Floyd on Parn

This blog had lost its way. It took the charismatic inclusiveness of the wonderful Keith Floyd to reanimate the somnolent Old Parn. The result: a new beginning of sorts…

I haven’t written here for ages. Come on, pretend you noticed. I think my silence has been a result of increasing discomfort maintaining an authoritative tone on booze. That’s a shame (or perhaps a blessing, depending on your perspective), as I continue to think that the legitimisation of ‘normal’ (ie. untrained) voices talking about wine is an important thing.

In many ways, more important than democracy, scientific progress or the rule of law.

But the internet (which includes you, you bastard) has a way of encouraging specialisation and authoritarian leanings. Because one can see one’s numbers — one’s goddamned analytics — one is conditioned to focus on making those numbers bigger. And you make them bigger by writing twatty posts like ‘the best gin for a gin and tonic’. I mean, that’s stupid. There is no best, obviously. That’s like saying you can identify the best shade of red for a sunset. You idiot. Get out of my sight.

I stopped writing this blog because I was sick of having an authoritative opinion on things. I mean, I have those opinions I spammed out, obviously. I wasn’t pretending. But I don’t think it’s particularly interesting. I don’t think it adds much when the verdict is the end result towards which the vast majority of content is skewed.

So this blog has petered out; I’ve had little desire to do anything with it. But then I read an article about Keith Floyd.

Then I watched a lot of Keith Floyd on YouTube.

I remember my parents watching Floyd when I was an ankle-biter. He was the sole TV cook I could tolerate (cf Delia Smith, whom I loathed. Soz, Deels). It’s obvious why: the chaotic energy, the restless wit, the impatience with detail and fuss. The beguiling sense of a man inviting you into his shamelessly hedonistic world.

The lack of artifice is bracing, isn’t it? I mean, there’s the classic British ironic self-awareness and mockery of the medium that of course qualifies as its own kind of artifice. But the unscripted dialogue, the balls-ups… superb stuff. It feels immediate and real in a way modern TV about food does not (a point made at eloquent length in the Quietus article I linked to above. Here it is again, to save you the inestimable tedium of scrolling back up to it).

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, it reminds me of the kind of voice I aspire to have, albeit firmly confined to the medium of the written word rather than the screen: a voice that may be opinionated, but is so in a way that is inclusive, celebratory, unabashedly subjective and rooted in sharing, not proscribing. It reminds me that weariness with — or skepticism of — verdicts and ratings is what ought to be the animating force behind this blog.

So I’m back, I guess. But without the ratings, without the focus, without the Google-baiting shit.

Cheers, Floyd.

Say it loud and there’s music playing / Say it soft and it’s almost like praying

Last time we talked, dear buttery reader, was when I blathered on for ages about drinking a Waitrose St Emilion and not really having an opinion.

I like to think that, in contrast with (say) Ed Miliband, I was at least honest about my lack of opinion, and didn’t artificially attempt to take a position purely for the appearance thereof.

One of my commenters, Maria, offered a different perspective. I quote:

‘so you bought a bottle of wine…it happened to be a Bordeaux one. did you like it, or not? what did you experinced? that is what we would like to know….next time give us 2 pages on how you buy a soap’

O Maria! O Muse!

So. This one’s for Maria.

The other day, I went into Waitrose. I quite often go into Waitrose. What can I say? I feel at home there. Apart from when weird blokes start offering me cakes whilst telling stories about the queen.

I needed some shampoo. But I know even less about shampoo than I do about wine. So I went into the shampoo/soap aisle. I cast about, somewhat, being confronted by an array of options (though, I might add, not nearly as great an array as that proffered by the wine aisle). There were a ridiculous number of potential shampoos from which to choose. So how did I pick? By the following criteria:

— Packaging
— Price

I bought the most expensive shampoo I could find that didn’t look wanky.

Do you want any more detail? Well, unlucky for you. Because THERE IS NO MORE.

It must really hurt, Maria. It must really fucking hurt that sodding thousands of people, every day, choose wine based on similar criteria to my shampoo purchase.

That’s all, really. Thanks for your comment.

What happens when you Drink at Eat?

In which our hero links to his latest guest post — narrating the woeful tale of his attempts to buy wine at Eat restaurant on the South Bank.

A pie and potato from Eat (in disposable pie box) and a mini bottle of Stowells white wineWhen a place calls itself Eat, perhaps that’s, y’know, a kind of subtle hint that the emphasis isn’t on the wine list.

Be that as it may. Defying corporate nomenclature, I decided to put Eat’s wine selection to the test — with characteristic ruthlessness.

Be warned: there are scenes in the following post that readers of a sensitive disposition may find upsetting.

You can read the story of the whole desperate, sorry experience in my guest post across at eVines. Here’s the link.

How to talk about wine…

How to talk about wine? What kind of a title is that? A ridiculous one, that’s what. But let’s indulge ourselves, shall we, and talk about talking about wine?

Note: this post was originally a link to read an article I wrote for the now-defunct website eVines. So rather than leave a broken link on the website, I’m republishing the article in its entirety, below. How nice of me.

Okay. I’ll admit it. The title’s a lie: I’m not going to give you instructions on how to talk about wine. In fact, please tear me apart with large metal hooks and display my eviscerated corpse upon a mighty stone obelisk if ever I do such a thing. Because, here’s what I think. I think it’s totally ridiculous that I can write an article called ‘how to talk about wine’ and nobody bats an eyelid.

Imagine you saw an article called ‘How to talk about food’. Or ‘How to talk about tea’. Or ‘How to talk about massages’.

That’d be a bit odd, wouldn’t it? Yet ‘How to talk about wine’ seems fine. “Oh, yes. I wish I could talk about wine.” Why is this? It’s because the world of wine (or huge parts of it) are stuck in the 18th century.

In the 18th century — for the first time in British history — a significant number of people who were not aristocratic started to become wealthy. This didn’t please the aristocrats: godforsaken nouveaux riches laying their mercantile hands upon the preserve of the gentry. Abhorrent!

How were these beleaguered aristos to protect their class from infiltration? The solution that emerged was devastatingly effective: invent a new language.

Starting in the 18th century, a plethora of new words suddenly started to enter educated, upper class discourse. They were almost always long (polysyllabic, one might say) and derived from words in French or Latin or Ancient Greek. Words that people who hadn’t learnt French or Latin and Ancient Greek, therefore, wouldn’t understand. And all those ‘new money’ characters? They were shut out from this linguistic new world. They might be able to spend like an aristocrat, but they sure as hell couldn’t talk like one.

As a collective defence, it has the savage brilliance of the upper class about it, n’est pas? Because language is an unrivaled means by which to make someone feel like an outsider. It’s powerfully tribal.

Right. So that’s enough linguistic history. (Fun, though, wasn’t it?) You can probably already see how this relates to wine. There’s a whole language out there that is powerfully exclusive; that intimidates and stupefies; that promotes a world in which some people can talk about wine and others can’t. And it’s bullshit.

Here’s a common example. On its own, it’s not too offensive, and plenty of winos whom I like and respect use it. But I find it irritating:

‘On the nose, there are hints of gooseberry, elderflower and cut grass.’

On the nose. Why in Christ’s name do we need to say ‘on the nose’ when what we actually mean is ‘this wine smells like…’? Nothing is gained. All that is added is an unnecessary layer of complexity and abstraction. On the nose, I’m getting hints of fresh, grassy bullshit. Nobody speaks like this in the real world. So when a normal person hears or reads an expression like this, a barrier is formed. In this case it’s not an insurmountable one (it’s not hard to work out what ‘on the nose’ means, I realise), but one that artificially enforces the distinction between ‘person who knows how to talk about wine’ and ‘ignorant serf’.

Another example? ‘The ’99 is drinking well right now.’ This kind of thing makes me want to sink my teeth deep into my own pelvis in rage. It’s not even elegant; it’s a linguistic fart in the face that makes you sound like a smug prat. (Again, um, no offence to people who say this. Honest.)

Now, I don’t mean to imply that people who talk about wine in ‘wino’ terminology are deliberately being exclusive (though sometimes I think they are). I don’t want to come across all underpants-on-head conspiracy-theorist about this. And I am not against technical terminology, in its place: just as a scientific journal is written for scientists and employs an appropriate vocabulary, so a piece of wine writing targeted at Masters of Wine may quite legitimately employ complex terminology. I work in eCommerce, and the language I’d use in a report to my peers is totally different to the language I use if talking to a stranger about what I do. Obv.

What I’m against is the unnecessary use of florid or obscure language when it adds nothing. It’s not beautiful (poetry can be hard to understand — but one hopes that the music of the words makes up for the difficulty); it’s not conveying extra information (‘on the nose’ = ‘smells like’); it’s not original (inventing new ways to get around old linguistic cliches can be a noble thing — but wino-wank is utterly cliche-ridden; just cliches that only fellow winos employ).

See, I believe pretty goddamn strongly: there’s no such thing as a right way to talk about anything. Talking is about communicating, being understood; not about being correct. One person’s understandable is another’s gobbledegook.

I talk about wine quite a lot. Because it’s a pretty good conversation-point. Sharing a sensual experience with someone else — and comparing one another’s perception of it — is interesting and enriching. (“How was it for you?”) Because I love finding out how other people react to things. ALL people. In fact, I’m way more interested to know what my friend thinks of the wine we’re sharing than I am to know what Robert Parker thinks of it.

(ZING. Take that, Parker.)

But, you know what? Getting people to talk about wine is hard. People clam up. Because they feel like they might say something stupid. They might use the wrong words. And the clever wine people might laugh. I know this feeling, because I’ve felt it myself.

‘Oh, I’m no expert,’ people will say. At which point, bloodshot and spit-flecking, I scream in their face like a maniac, ‘YES YOU ARE. YOU ARE AN EXPERT. IN FACT, YOU ARE THE ONLY SODDING EXPERT — IN THE WORLD, EVER — ON WHAT YOU THINK OF THIS WINE.’

There is no right way to talk about wine (have I said this enough, yet?). Because when you’re talking about wine, you’re just talking about yourself. What does a wine remind you of? What does it make you feel like? What colour does it taste like? If it were a person, what kind of person would it be?

These are all way more interesting questions in a social context than ‘Can you analyse this wine technically?’ And they’re questions anyone can answer, in any words. In fact, the more one gets to know about wine (all the technical stuff, I mean), the harder it gets to answer those interesting questions — because your head gets stuffed up with jargon and facts (which are boring) crowding out imagination and intuition (which are interesting).

I don’t mean we shouldn’t describe wines in weird and wonderful ways. Christ alive, no. I don’t even necessarily mean that writing and speech about wine should all be simple. But if it’s complex, let it be complex because of its imaginative richness, its poetry — not its impenetrable dry terminology.

So here’s my plea, and my manifesto: let’s all try and talk about wine with openness, with imagination. Let’s talk about wine — and encourage others to talk about wine — using whatever words we goddamn well please.

The Extravagant Complexity of Wine (inspired by white Rioja)

In which Old Parn recounts the tale of his first serious wine purchase — and muses on the notions of choice and experimentation with the aid of a very nice bottle of white Rioja

Closeup of the label of a bottle of white RiojaDo you want to know what I love most of all about wine? Wine is an extravagantly complex universe, with bewildering variety, innumerable secrets and surprises.

I have an embarrassing — borderline clinical — compulsion to try new things. To try ALL THE NEW THINGS IN THE WORLD EVER. When I was a student, I spent a ludicrous amount of my loan (Go Team Maximum Student Loan!) on spirits. ‘Typical bloody student,’ you’re probably muttering, as you rustle your Daily Mail disapprovingly. But, y’see, I spent my loan on every spirit/liqueur I could find. Frangelico? Check. Framboise? Check. Creme de Cacao? Check. Amaretto? Check. Mine was not the shopping list of the typical student, I like to think.

(Christ alive, Parn, eradicate that entirely unwarranted tone of pride from your writing right now.)

Yeah. I wanted ALL THE SPIRITS. Because I wanted to be able to make ALL THE COCKTAILS. As a result, my university bedroom resembled a well-stocked off-license in a wealthy London borough. Except with Radiohead posters and the unmistakable stench of adolescent pretension. People came round to my room for a drink; I gave them a sodding menu.

But then I discovered that — actually — spirits were boring*. The apparent variety of the supermarket spirits section was nothing compared to the variety in my first case of wine. From Majestic.

Let me tell you about that first case of wine. I’d just moved into my first non-student abode. My first shared house. I’d landed my first BIG JOB (putting books back on shelves). I was almost like a Real Grown Up. And as such I decided to do what Grown Ups do: order a case of wine.

(Make your own deductions about my warped conception of adulthood. I don’t care.)

For someone who’d previously chosen his wine from the shelves of Sainsbury’s local, this was a revelation. So much choice! So many unfamiliar names!

I still have that same excitement whenever I browse wines in a good shop (online or off): that vertiginous thrill of bewildering, tantalising choice. The terror of knowing that even if I never drink the same wine twice, I still have no hope of trying them all. And I sincerely cannot imagine buy viagra las vegas being faced with all these tantalising, exotic, unfamiliar names — and then putting a big-brand Australian Chardonnay into my basket. For me, that’d be like going to Thailand and having dinner in Burger King. I don’t mean that to sound snobbish. Because I think that the ‘safe’ ubiquity of big-brand wine is in no goddamn way the fault of customers who are intimidated by incomprehensible choice. Not everyone is a weirdass novelty-seeker like me — and if normal people don’t feel they can explore the unknowns of the wine world, that’s a failure on the part of the industry. But that’s another subject, eh?

So I filled my Majestic basket with unfamiliar fruits. Sure, lots of ’em would be well-known to me now — but then, everything was glimmering and new.

I still remember the first bottle I drank from that case, along with some friends: a white Rioja. And I thought: ‘Whoa. This is interesting. This wine kind of smells a bit like sheep’s cheese or something. How the hell does that work?’

(Nobody else knew what the hell I was burbling about when I said the bit about sheep’s cheese, by the way. They probably thought I was having a stroke.)

If you want to check out the sheep’s cheese thing yourself, I suggest you snap up a bottle of Navajas White Rioja from The Wine Society (????) It’s got that slightly sharp sheepy tang (boy, how appetising I make it sound) that took me right back to that first Majestic bottle. But when you get it into your gob, you’re cavorting with apricots and peaches. It’s dry, mind — and brilliantly, grippingly acidic, holding that jubilant fruit entirely in check.

And it costs £7.25 a bottle.

To me, £7.25 is a miserly amount to spend on a sensory experience that’s so goddamn unusual (so goddamn nice). That £7.25 wouldn’t even buy you a bottle of big-brand plonk in a Bethnal Green off-license (quoth the voice of bitter experience). But here it buys you apricots and sheep’s cheese and nostalgia.

Isn’t that, really, when we get down to it, pretty fucking exciting?

* Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

What I like (wine and metaphor)

In which Old Parn meditates upon the human face of wine, and the wonders of the metaphor

I’ll tell you what I like.

I like it when I take my first dilated, vibrating sniff — no, actually, not sniff — which sounds altogether too truncated and furtive — not sniff — what, then? — when I gasp in my first savage breath of a dark, red wine. And it just smells proper. It smells like someone made it.

Once you get past the fact that wine — so long as it’s good stuff, not some grim, loveless shite — is generally pretty nice to drink, what pushes a particular wine into the realm beyond? I think this is it. The fact that there’s a kind of human thing to it. An asymmetric, imperfect, loveable quality. It’s like it has a face.

‘[N]ow that I am about to leave this world, I realize there is nothing more astonishing than a human face … Any human face is a claim on you, because you can’t help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and the loneliness of it.’

That’s Marilynne Robinson in the (pretty beautiful) novel Gilead. And it’s true. We’re all so powerfully primed to be fascinated by humanity. And what’s more human than a face?

Not a wine, that’s for sure.

Which lands us — dunnit? — at a problem. Why am I writing a wine blog, not a people blog?

Actually, when I put it like that, I should definitely write a people blog. Old Parn’s People Reviews. Fuck yes. I can’t foresee any problems with that. Though we’d have to work out exactly how the free samples worked.

Whoa. I’m digressin’ like a mo-fo, I realise.

Digressing by digression from digression.

So. Yeah. Bear with me, chaps.

You see, I think wine might just be a little bit like metaphor.

You know what the idea of a metaphor is? To enrich your mental image of something by describing it as if it were something else. Which sounds pretty useless and illogical, really, doesn’t it? WELL LOGIC CAN JUST FUCK OFF, ALRIGHT?

An example? Okay. If I talk about ‘a blaze of flavour’, the concept of taste is overlaid with the concept of fire. And somehow I imagine the flavour in a way that is far more vivid. Precisely because it’s not like a fire in so many ways, the sense in which it is like a fire is magnified and sharpened. And an inexact description has managed to be far more exact than a clinical, literal one. Take that, clinical literalism.

So when two things are very different from one another (as a bottle of wine is from a person) there is massive satisfaction in the sensation when those two things are brought together by metaphor. When the one concept is infused with the other.

And when a wine makes me think of it as if it were a person — that’s when I reach for my superlatives.

What To Do With Half A Cabbage

In which Old Parn tells you what to do with the aforementioned article of vegetation

Okay. Here’s what you do.

(This has nothing to do with wine, but everything to do with things that taste fucking excellent. What you need is a cabbage and some storecupboard stuff. And a ravening hunger.)

You shred half a cabbage and whack the blighter into loads of bubbling, well-salted walter. It only needs 2 or 3 minutes in there, then drain it — but save the water it was cooking in.

While the cabbage is boiling, mash up a few anchovies from a jar and crush a couple of cloves of garlic. Set those bad boys frying — along with a sprinkling of dried chilli flakes, if you like the kick — in a hefty dose of olive oil (about 2-3 tbsps, I guess).

Stick that water you saved from the cabbage right back into the cabbage pan and get it boiling again. Add a bit more salt, why don’t you? Then put in some pasta. Tagliatelli, spaghetti or linguine. 200g of it, if you’re a greedy fucker like me.

You’ll end up with pasta boiling away while your garlic and anchovy is frying. Good work, soldier. Reward yourself with a swig of gin and tonic.

After a while, your garlic mixture will go all nice and golden, and the anchovies will hve pretty much dissolved into the oil. When you’re happy with all that, stick the drained cabbage into the pan, too, and fry it around.

Once your pasta’s done, drain it (saving a bit of the pasta water). Toss with the cabbage/garlic/anchovy and add a little of the pasta water to make it all bind together. I never used to do this pasta-water shebang, but — believe me — it makes a difference. So do it.

Then cram the whole bunch into your ravenous maw.

Good, eh?

And, no, I don’t have a photo. Because by the time it’d occurred to me to take one, I’D ALREADY FUCKING EATEN IT, HADN’T I?

Old Parn’s Wine Awards 2011, part 2

In which your host doles out some more awards, in his customarily otiose manner, including those for best wine retailers — and your own favourite posts from 2011

A week or so ago, I dusted off my red carpet (sorry about those stains — I’ve no idea where they came from) and presented Old Parn’s Individual Wine Awards. You’re a sucker for a bit of that award night glamour, aren’t you?

Which is, of course, why you’re back for today’s second instalment. So let’s get on with it. Mandolin-strummer, step forward; do your strummy thing!

(NO, NOT LIKE THAT. I MEANT ON YOUR MANDOLIN, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. GET OUT OF MY SIGHT.)

Wine retail awards

Best online wine selection

The Wine Society — if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll’ve gathered that I love the Wine Society as though it were a small, adorable puppy. A small, adorable puppy that brings me lovely, lovely wine. Brilliant.

Best online wine communicators

Naked Wines — These guys are doing something different. For this I love them as though they were all small, adorable puppies that by their very existence somehow subverted the notion of puppyhood while simultaneously also selling some rather good wines.

(Let me know if the puppy analogies cease to be illuminating at any point.)

Naked Wines is firing a champagne cork into the arse of the stodgy, stolid wine world — by according prominence to the wines that normal people like, rather than wines that the establishment recommends. I’m not saying the establishment’s recommendations have nothing going for ’em, incidentally. But there’s a balance that needs redressing. And it’s a thing of joy to see those Naked folk redressing it.

Best supermarket for wine

Waitrose — Are you surprised? Really? Are you? REALLY?

Best value wine retailer

The Wine Society — Yes, again. I’m not going to apologise. I don’t know of any other wine retailer, online or offline, whose selection of £4.50–£7 wines has such a goddamn high hit rate.

Your Favourite Posts

Finally, here’s my token nod to democracy. Here are the five posts from this ol’ blog of mine that received the most traffic in 2011. I realise that it’s an unjustifiable leap of reasoning to deduce that these are your favourites. But I’m all about unjustifiable leaps.

(Ow. I just twisted my ankle.)

So. Here are 2011’s most trafficked posts:

  1. The Shit Written on Wine Labels
  2. Wine Writing is Broken
  3. Le Froglet Wines (the horror! the horror!)
  4. Five reasons to swear — about wine or anything else
  5. Benjamin Darnault Picpoul de Pinet review

Well. That’s is (I promise) for the gratuitous end-of-year list posts. Thanks for bearing with me through the oscillations of 2011, and let’s clink our glasses in that vulgar way we do in honour of 2012. In daringly Mayan-defying style, I have a feeling it’s going to be good.

Old Parn’s Wine Awards 2011

In which Old Parn presents the first tranche of wine awards for the year that has been

Shallow depth-of-field shot of the necks of wine bottles protruding from a wine rack

So. 2011. I think it’s time you and I had a sit down and reassessed our relationship. We’ve both done some things we shouldn’t have. Mainly you.

Now, I’ll grant you, you’re being pretty damn lovely. But, as years go, I’m not going to pretend you’ve been consistent. In fact, if we’re talking consistency, you were about at the level of a schizophrenic pitbull terrier on amphetamines, wearing a knitted pink bonnet.

But — consistency? You and I, my dear, sweet, syruppy reader (if I may move to include you in this hitherto somewhat self-indulgently exclusive conversation), you and I aren’t here for consistency, are we? We’re here for life. And, um, probably wine, too. Which is (if I may remind you) a subset of life.

Not the other way round, you pathetic, hyperventilating alcoholic.

Anyhow. Here’s the deal. Over the course of the next two posts, I hope you’ll permit me to extend the self-indulgence and to present — with desultory trumpet fanfares and some misguided bugger strumming a mandolin — OLD PARN’S WINE AWARDS, 2011. Yes, there is something a little troubling about looking back over a year exclusively through the prismic glass of empty wine bottles. But no matter. Onward. Acrossward.

Like I said, the awards will come in two parts. In the first, today’s, I’ll canter through my most notable wines of the year. In the second, to follow, I’ll add a few more general awards (luxuriating in the delusion that anyone’ll give a toss) and — with a halfhearted nod towards democracy — present your favourite posts of 2011.

But that’s all to come. Excitingly. Meanwhile, though —

Old Parn’s Individual Wine Awards

Most evocative wine

Arabella Reserve Shiraz Viognier — Bulgarian woodsmoke, adolescent ennui and being a bit shit with orphans.

Most wanker-demolishing wine

Potel Aviron Moulin a Vent — Reminding us that the word ‘fruity’ belongs to us, to the hedgerows, to the soil — not to some bunch of oily FMCG bell-ends.

Most redemptive wine

D’Aquino Reserve Merlot — One Merlot that can grab onto my ankles any day of the week.

Most androgynous wine

Act Five Shiraz Viognier — Strapping, crocodile-wrestling shiraz with florally fecund viognier. Yes please.

Most heinous and detestable wine

Le Froglet — Foul piss of Satan. Foul piss of Satan, what’s more, served like a goddamn yoghurt.

Most sado-masochistic wine

Domaine de Mourchon — Seduce me with a heady waft of fruit. Then pull me up, slap me and strap me, look me fucking dead in the eye and ask me if I reckon I’m hard enough.

Most ungluggable wine (this is a good thing, damn it)

El Seque Alicante — A wine that doesn’t apologise, doesn’t smarm, doesn’t pussyfoot.

… and the sought-after Best In Show:

Nicest wine of 2011

Vina Arana Reserva Rioja — Soft but strong. Firm but gentle. Confident but seductive. It yields and it withstands. Balance.

So that’s it for today. Stay tuned — won’t you? — for part two. And do feel free to share your own vinous awards in the comments, should you be so moved.

Old Parn’s Christmas Wine Recommendation

In which Old Parn comes out with it and gives his own (much sought-after) opinion as to which wine you should be drinking this Christmas

Two out-of-focus bottles of wine in the background; in the foreground, rolls of wrapping paper on a festive red tableclothSometimes I get utterly sick of the idea of wine writing. Literally. A bit of sick comes up. (Medium-bodied, with notes of bile, acid and gastric juice; lacking in balance, but with a very long finish.)

First up, this idea that we’re all (we wine writers) on some kind of crusade to educate the common palate. Bullshit. I couldn’t give a lawnmowed turd about educating your palate. And I hope that’s a sentiment you find reassuring. Unless you’re mowing the lawn. Because I reckon your palate is just fine the way it is, whatever you like to drink.

If we imagine two people, both really enjoying a bottle of wine, and one of them has a £5 wine and the other a £50er, I don’t think the latter has accessed some kind of higher level on the game of life (by defeating the end-of-level-1 boss of cheap New World Chardonnay). Enjoyment is enjoyment is enjoyment. Sensual pleasure doesn’t have a hierarchy, and sensations are not absolutes.

I’m not claiming, by the way, that I don’t adore expensive wine — that I don’t often prefer the £50 bottle to the £5. No. And, sure, I have opinions — pretty strong ones, at times — about which wines are good and which are bad. But let Christ tear me apart with his saintly teeth before I imagine my own opinion on this shit is any better or more worthwhile than anyone else’s.

What I’m saying is this: I do not remotely think of it as my job to convert any £5er to a £50er. I’m not a goddamn missionary.

(I’d be an awfully shit missionary, really, wouldn’t I?)

So I don’t care what people drink. I don’t care about ‘teaching’ you to drink ‘better’ wine. Hell, I don’t even, when it comes down to it, care all that much about wine.

What the hell do I care about, in this nihilistic world of mine?

Well, I care about making you laugh. I care about diverting your attention for a while. I care about stories. I care about putting unique, irrepeatable experiences into words, and trying to preserve them in tiny crystalline gems. If I were writing about sunsets, I wouldn’t want to educate you to seek out better sunsets. I’d just want to try and use these weird little clumps and clods of letters to make something like that same sunset hang shimmering in your mind.

And I’d probably want to throw in a few sunset-themed swearwords in there, too. But that’s by the by.

So Old Parn’s Christmas Wine recommendation is as follows:

This Christmas, drink whatever the hell you really love drinking.

Not what looks impressive, or what the critics say you should drink, or what your farty old uncle of yours will approve of, or what that otiose prat Old Parn likes. No. Drink Whatever The Hell You Love Drinking.

Because that really is all that matters.

Happy Christmas, y’all.