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)

Santa Lucia Primitivo 2009 review

… will grant you that delicious deep, scented freshness of your garden after a summer rainstorm — but without the risk of some bastard tree dripping down your neck

The Wine Society's Santa Lucia Primitivo from Puglia. Black, yellow and cream label with a crest

Inky and polishy — a rugged, straight-down-the-line kind of wine. Full in the gob, spicy, big and macho. Dark fruits and cocoa.

There’s a good dose of that rough, mouth-gripping tannin in there, so this bad boy sits comfortably alongside punchy, rustic fodder. Tomato sauces, meatballs, you know the drill.

‘Rugged’, ‘macho’, ‘rough’ — yeah, alright. But I wouldn’t want you thinking this is entirely a wham-bang-thank-you-ma’am wine.

Take a waft of it, for starters, and you’re met by that delicious, deep, woody, scent-laden freshness you get if you step out into the garden after a summer rainstorm. Except, this way, you don’t get some bastard tree dripping icy water down your neck.

That said, this isn’t your port of call if you’re looking for scintillating complexity. But, um, have you seen how much this costs? Yup. Chuck it down you when you’re after a comforting, grown-up evening fix that’ll blot out the buffets and dents of the day.

Rating ??? (3 stars)
ABV 14%
Price £6.50 from The Wine Society

Musar Jeune Rouge 2008 review

… is like inhaling the contents of a bouquet garni. In a damned good way, let me add

Macro closeup of the label of a bottle of Musar Jeune from Chateau Musar in Lebanon. Cursive typeface adorns a white label

Whoa!

Crack this bad boy open and it’s like you just inhaled the contents of your herb rack.

Sometimes a wino will say that something smells herby — then you smell it yourself and go, ‘Eh? Wot? Smells o’ bloody wine to me!’ So let me assure you: this really does smell herby. It’s actually a lot like walking into one of those marvellously crowded little shops that sell every oriental spice, herb and seasoning you could imagine (and several you couldn’t). It even has that same slight headachey mustiness to it.

But, c’mon. Get it in your gob, why don’t you?

Because it’s good. It’s very good. The depth of the herbs is there, yeah, along with a sizzling tingle of pepper. Then the spices come through: cinnamon, nutmeg and the gang.

So far you’d be forgiven for thinking it all sounds pretty gruff.

… But it’s actually remarkably soft and accessible. Fresh (unbaked), with a fair bit of fruit — cooked plum, red fruits, blueberry — as well as wood, chocolate, aniseed on the finish. Rather goddarn rounded, don’t y’know?

Verdict

I’d buy this like a fucking shot. I mean, look at the price. It’s full, generous, balanced, long, rewarding.

Very good indeed.

Rating ★★★★ (4 stars)
ABV 13%
Price £8.60 from Summertown Wine Cafe (buy in store only), £9.25 from Bakers & Larners

Act Five Shiraz Viognier 2009 review

… is an alluringly androgynous wine — the result of some white grape on red grape action — and is bloody nice for it

A bottle of Act Five in the sunshine, on a wooden garden table

Well, here was a nifty young wine. A slinkily androgynous wine. One where you’re pretty sure you’ve got its gender right — but there remains that frisson of doubt.

This androgyny comes courtesy of the blend, which combines the grape varieties Shiraz and Viognier*. Yeah: Viognier. So what we have is some white grape on red grape action. If we were in Othello, some tedious fart called Brabantio would be going mental at this interracial tupping.

It is my hope that today’s attitudes will be less blinkered.

Anyhow (Jesus Christ, Parn, get to the point) it may just be that my tastebuds were so frigging grateful for anything in the aftermath of this week’s Le Froglet horrors — but I thought this was a bloody good wine. A bloody alluring wine.

It’s really full, properly blasting out that peppery blackcurrant POWER that you’d expect of our pal Shiraz. There’s some oak in there, some earthy bitterness, some toasty (um) toastiness. This (in other words) is the part of the wine that’s strapping and crocodile-wrestling as you like.

But, oh boy, it’s all lifted where to order cialis online safe thanks to a (most seductive) lightness. A freshness. A heady breath of spring breezes across fecund meadows.

This same freshness is fucking transformative, what’s more, when it comes to the blackcurrant. Because (to my gob, anyhow) full-on dark fruit flavours can get a mite tedious and two-dimensional, despite their initial appeal. But this wine sacrifices nothing of the intensity of the fruit, yet renders it complex, subtly floral, light. Blackcurrant and elderflower.

Fuck yeah.

Verdict

Okay, yes, so I liked this wine rather a lot. I liked it even more when I found out that it costs only goddamn £7.49. £7.49, by the risen Christ! (Yes, Parn can do topical expletives too.)

It tastes a good bit more expensive than that.

So if you haven’t yet recognised the allure of a subtle bit of vinous gender-bending, I implore you to get with the programme, you dull old Brabantio, you.

Rating ???? (4 stars)
ABV 14%
Price £7.49 from Avery’s
* For those who like to know this stuff, Syrah + Viognier is the signature combo of the celebrated Cote-Rotie region of France.

Le Froglet Wine in a Glass — Review

In which our intrepid hero subjects himself to the horror (the horror!) of three revolting sold-by-the-plastic-cup specimens from Marks & Spencer: Le Froglet Rose, Chardonnay and Shiraz. A truly gruelling experience.

Three plastic cups of Le Froglet wine, sold by the glass — one red, one white, one rose

So, today we’re looking at wines sold by the glass (plastic): three (only moderately depressing-looking) specimens from Marks & Spencer going under the brand name Le Froglet.

Now, you know me for an honest commentator, I hope. So I must confess upfront that my expectations were very, very low. That said, I don’t want to be snobbish about this. There’s nothing remotely wrong with the idea of buying wine this way.

The question is — never mind the idea — what’s the reality like?

In answer, dear reader, I give you —

Le Froglet Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2009

So. You’ve got over the novelty of opening a wine as though it were a yoghurt. What now? Stick your big old snout in there, that’s what.

Except that, being full to the thick plastic brim, there’s no room for your big old snout.

So pour it into a proper glass, why don’t you, and try again?

Your labours will be rewarded with a truly awful gutwipe of a smell. Like the breath of a depressed office worker who ate a stale bacon & egg sandwich for his lunch.

It is truly, offensively grim.

At this point, you’re understandably wary. But you chuck it down the hatch in any case, reasoning ‘Since when has my sense of smell ever been a reliable indication of putrescence?’

…and — first gob-impression? IT ACTUALLY TASTES OF NOTHING.

Unfortunately, you will be looking back on that first impression of nothingness as a kind of golden age of Le Froglet Chardonnay. It was at its peak then. ‘The tragedy of Le Froglet,’ you will muse, ‘is that it never recaptured that tantalising early promise of nondescript mediocrity.’

Because, after a second or so of wondering whether you accidentally just bought a plastic glassful of foul-smelling water — the stale sandwich you smelt earlier hits you smack in the gob. And fucking horrendous it is, too. Cardboardy flaps of egg-marinated bacon in that suddenly-not-so-tasty-tasty malted bread.

Now (you might note) the smell’s mellowed a bit. Now it’s like the remnants of a KFC bucket left out overnight in the corridor of a student hall of residence.

If you can manage to get this wine into your mouth without inhaling, it’s just about bearable while you hold it there. But sometime — sometime, my friend — you’re going to have to swallow. Then there’s the aftertaste. The preserved egg sarnie.

I am not exaggerating when I say that this is truly horrific stuff. There will be a patch of dead grass in my garden tomorrow morning where I chucked the rest of this devilpiss.

Onward, then, to —

Le Froglet Rose, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2009

Imagine a nightmare scenario in which you are given a plastic teaspoon and ordered to eat an entire washing-up basin full of Tesco Value strawberry jam.

The smell of Le Froglet’s Rose is strikingly, strikingly similar to the smell of the strawberry-scented vomit that you will copiously spew in the aftermath of the above scenario.

Sickly sweet, but with a rancid acidic tang.

At least with the white (incredulous, I find myself harking back) there was some lingering presence of the chardonnay grape, even if in brutally abused form. Here, there is nothing but sickly, rotten, jammy fruit.

Once it’s actually in your mouth? Well, it’s not actually as full-on sweet as I’d expected. But horrible nevertheless. A bit bitter (not in an appetising way, but in the same way as accidentally sucking your finger after touching some chemicals), with overtones of loo cleaner. Not nice loo cleaner, either. The kind of stuff they use in prisons.

When the sweetness comes (which it does, like a warm, candyfloss blanket, once you’ve swallowed) it is almost a blessing.

I’m not entirely sure whether this is worse or better than the white. It’s less in-your-face-evil, but more slyly insidious. The white was like Krang in Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles; the rose is more like Nick Griffin.

I’ll leave you to judge which you’d rather spend an evening with.

… and skip on, meanwhile, to —

Le Froglet Shiraz, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2009

… Which is dark. Dark as the soul of Le Froglet.

Snout-wise, it’s the least offensive of the three by some margin. That’s not to say it smells promising. No indeed not. But it’s not actively repellent. There’s sweet red fruit (worryingly sweet) and, yeah, vanilla. And cheap wood. It’s like walking into a discount furniture warehouse.

And in the gob, it’s also by far the least horrible. There’s still that ol’ bacon & egg sandwich whiff to the whole affair (which is clearly something to do with either the glue they use to stick on the lid or else some kind of preservative), but at least there’s a modicum of normality to the thing. I mean, it tastes like cheap plonk, sure. But at least it tastes like recognisable cheap plonk, not some outlandish liquid beamed to Earth by aliens as part of a sick reality TV escapade to amuse the folks back home at Alpha Centuri.

It’s very very sweet, yet also laced with a last-minute tannic mouth-shrinker. In no way does this qualify as a recommendation, but it has the dubious honour of being crowned ‘winner’ of this evening’s taste-off. A contest, I might add, that set me back a total of £7.95 (£2.65 each) — a sum I parted with heavily against my better judgement, and largely in order to provide entertainment to you. Yes, you.

So the least you can do is leave me a comment or something.

Now. Christ alive. Get me some malt whisky.

Rating ☆ (0 stars) for all of them. The ‘winner’ included.
ABV 12% (rose), 12.5% (red), 13% (white)
Price £2.65 a pop from Marks & Spencer

Wine Society half bottles roundup

In which three French half-bottles from The Wine Society are put through the rigorous Parn tasting process

In the foreground, Crozes-Hermitages; background, The Society's Chablis and White Burgundy

I’ve written before about my lonely love of half bottles. Below are my brief impressions of three French wines, all available in half bottles from The Wine Society.

The Society’s White Burgundy

Planted resolutely at the dry, pure, stony end of the (vibrant) chardonnay spectrum, this is delicious, appetising. Aromatically discrete, yes, with a bracing dose of lemon-rind bitterness. Finding small fault, it’s just a touch thin, a touch watery. But at the price, I feel almost churlish saying so.

Rating ??? (3 stars)
Price £4.50 from The Wine Society

The Society’s Crozes Hermitages

Roughish, somewhat stalky and austere. There’s a fair bit of bitterness and tannin — and a certain coaly quality, like that stuffy-headed smell I remember from my grannie’s coal scuttle.

In the gob it’s a little viagra online cheapest lighter than I’d expected, with some red fruit to counteract all the gruffness. There’s also a bit of orange in there — orange oil/essence, not juicy, fresh orange.

Fine for a midweek slurp, though a little rough and unbalanced.

Rating ?? (2 stars)
Price £5.25 from The Wine Society (but no longer on the site)

The Society’s Chablis

Slate and peach and cream. It fills your nose like the smell of summer rain. In the gob, it’s appealingly plump — though with a fair old dose of acidity. A good bit of citrus there.

Proper dry stuff. Nice. With simple, unadorned seafood, this would be delightful. My mouth’s watering already.

Rating ??? (3 stars)
Price £5.95 from The Wine Society

Reserve de la Saurine 2010 Review

… is an honest (if brusque) young peasant of a wine

Marks & Spencer's Reserve de la Saurine. The label depicts a French estate (and a drip of red wine has streaked its way down the paper)

Well, here’s a wine that’s not nearly as bad as I’d feared — and a good deal better than our last disastrous encounter with an M&S ‘dine in for £10’ bottle.

It’s a Rhoney kind of red (not from the Rhone region itself, which doubtless helps keep the price down, but from a satellite region and made from Rhoney grapes Grenache, Carignan and Syrah.)

It’s quite nicely rounded (though that does give way to harshness on the finish), with a tannic weight to it. There’s a bit of a metallic tang to it too, perhaps (surely I can’t be the only one who once sucked on a mouthful of coins as a child? What’s that? I am? Oh shut up.) In other words, it’s the kind of wine you’d describe as rustic. Unpretentious.

An honest, rather brusque, young peasant of a wine.

There’s some fruit, yeah (lucky peasant nabbed himself a punnet of cherries), and a herby, stalky bite. No oak, so it’s fresh and supple.

Verdict

Be warned: the tannic roughness does build up, so it’s probably more of a food-partner than a solo quaffer. All considered, though — the price in particular — it’s not at all bad.

(Still, I wasn’t too heartbroken to consign half of it to my bolognese sauce. These peasants mustn’t be allowed to rise above their station, after all.)

Rating ★★ (2 stars)
ABV 13%
Price £5.99 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

Dao Sul Cabriz 2007 review

… is furlongs away from those horrible, flippant, fruit-stuffed wines that taste as if the producer were aiming at 10 year old schoolchildren

Label of a bottle of Portugese red wine produced by Cabriz. The label is relatively plain with a simple illustration of a building

Briefly.

This is a brawny gob-pleaser of a wine. A blend of Alfrocheiro, Tinta-Roriz and Touriga-Nacional grapes. Not, in other words, the famous ones.

And, you know, what? You should try it.

You should try it because it’s only £6.50. And for that price, this is sodding impressive. It’s not hard-going: there’s a welter of dark, dark fruit in there — but it certainly has an unapologetic bolshiness to it. It’s serious, it’s big. Furlongs away, in other words, from those horrible, flippant, fruit-stuffed wines that taste as if the producer were aiming at 10 year old schoolchildren.

There’s a fair old spedaddle of oak in there (aged six months, we are told, in French oak barrels), which smooths the old boy down a bit.

I say again: fantastic value. This easily equals (or beats) plenty of £10 bottles you could buy in the supermarket/off-license.

(Hap-tip to Graeme Semple, on whose recommendation I bought this bottle.)

Rating ★★★ (3 stars)
ABV 13%
Price £6.50 from The Wine Society — but (arseflaps!) they don’t have it any more. So my ‘you should try it’, above, is arguably redundant.

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