A Pinotage that’s all fruit and curves and perpetual smiling

Manley Estate’s Pinotage is all fruit and soft curves and perpetual smiling — and I can’t help wishing it’d make me work a bit harder

Closeup of the Manley Estate label — fairly traditional line drawing of vineyardManley, it’s not you; it’s me. You’re great. Really, I mean it. It’s just — well — you’re just too nice.

I like wines that make me work a bit. Not a lot, you understand (I’m way too lazy for that) — but a tad. And there’s something about Manley Estate’s Pinotage that is a bit too easy. It puts itself on a plate for me. Not, you understand, literally (although that would be fine: I’m happy to take my wine from whatever receptacle presents itself), but, y’know, metaphorically.

That’s not to say Manley is bad. It’s really not at all. It’s all fruit and soft buy furosemide tablets curves and perpetual smiling. I’d just like to see what it looks like with a frown on its face, too.

Christ, enough with the metaphors, Parn.

So, yeah. Fine. Easy to drink. Quite full. Smiley. Could do with more brusqueness. A tad expensive. But fine. Nice.

Oh Manley. When this is all over, I do hope we can still be friends.

This bottle was received as a free sample from Naked Wines

Rating ?? 2 stars (fair)
Region Tulbagh
Grape Pinotage
ABV 14.5%
Price The 2009 is sold out, but the 2010 costs £13.99 from Naked Wines (£10.49 for members)

A loving 70s housewife of a wine

… has a picture of a horse on it

A bottle of yellow-labelled Arabella (stock image)Slightly too much bosh when you first slug Arabella into your gob — but other than that, she’s pretty nice. Especially if you don’t chill the pants off her, but instead do her the courtesy of drinking her only slightly chilled. Then you get all the luscious tinned fruit she’s been saving up for you like a loving 70s housewife, fearful of imminent nuclear apocalypse.

Mmm. Tinned generic cialis cheapest fruit.

Pear drops crop up in there, too (though quite as dramatically as we’ve seen elsewhere). Rather nice, actually.

And it’s got a picture of a horse on it.

Um. That’s all I’ve got to say. Can I go and play in the torrential rain now, please?

Rating ??? 3 stars (good)
Grape Chenin Blanc
Region South Africa
ABV 12%
Price £8.49 from Naked Wines; £6.25 if you’re a member

Arabella Reserve Shiraz Viognier review

… smells like Bulgarian woodsmoke in August; smells like respite from the guilt of being A Bit Shit With Bulgarian Orphans; smells like charmingly self-indulgent adolescent ennui

A bottle of Arabella Shiraz Viognier from Naked Wines. Black and bright yellow label, with a line drawing of a horse's head

Later, I’m going to tell you about a pretty nice red wine.

But first, let’s talk about Bulgaria.

Bulgaria, see, occupies a distinct position in my personal geography. At the tender (bruisably tender) age of 20, I spent three weeks there. Ostensibly, I was looking after orphans. In reality, I was having trouble enough looking after myself. Oh boy, was I hungry for my own attention.

Plus ça change, dear reader, plus ça change.

My memories of Bulgaria are multifoliate — and extraordinarily intense. Children running through sand littered with cigarette butts and glass shards towards a dirty sea. Children pointing at skyscrapers and Coca Cola adverts, repeating one word — phonetically, something like ‘Hubava! Hubava!’ — that turned out to mean, ‘Beautiful! Beautiful!’ Cafes selling blessed tumblers of 1-part gin, 1-part tonic — and the fucking nicest hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. And me writing a fuckload of shit, self-indulgent poetry.

And when I took a sniff of Arabella (yeah, add your own witty double-entendre here, please) — I was right back there. In Bulgaria. Sitting on a stained plastic chair outside one of those cafes, surrounded by the smell of woodsmoke and midsummer.

Which is, of course, absolutely no use to you at all. Because you (I’m almost sure) weren’t there. So you don’t know what it smelt like.

Christ, how that must suck.

But there we are; it’s official: this wine smells like Bulgarian woodsmoke in August. It smells like respite from the guilt of being A Bit Shit With Bulgarian Orphans. It smells like charmingly self-indulgent adolescent ennui.

SO PUT THAT IN YOUR SODDING BOOK OF TASTING NOTES, ALRIGHT?

Verdict

What else do you want to know, then? Apart from whether it actually tastes nice or not. Which it does, thanks.

Okay. Well, there’s spice and berry and wood. And chocolate. And coffee. And you can fucking bury me before I’ll roll those last two into one and say ‘mocha’.

But it’s pretty soft, and pretty accessible — not bolshy and severe. Yeah, sure, there’s a bit of bite (it’s not a pushover), but it’s not one of those cryptic crossword wines that’ll furrow that lovely brow of yours.

All in all, Parn approves. Parn also approves of the price.

And Arabella is certainly a good deal more hubava than those fucking tower blocks and Coke billboards.

Rating 3 stars (good)
Region Western Cape
Grapes Shiraz, Viognier
ABV 14.5%
Price £9.99 from Naked Wines (£6.66 to members, which is a frigging steal). I was drinking the 2009, but the link is to the 2010, as the older one’s all gone
Aching for a second opinion? Well, you should check out the Cambridge Wine Blogger’s review of Arabella Reserve Shiraz Viognier. Because we seem to agree. And he doesn’t say ‘mocha’, either. Good man.

The Society’s Exhibition Sauvignon Blanc, Elim, 2008

… is a breathtakingly, audaciously barefaced, joyously ebullient, in-your-face cliche of a sauvignon blanc

A bottle of this South African Sauvignon Blanc from the Wine Society. Classic Exhibition range label

Man alive. Here’s a wine that almost seems like it ought to crunch in your mouth. See, it’s like biting into a crisp, raw, juice-spurting green pepper.

This is a wine that’s so incredibly Sauvignon-Blancish that it’s almost a caricature. Almost like a bunch of satirical wine-makers got together and decided to make something that was so goddamn Sauvignon Blanc that it’d prompt shouts of incredulous laughter.

New World Sauvignon Blanc is generally pretty damn accessible — and this wine exaggerates all those accessible characteristics to such a degree that it’s almost (paradoxically, dude) inaccessible, it’s so full-on accessible. It’s a breathtakingly, audaciously barefaced, joyously upfront, in-your-face cliche.

And I rather like it.

It’s fruited, dry, and slips down leaving nary a cloy or a clog. It’s not sugary and simplistic (those are all-too-common SB characteristics it doesn’t exaggerate). As well as the green pepper, there’s fresh chilli, herbs. Hell, it’s like a blinkin’ stir-fry.

So if you’re in the mood for a bit of sauvignon satire — a wine that’ll throw your friends’ efforts into the sauvignon shade — this is for you. The one New World Sauvignon Blanc to rule them all, the one New World Sauvignon Blanc to bind them. &c &c.

If you don’t much like Sauvignon Blanc, though — um — actually, you probably don’t need me to finish this sentence.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region Western Cape
Grape Sauvignon Blanc
ABV 13%
Price £9.99 from The Wine Society (no longer available, I’m afraid)

Bellingham ‘The Bernard Series’ Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2010

… comes dressed in an attention-seekingly sparkly top and laughs raucously enough to distract you from your own conversation.

Closeup of the typographically elegant label of this bottle of Old Vine Chenin Blanc

I came to this wine thirsty and optimistic. Optimistic because it has a beautiful label, with elegant, restrained typography of the kind that floats the Parn boat. So — does the taste match the typography?

Nope.

Which isn’t to say it’s bad; it’s merely of a totally different character. Whereas the label is stylishly minimal, the wine itself is confident. Confidently podgy. A fat, extrovert wine, dressed in an attention-seekingly sparkly top, who laughs raucously in restaurants and distracts you from your own conversation.

Altogether, it smacks you in the chops in a pretty unapologetic kind of way. It’s boshy and veggy and clompy and — mm hmm — not perhaps distinguished by its finesse. And, curiously, there’s an almost chickeny quality to it. Make of that what you will.

Verdict

Now, here’s order viagra 25 mg online where individual taste comes in. Because, for me, a tub-thumping white like this is too full-on. I know some people love this kind of thing, but me? Not so much so.

No. I wouldn’t call this a lovely wine. It’s too chubby and loud. Then again, it’s certainly not flawed — in fact, I’d say it’s well-made — and I rate it accordingly. It’s the kind of thing I might occasionally fancy — a bit of a sensory blast — but afterwards end up feeling I’ve spent a fair wodge on an experience I didn’t really find terribly luxurious.

A bit like a meal in a restaurant — on the table next to the hen party.

Rating ??? (3 stars)
ABV 14.5%
Price £10.99 from Majestic

Robertson Winery Chenin Blanc 2010 review

… has got some chub — and is (perhaps) wearing clothes that’re ever so slightly too tight to be quite becoming

Macro closeup of the label of a bottle of Robertson Winery Chenin Blanc

Today, a humble South African Chenin Blanc did battle with THE GARCLICKIEST PESTO IN THE WORLD. A meal so astoundingly garlic-laced that my colleagues tomorrow will be fucking reeling at the stench of it off me.

Anyway — how did our plucky Chenin Blanc stand up to it all? Not too badly, really. I mean, it fizzes a bit in the gob (in protest, I guess), but the acidity and body mean that it’s not utterly overwhelmed. A respectable performance.

And the wine itself (when experienced outside the blast radius of the garlic)? Perfectly nice. There’s a slight veginess to the smell that I’m not totally wild about: it’s not the classiest honker, to be honest. But absolutely fine. Some (not unpleasant) soap and flowers wafting around there.

Taste-wise, again, it’s perfectly acceptable. That vegetable quality is there (though, I should emphasise, in the background). Otherwise, there’s a homely cheniny podginess to it — fullfruited, syrupy, yet acidic. A wine that’s got some chub, and (perhaps) is wearing clothes ever so slightly too tight for it.

Verdict

So what do I think? Acceptable. And, yeah, it’s fairly cheap (indeed, bloody cheap, if you pick it up before 2 May as part of Majestic’s 20% off South Africa deal)

But I love Chenin Blanc. And this doesn’t really zing and sparkle in the way the grape can. Most of all, I’d like it to be fresher. And to lose that slight ponk of compost.

Then again, given the amount of near-raw garlic in me right now, I’m scarcely in a position to talk.

Rating ★★ (2 stars — given the price)
ABV 13%
Price £5.99 at Majestic (currently £4.79 if bought with another South African bottle — until 2 May)

Bon Cap 2009 Viognier Review

… will knock you out and stuff a crapload of lilies right in your face. Next thing you know, you’re waking up in a coffin

The label of a condensation-misted bottle of Bon Cap Viognier

Reader, I have a problem. I keep attracting big, butch whites.

It’s not that I have anything against big butch whites. It’s just that, well, I find them a tad overwhelming. I have this old-fashioned tendency to prefer a bit of subtlety. A bit of femininity, dare I say?

OH CHRIST HOW RECHERCHE.

But the big butch whites just keep coming.

My first warning ought to have been the alcohol level of this wine. It’s 14.5%, by the risen Lord! But the alcohol level isn’t my biggest problem.

No. My biggest problem is that this wine makes me think I might actually be dead.

Because some bastard has apparently stuffed a crapload of lilies right in my face and I can’t seem to shove them away.

That’s the overriding aroma. Lily. You might call them ‘lilies of the field’; I call them ‘lilies of the mortuary’. Bleurgh. That heavy, languid, vulgar scent that overpowers your senses like chloroform. The smell of intoxicating death. Cadaver in a wedding dress.

(Sorry, all you lily fans out there, if I’m pissing on your funeral. But I really don’t like that scent. It’s depressing, that’s what it is. Surely I’m not the only one to think this? Come on, drop me a comment if you agree. Join me in my battle against the conspiracy of (lily-livered?) lily-lovers.)

Anyhow, yeah, Viognier isn’t (I realise) the subtlest of grapes. So what did I expect? And I must credit the chaps at Bon Cap with managing to keep a rein on this wine, despite its headstrong ABV. Particularly in light of the fact that the grapes are organically grown, that probably takes a fair bit of winemaking skill. Not that I know the first thing about the technicalities of it, so I’m really just guessing.

(Yeah, I know, you’d all desperately have preferred a 2,000 word essay, here, on the technicalities of Viognier winemaking, wouldn’t you? Well. Sozamonia.)

Verdict

Anyway, the thing is (what I really me-e-ean): it’s not a bad wine — hence my strenuously impartial rating — it’s just not to my taste.

Amongst the lilies, then, we have a floral abundance: lavender, violet, the usual heavily aromatic suspects. There’s a nice old lacing of dark muscovado sugar as you exhale (yes, lungs, exhale! You’re not dead, remember?) In your slack-tongued gob, it’s heavy, too.

Bottom line: if you happen to fancy an alcoholic reminder of your fragile mortality, you could do a good bit worse than Bon Cap Viognier. It’ll give you all the wino-goth thrills you could wish for. But you’ll excuse me, won’t you, if I go for something a little sunnier?

Rating ★★★ (3 stars)
ABV 14.5%
Price I got mine for £9.49 (I think) in The Wine Society’s sale (was originally £11.49). But it’s all gone now.

Knockon Wood 2007

… is a big old pornstar

Having given their Barbera (poor Barbera) something of a mauling, last time round, I offered Marks & Spencer the chance to win me over. So I picked up a bottle of Knockon Wood — a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinotage — in the expectation of a little South African charm. The fact that it was on special offer merely sweetened the deal.

As it turns out, though, I didn’t exactly get South African charm; I got South African wine-porn.

So, first off, this is a BIG wine. You know what I mean. It’s 14.5% big.

During its stay in your mouth, it starts off soft. Then gets much harder. Then softens again, with a valedictory burst of cream. And if you thought I was talking about anything other than wine there, WASH YOUR MIND OUT, YOU SORDID INDIVIDUAL.

There’s a dusty, musky, polishy depth to the wine, and it’s full across the tongue — with a wide, rhubarby blare of flavour. As the crescendo of flavours peaks and eases into diminuendo, there’s that aforementioned creamy finish, thanks to a good hoof of oak. Maybe a little much for my taste.

The coexistence of acid sharpness, musky depth and smooth oak is an interesting one. Ripe blackberries and cream. The wine has quite an unctuous quality, accompanied by caramel, tar, cedar…

Verdict

Like I say, this is a big boy of a wine. It’s confident. It’s smooth. And we had fun.

But (as its pornographic qualities might attest) it’s not the classiest. There’s something rather unrefined about its strutting exhibitionism: those flavours could be tied together more effectively. The whole job could be handled rather more subtly, y’know? As it is, there’s something of the wham-bang-thank-you-ma’am to it.

Then again — um — maybe you’re not looking for subtle porn.

Rating ★★★☆☆
ABV 14.5%
Price £12.99 from Marks & Spencer (currently reduced to £10.99)