Portuguese wine diary — chapter 2

In which Old Parn continues his Portuguese travels, and actually encounters some wine, this time. Furthermore, he is plagues by linguistic guilt, only to be relieved at the very end of the day.

Green bunches of grapes hang from suspended vines. A lamp hangs in the foreground

Today kicks off with a melancholic reflection: oh how I wish that my constitution didn’t render breakfast — however delicious — a meal that is (at best) to be tolerated.

Old Parn is not a man of the morning.

So when my glassy eye fell upon a bottle of iced champagne alongside the orange juice, I’m afraid I passed up the opportunity to notch up the day’s first tasting. Sorry.

Instead, I contented myself with some jewel-like pastries and a teabag, desperately, repeatedly and futilely dunked into a jug of warm water. Yeah, sure, it’s a five star hotel. But they still don’t get tea, do they?

Anyhow. My breakfast duly stomached, I strode with oenophiliac purpose towards the cavernous lobby (I say cavernous. Actually, it’s not remotely like a cavern. It has no stalagmites, and there are four glass elevators — enough to give Roald Dahl a wet dream — bombing up and down the side of it. So, when I said ‘cavernous’, what I actually meant was ‘fucking big’. Alright?)

So, friends, I lingered in what I tell myself (mendaciously) was a suave manner, awaiting the rendezvous with my hosts — the Comissao de Viticultura da Regiao dos Vinhos Verdes (just call ’em CVRVV) — and my fellow guests. A bunch of whom, I deduced, were also hangin’ in the cavern.

I circled around for a while like tentative, geriatric (and flightless) vulture. Then a pleasant chap stepped over and greeted me with a burst of a language I should in fact have understood, if GCSEs are anything to go by.

But — well — GCSEs.

So I answered him with an eloquent, sick pause. Then (unnecessarily) I added, ‘I — um — I’m English.’

Ah, sweet England, my guilty yet obscenely well-thumbed get-out-of-jail-free card. Ah. England.

Anyhow, yes, it seems that everyone else on this trip speaks German as their first language.

This puts me in a totally new situation of social awkwardness (and, boy, if you know me, you don’t need me to tell you how high that bar is set). Because I, dear reader, I am the only reason for these guys not to use their native language whenever they talk amongst themselves. I, the Anglo Saxon fly in the sweet Teutonic ointment. This causes me to feel a constant, soul-chewing guilt whenever English is being spoken. Which — given the polite and affable nature of my companions — is frequently.

But no matter. I am used to sensations of soul-chewing guilt. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I welcome this familiar hue back to my emotional palette. A bit of contrast, y’know?

An old Portuguese street in GuimaraesA trip to Guimaraes

So onto the minibus we scampered.

And pitched up at an old city (‘older than Oxford’, I was told. Oh yes?) called Guimaraes.

There, we were shown around by a jovial chap with ninja English. He told me that the punishment meted out to a man caught consorting with one of Guimaraes’ sizeable population of nuns was no less than five to ten years’ exile. To somewhere like Timor. Or Brazil. Or Angola.

A massive shiver wracked my body as he spoke these deathly words. That explains the fucking saxophonist, I whispered through dry lips.

Then? Then wine.

Vinhos Norte

First, we met the delightful people of Vinhos Norte. They were charming, and dished out some charming wines. Lots of light, fresh, zippy whites (often, the Vinho Verde whites have a dash of fizz to them, and are typically lowish in alcohol, clean, pure). A good few of the whites we tasted would make for damn good aperitif-style drinking. Accessible, balanced.

The full-on sparklers (of which there were a white, a rose and, aye, a red) were, to Old Parn’s gob, a bit less of a success. But others seemed to like ’em well enough.

They then gave us lunch. Oh man, lunch. Lunch meant (amongst other delights) FUCKING HUGE CHUNKS OF MEAT and potatoes that were at least 60% pure, delicious fat.

And we drank red wine from bowls. Rock and sodding roll, my friends. Except, apparently, this is a local custom. Altogether fine by me, I say. But still rock.

A white bowl containing dark red wine. 'Vinho Verde' is written on the side

I liked the people of Vinhos Norte. Most of their wines aren’t readily available to us in the UK, I suspect (in general, once I’m back home, I’ll be able to find this stuff out, I guess) — but you should definitely cast your beady eye over Tapada dos Monges Loureiro, which is currently up for barter on the Naked Marketplace. I liked this a lot — fresh, lemony zing with a nice bready finish. Lemon meringue pie with a nice (but minimal) buttery pastry crust. And 11.5% ABV. Good stuff.

Quinta da Lixa

Carlos Teixeira, winemaker at Quinta da Lixa, is a measured man, a serious man, a canny man. A man who knows his wine — and his marketing. ‘I’ve nothing to conceal: we do exactly what the market wants us to.’

Fair doos, Carlos. Fair doos.

Carlos showed us his vineyards. Lots of rows of vines with grapes on them, right? You get the picture.

Carlos stands showing some grapes on the vine

He then served us his wines: seven whites and a couple of pinkies (as they are referred to by serious wine trade professionals).

Quinta da Lixa whites are citrussy. Boy, yes. They burst with grapefruit. A bit like a balloon filled with grapefruit juice that someone just burst. LIKE THAT. They’re fresh, bracing, fruity, accessible. Meanwhile, the roses were both fruit-packed (strawberries, redcurrants and the gang). I get the feeling I’ll be using the above kind of adjectives a fair bit in describing Vinho Verde’s wines. A whopping great bunch of these would definitely be well up lots of people’s streets. Maybe even yours? Except you don’t have a street, do you? You have a goddamn private gravel driveway, I’ll warrant. With an automatic gate. Whatever. Vinho Verde’s whites might well be up your driveway.

I liked Carlos and his colleagues, too.

Quinta de Santa Cruz

A bottle of Encosta da Maia, Vinho Verde, and some glasses

Finally, we visited Quinta de Santa Cruz — vineyard and home of another man who makes wine. His name is Mario Machado Marques. And what I will say about him is that his wine is very nice. You won’t be able to buy it, apparently. It’s too popular. So there.

For the duration of this visit, I was — you’ll be delighted to hear — relieved of that onerous burden of linguistic guilt of which I spoke earlier. For Mario spoke exclusively and extensively in German.

Now, you know I said that about GCSEs, right at the beginning? Well. Yes. So, I am rendered dumb whenever it comes to speaking the language. But, y’know, I’m not a total lemon. And I can still understand when someone says (in German), ‘Well, if he’s the only English one, that’s his problem.’

Like I said: Mario’s wines were very nice indeed.

The Wine Wide Web (pick’n’mix delights)

In which Old Parn presents a dainty assortment of candied (wine-flavoured) treats, lovingly gathered from the vast sweetshop of the world wide web

Numerous tubes of multicoloured sweets, arranged in a rainbow.

Right. First up, what you should do is get off your swollen arse and enter @wine90’s competition to win some doubtless gobcaressingly good Barolo.

(NB this may in fact prove easier if you stay on your swollen arse.)

You’re back. Good.

So, what’s the deal with this post?

Well, I’m tearing my sorrowful (yet somehow disturbingly lustful) eyes away from my own navel and directing them instead at the assorted goodies scattered elsewhere around this big ol’ internet. Think of it as me presenting you with a dainty assortment of candied (wine-flavoured) treats, lovingly gathered for you by my calloused old hands.

So, grab a hold of one of the aforementioned hands (I promise it’s hardly sweaty at all) and I’ll lead you on a brief tour of some good bits of the world wine web from the past week or so…

Avatar of Cambridge Wine BloggerNow, some of you may have observed that we’ve officially passed into the season of summer (even if, like me, you are permafrosted in a barren winter of the soul). Some reckless and bile-inducingly happy humans seem to like to mark this season with the consumption of outdoor food, which they may extravagantly pair with outdoor wine. For these sickening folk, I recommend the Cambridge Wine Blogger’s selection of Six Summer Picnic Wines from Naked (especially as he shares not only my christian name, but also my affection for Naked buy cialis united states Wines’ Picpoul de Pinet).

The Sediment Blog avatarSickening in quite another way, meanwhile, is wine writers’ widespread employment of impoverished, slackjawed synonyms for the simple verb ‘to drink’ — resulting in the kind of overuse of the word ‘quaff’ one would only otherwise encounter in a shit fantasy role-playing game. So say our friends over at the Sediment Blog, in any case, as they energetically skewer this demented quaffing and glugging.

(While you’re there, you should also read their fine review of M&S’s £5 house red.)

Quaffable avatarComing at you from the other side of the great quaff divide, though, is the nicely designed, impeccably tasteful, not remotely RPGish Quaffable — a blog with a focus on wine label and packaging design. Since I’m a designer and a wino, this is a subject close to my heart. Plus, you get to witness a random marsupial being given a deserved kicking.

(FOOKIN’ MARSUPIAL HAD IT COMIN’.)

Grape Escape avatarFinally, with even fewer words to strain your weary mind, there’s @grape_escape’s brilliantly-styled video of Beaujolais hijinks.

Which would make me yearn for a holiday, were I not, as I said, ensconsed like a (way less sexy) version of the White Witch in my own perpetual winter.

(Oh, where’s my Edmund? I’ve got fuckloads of Turkish Delight, believe me. Or fuckloads of Gewurtztraminer, which is pretty much the same thing.)

Photo by Josh Liba (Creative Commons)

Is Naked Wines capturing the winos of tomorrow?

In which Old Parn comments upon Naked Wines growth in the online wine retail market, and its apparent success in grabbing the interest of web-savvy customers and influencers — the gold-dust wine consumers of tomorrow?

Today, I noticed (not for the first time) that this blog attracts a large number of visitors searching for ‘naked wines‘, ‘naked wines reviews’ and similar. Indeed, over the past 30 days, the above terms were the 3rd and 4th most popular searches leading to my blog, respectively.

[Edit: GrapedCrusader reports ‘a similar experience with [his] own site’, BenAustinWine also concurs]

This got me thinking (in itself no minor feat). By targeting an internet-savvy segment of the wine market, Naked Wines poses an enormous threat to its competitors in online UK wine retail.

(And good on them for that, I might add.)

Why such a threat? Because the kind of customer who is active online — who googles wine reviews, posts feedback and suchlike — is likely (a) to be an influencer and (b) to be representative of the young(er) generation of wine drinkers. E-winos of the future, in other words.

Considering Naked’s size (still, surely, small) and youth as a company, shouldn’t the more established retailers be seriously worried that they’re failing to capture the customers and influencers of tomorrow?

And shouldn’t they be worried about graphs such as this?

A graph from Google Trends comparing search frequency for five online UK wine retailers

That’s from Google Trends — a nifty tool that allows you to compare frequencies of searches for various terms, over a given period. Purple is Majestic Wine, yellow is Laithwaites, red is The Wine Society, green is Virgin Wines, blue is Naked Wines.

You can see the ‘live’ graph (and mess around to your heart’s content) on Google Trends.

Overall, Majestic and Laithwaites are the most searched-for retailers (peaking especially in the runup to Christmas). But see what’s going on with Naked (the blue line)? It’s gone from a clear 5th place to a position jostling with Virgin Wines (and even The Wine Society).

Notice also that the general trend in all the other retailers is static or downward, year on year, since 2007 or so. Only Naked is trending upwards, year on year.

They’ve also done, by the look of it, a damn good job of making a splash with the recent Naked Wines Marketplace launch (which accounts, surely, for their current surge in searches).

Of course, there is a danger of reading too much into search frequency alone, and I’m not claiming that this is a full picture. Nevertheless, the world of online wine retail is — I predict — about to get a lot more interesting. I think (and hope) we’ll start to see other retailers upping their online game.

On which note, may I drop in a swift teaser: coming soon is Old Parn’s first video interview (just as soon as I’ve got round to editing the bugger) with Rowan Gormley, Naked Wines’ founder. I talked to him about Naked customers, online innovation, business models from outside the wine world and hideous wine-related injuries. So stick around for that in the not-too-distant future…

Benjamin Darnault Picpoul de Pinet 2010 review

… is Pinot Grigio’s tearaway little cousin — who’s just come out of the sweet shop with a crafty grin on his face

Actually, enough of that shit. Here’s a wine review.

A condensation-misted bottle of Picpoul de Pinet: vibrant green bottle; label with simple line drawing of vineyards

So — how do you feel about pear drops? C’mon. Don’t tell me you’re indifferent. That’d be like saying you’re indifferent to Bruce Forsyth. Or Al Qaeda.

Pear drops are just something you have an opinion on, right?

Okay. Thanks.

So. If you like pear drops, you’ll like this nifty, zippy young Picpoul de Pinet from Naked Wines. Because it’s stuffed with the things. Like the pockets of a light-fingered schoolboy in a blind old woman’s sweetshop.

Just as well I like pear drops, eh?

What else? It’s dry, pale and light of body. Kind of like me, really.

Verdict

I reckon a lot of people online cialis u.s. pharmacy would love this wine. It’s accessible, lithe, unusual enough to start a conversation (about pear drops, obviously) but not outlandish.

It’s not entirely dissimilar to Pinot Grigio; it has that same light clarity. Like Pinot Grigio’s tearaway little cousin, maybe.

Pinot Grigio’s tearaway little cousin who’s just come out of the sweet shop with a crafty grin on his face.

Rating ??? (3 stars)
ABV 12.5%
Price £9.99 full price — £6.66 (el numero del diablo!) for members — from Naked Wines

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.

‘What?’

‘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.’

‘No.’

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.

D’Aquino Reserve Merlot review

… is one Merlot that can grab onto Old Parn’s ankles any day of the week — soft yet taut; fleshy, springy, grabbable without being podgy

Naked Wines' D'Aquino Merlot: simple label with cursive typography and traditional crest

Bang! That’s my boy, Naked, that’s my boy. A confident, bold, self-possessed Merlot. Merlot with dignity. Not gutter-Merlot that grasps at your ankles, wheedling and baring its rotten teeth in the terrifying semblance of a smile, reeking of cheap sweet perfume.

(Oh Merlot. Poor maligned, abused Merlot.)

No. For whilst D’Aquino certainly throws up a bountiful snoutful of smells, cheap sweet perfume is not amongst them. Because this Merlot smells good.

Once you snatch it away from your nose and get it down you, you’ll encounter that familiar softness that can (at times) be Merlot’s own worst enemy. That voluptuousness that so easily goes to seed. But here it’s soft yet taut. Fleshy, springy, grabbable without being podgy. Very, very appealing.

Deliciously fruity, it’s backed up (and balanced) with a thrilling savagery. A coffee bitterness, a sprightly, sexy little kick of petulance. And a dab of oak immediately to caress buy cialis pills away the resultant bruise.

Verdict

Interesting that this (I’ll come out and say it: the best Naked Wine I’ve drunk so far) is perhaps one I was least fussed to try. I wasn’t closed-minded, but wondered whether I might be in for a pubbish tutti-frutti Merlot.

But if I found a pub that sold this, I’d be able to stop hanging around in poncy wine bars.

(Who am I kidding? I’d still hang around in poncy wine bars.)

And to get the full five stars? I’d like a little more presence in the gob, I think. I’m a greedy bugger for presence in the gob, though. And let’s not quibble. Because this here is one Merlot that can grab onto my ankles any day of the week.

Rating ???? (4 stars)
ABV 13.5%
Price £10.99 from Naked Wines (£7.33 to members)

Naked Wines launches Marketplace. (Disruptive young scamps.)

In which Old Parn laboriously and digressively Deals The Scoop on a new marketplace venture by online wine retailer Naked Wines

A screenshot from Naked Wines' new Marketplace (beta)

Okay, so what’s Naked Wines up to?

A Naked Marketplace, that’s what.

Now, there comes a time when dignity and good sense tells you, ‘Stop right there, Parn. Don’t you think that enough easy, easy puns have been made using the ‘naked’ part of Naked Wines? What I’m trying to say, for the love of the risen lord, Parn, is this: DON’T FUCKING BEAT THAT ROTTING HORSE CARCAS ANY FURTHER. Yes, I know it’s a verbal open goal. But sometimes you just have to walk away from an easy open goal.’

That’s what good sense tells you. (Good sense, I might add, would be a shit premier league footballer.)

So. Yeah. Naked puns are cheap as dirt. I know this. But, come on. It’s a NAKED MARKETPLACE. Can’t I please just make one little innuendo?

No?

Fine. Be like that.

So I’ll be serious. Let’s see how much fun that is, eh? Soon, mark my words, you’ll be begging for more naked gags. Bitches.

(Here you see why Old Parn never got out of the starting gates in his early ambition to be a journalist. Because we’re SEVEN PARAGRAPHS IN and you still have no sodding clue what the story is. But we’re amongst friends, here, aren’t we? Besides, TRADITIONAL MEDIA IS DEAD, innit? Like that horse I mentioned, before.)

OKAY. So here’s the scoop. Naked Wines is launching a marketplace via which the customer can ‘bid’ for wines direct from the producer. Naked sits there (like Apple in the App Store — indeed, with nakedness and apples, this is all getting rather Edenic, don’t you think?) — simply providing (in theory) a forum within which these negotiations and purchases take place.

(Naked will take a 10% cut. Which is a good whack less than Apple, I might add.)

What does this actually mean? It means that producers can find a market without going through the usual channels of importers & retailers. Instead, they just go through Naked. Cutting out a bit of the middle-man (for argument’s sake, let’s say his torso and a bit of his pelvis). So — the idea is — savings for the customer and the producer.

Indeed, you could pursue my metaphor and imagine that the wine producer and consumer sit down together and good-naturedly get to know one another over a fine dinner made from the torso and pelvic meat of that unfortunate middle-man we mentioned earlier, with a side dish of beaten horse. All washed down, natch, with a glass of the red stuff.

(I imagine so, anyway. Though none of my wine books or resources suggest appropriate wine matches for either horse-pulp or human meat, so I can’t be sure.)

Now, there’s a bunch more info about this that I haven’t told you (no, no; instead, I’ve wasted your powers of concentration of images of pelvis-chewing and equine violence. Shame on me). Indeed, I have a very nice press release right here that Naked Wines’ very own Fran Krajewski disarmingly suggested I might like to take in order that I might ‘throw it into the bin later’.

Oh, Fran!

So — if only to give the lie to poor Fran’s pessimism — let me rattle through a bit more bumph about this Naked Marketplace.

In a way, think of it like Amazon Marketplace. Anyone can list something on there; Amazon brokers the deal. Because marketplace items may be either very scarce (not available via any other retailer) or bargainously cheap, the customer gets a bit of that thrill of the hunt, I suppose. Snapping up a good deal or a rare delight. Tracking down a virtual wildebeest, as it were, and dragging it back to the cave. (Um.)

So (with each paragraph, my natural affinity for an MBA course at a top business school becomes ever clearer) — the wine producer states an asking price for the wine. The customer can then either agree to pay that price, or can make a lower bid. Say, offering £8 for a wine priced at £10.

A bunch of other customers are all doing the same thing. So what we end up with is a reflection of what people are willing to pay for this wine. The producer can see this — and can make the decision as to the ultimate selling price, knowing exactly how much demand exists at that price point.

So hypothetical producer might choose to stick at a higher price for fewer sales, or go with the lower bids for more sales. Obv, dude. And, assuming the lower price is chosen, the customer gets her wine for less moolah.

I’ll be fascinated to see how this mechanism works in practice. At tonight’s demo (Rowan Gormley presenting to a packed room of wine bloggers), I couldn’t see much of the actual user interface (which I suspect will be key in rendering the whole process simple-seeming and unintimidating). But given Naked’s fairly decent record of simplicity and plain-talkin’, I hope this side of things will be well-managed.

But enough slathering and waffling. Get your bad arse on over to the Naked Marketplace and see for yourself. It’s launching tomorrow. Which is (by the time this is posted) ALREADY TODAY.

And that’s it. Not a naked pun (or, alas, even a naked nun) in sight.

I hope you’re happy.

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 buy clomid united states 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)

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.

Mistral Sauvignon Blanc, Naked Wines

… will underwhelm you. But the people selling it to you? They’ll whelm yo’ ass right off.

A bottle of Mistral Sauvignon Blanc in the foreground, with colourful abstract art on the label. In the background (out of focus) a glass of white wine.

Naked Wines underwhelmed me with this one.

But then (hot damn!) they went right in and fucking whelmed me something proper.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about the underwhelm, first.

So. Mistral Sauvignon Blanc. A disappointing wine. I mean, it’s not bad. It’s just, well, rather uninspiring.

A bit empty, a bit nothingy.

Rather like Old Parn running the 400m, it starts off energetically enough (though already people are whispering that it’s worryingly thin and pale) — but then it has a really poor finish.

You’ll be snuffling and flaring your nostrils like something out of The Witches in an attempt to get much out of this wine: aromatically, it’s very closed down for so zingy a grape variety. And what aromas you do get out of it are typical, a tad uninteresting. Except (alas) for a faint waft of nappy. I’m sorry. Really, I am. But there it is.

Verdict

Increasingly, I’m coming to think that there’s a small problem with Naked Wines’ model: the ‘full price’ figure seems rather inflated. You see, I’d be chagrined if I’d spent £7.50 on this wine. In fact, I had it for a reduced rate (part of a taster case). But because I have £7.50 as an RRP in my head, I’m psychologically primed for a £7.50-quality wine. Even if I’ve actually paid a good generic viagra prices deal less than that (hell, this is a £5 wine if you’re a member — in which light it suddenly seems a heck of a lot less disappointing).

Alas, £7.50 is still the yardstick I’m measuring it up against. And it falls short.

Don’t take this as an attack on those fine Naked fellows. I remain intrigued and impressed by their business model — and I enjoyed the first two bottles of theirs I reviewed (whilst still harbouring the slight impression of over-optimistic ‘full’ prices, I might add). While this specimen is definitely less good than those other two, it’s still by no means terrible; just unexciting, middle-of-the-road.

So I suppose I’m just saying that, psychologically, their pricing model isn’t quite hitting the right note for me.

Then again, I’ll tell you what is hitting the right note: the fact that, a few hours after I’d casually tweeted a message about my disappointment with this wine, one of the Naked guys was contacting me to offer me my money back on it*.

That, in case you are wondering, is fucking uberwhelming.

Rating ? (1 star) — but ????? for customer service
ABV 12.5%
Price £7.50 from Naked Wines (£5 if you’re a member)
* Fo’ yo’ info, I didn’t take him up on his offer. It may’ve been disappointing, but it wasn’t bad.