m aware of my good fortune. Perhaps less aware when I’m three hours into a goddamn conference call. But aware nonetheless.

April passed, I observe, and the Industrial Content Megahub that is Old Parn, Inc cranked out a total of three posts. Lamentable, eh? (Though the last one was pretty good, I thought.) But while I may not have been posting abundantly, you may be reassured that I have been drinking abundantly.

And I suppose, whether you’re running out of hairs to pull out or thumbs to twiddle, you may well have been doing the same. I know I’m far from alone — in these virus-addled, socially distanced times — in leaning all the more heavily (metaphorically, don’t worry) upon my local independent wine merchant. Fortunately, I have a rather good one: The General Wine Company. What it may lack in nominative flair it delivers abundantly in charm and (as we’ll see) fine booze. They have shops in Petersfield and Liphook and they deliver free within a 15 mile radius of those towns (or further afield, if you can bring yourself to pay for delivery, you stingy bugger).

Here are a few of the bottles with which I’ve enlivened my conference calls so far.

Ego Bodegas Jumilla El Goru 2018
(£11.99, General Wine)

Now, if you’re on the General Wine site looking for Spanish wine, a word of advice: don’t use the filters. These mysteriously list more wines from Mexico (3) than Spain (0). Give me a shout if you need some help with your site navigation & tagging, chaps… Instead, follow the above link to this handsomely (if mildly terrifyingly) labelled bottle.

Ego Bodegas El Goru -- wine bottle label with illustration of wild-haired old man

I found the liquid inside barely less interesting: chocolatey and smooth (thanks to a dab of oak) with a savoury counterpoint of warm spice (nutmeg and pepper) and smoke. Dark, vermillion red, it has that femme fatale assertiveness you get from Iberian reds that aren’t the usual suspects (y’know, Rioja et al), with cherry and plum and a gentle solventy punch to keep you from getting over-familiar. A wine, I’d say, that sits at the intersection between ‘accessible’ and ‘interesting’. And, as anyone who’s set up their deck chair at Oxford Circus can tell you, there are far worse intersections at which to sit.

Wine Grade: B
Label Grade: A+
Website Filter Grade: F
(Jokes, jokes. I know it’s not easy for small businesses to manage websites. That, after all, is why I have a job — and, indirectly, is also to blame for all these damn conference calls, come to think of it…)

Brunilde di Menzione Aglianico del Vulture
(£13.49, General Wine)

Booof! Well, this is what is referred to in technical wine critic terminology you probably wouldn’t understand as a damn full gob of booze. It’s dense as hell: a really nice, chewy fellow. There’s some tannin in there but it’s still pretty accessible. Perhaps a bit of marzipan and candyfloss too? Hell, sounds good, doesn’t it? Or possibly horrendous. But it’s not horrendous, dear, I promise you. I’d whack this into a decanter: it mellows and takes on a delightful creaminess. I’m sort of regretting the bit about the candy floss now. Please don’t be put off.

In summary: full and super rich. Like an oligarch who’s just been to a restaurant.

Wine Grade: A
Russia’s Implementation of a Market Economy Grade: E

Domaine Lignères Lathenay Minervois ‘Emma’ 2017
(£11.99, General Wine)

‘O dark dark dark’ wrote TS Eliot. He may not have been writing about a bottle of Minervois. He’s dead, so perhaps we’ll never know for sure. (He wasn’t.)

This wine has something of an identity crisis, as it’s called Domaine Lignères Lathenay Minervois (y’know, normal wine type name), but also has ‘Emma’ written on the label, in a manner disconcertingly reminiscent of the logo of the mattress brand of the same name. I do not think this is the mattress-flogger/French winery collaboration for which tone deaf marketeers have been howling, but I’m not sure. It is odd.

Fortunately, the wine is less confusing. Indeed, it’s rather delicious, inky stuff, with gentle tannins but plenty of fruit: raspberry, cherry and so on. Not rubbishy fruit, obv, and this is not a fruit bomb, thank god.

Fairly typical of Minervois, I’d say (which is good as far as I’m concerned), and pretty decent value.

Wine Grade: B+
TS Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’ Grade: A+

Okay, that’ll do for now. You’ll notice I’ve kept it summery with three hoofing great red wines, but that’s just how Old Parn rolls. I’ve had some nice General Wine whites, too, but given my shoddy post-count, I should probably spin this out and save those for a follow-up.

While you’re waiting, do fill your eCommerce baskets with some good booze, won’t you? Have a look at General Wine if you’re in my neck of the woods. And if you’ve loads of time on your hands, do me a favour and keep it to yourself, you bastard.

Now, excuse me. I have a conference call to join.

When Clemmie Misses Her Bus

In which the eponymous heroine sets in motion a long and complex chain of events, including (but not limited to) the consumption of hefty amounts of wine

A line of five empty (or half-empty) wine bottles and three mostly-empty wine glasses

This is what happens when Clemmie misses her bus home.

Clemmie and I, you see, work at the same venerable organisation. We have also been known to aid one another in the noble pursuit of shitfacedness. On occasion.

So when Clemmie misses her bus, there’s really only one thing to be done.

We begin, then, with decorous restraint — neatly polishing off a leftover half of Naked Wines’ rather good Picpoul de Pinet (which I’ll review properly another time). According to Clemmie, this is an outstanding match for Marlboro Lights.

(Though it transpires that just about anything is an outstanding match for Marlboro Lights.)

Picpoul drained, we move onto a nifty Albarino. Now, Albarino is a happy, summery kind of wine, and this was no exception. So it’s hardly surprising that, by the end of the bottle, we are talking about family breakdown and terminal illness. Because THAT’S THE KIND OF CRAZY CATS WE ARE, ALRIGHT?

But I’m afraid, Albarino, I remember little about you. Don’t take it personally.

And (in any case) at this point we welcome Chris — Clemmie’s paramour — and, without ado, bellyflop our way into a bottle of The Wine Society’s Suagna. I’m going to review this’n properly, another time, too. But, for now, let’s just say it’s rather good.

This means it doesn’t last long.

Our next resort is a bottle of Minervois from M&S. Unfortunately, as resorts go, this one is the kind of resort that looks lovely on the website but turns out to feature views of a building site, stinking loos and an all-night death metal club located directly underneath your bedroom.

‘Do you know what this smells of?’ says Clemmie, as I return to my seat.


‘Balsamic vinegar.’

Chris and I sniff our glasses. Tears rise to our eyes.

‘Balsamic vinegar? I think that’s pretty charitable.’

Turns out that Clemmie’s balsamic vinegar is everyone else’s nail varnish remover.

If there was any nail varnish in the flowerbeds of my garden, it is now (I confidently predict) removed. Because that’s where three glasses of M&S Minervois rapidly make their way.

While I (natch) make my way again to that trusty wine rack. To uncover a bottle of Errazuiz Merlot. Given to me (I now recall) by the same kind folk who gave me that bottle of Oyster Bay Merlot.

Chris notes that the Errazuiz doesn’t have much tannin. No indeed not. It does, though, have a bountiful crapload of sugar and fruit. But there’s an odd mouth-shrink to it, nevertheless, even with the sweetness. Kind of like the worst bit of tannin somehow did make its way into there, but without any of the benefits.

‘It’s not really very nice, is it?’

‘No. Not really.’


After a meditative pause, we all continue to drink.

At this point, Clemmie is emphatically vowing to buy shares in local businesses. Errazuiz Merlot has evidently tapped into her capitalistic streak. Millions are (hypothetically) changing hands in the balmy evening air.

When, at length, Errazuiz too is emptied, and I sway gently to my feet to go to the bathroom, we suddenly become aware that it is half past eleven. On a Tuesday night. And in front of us are five open (mostly empty) bottles of wine.

‘Oh my god!’ exclaims Clemmie, ‘We have to go!’


But as I return, minutes later, Clemmie is sloshing more of the abandoned M&S Minervois into her glass — the scent of solvents filling the night air, as insects spiral and die in the fumes.