Bargain Booze: Esprit de Puisseguin Saint-Émilion from Waitrose

Today’s Bargain Booze is a Bordeaux from Waitrose. 1/3 off at the moment. It may not set your meticulously curated world alight, but it’s pretty good. A proper everyday Bordeaux.

Consider this a weary, ambiguous gesture in the direction of topicality. Another occasional series of posts wherein I’ll highlight alcoholic offers and deals that you might find interesting.

Today’s is Esprit de Puisseguin 2016, a Saint-Émilion that’s currently 1/3 off at dear old Waitrose, bringing it from £13.49 to £8.99. As I said: BARGAIN BOOZE.

It’s not bad stuff. Sure, there’s a bit of tannin grabbing away at your cheeks like an old granny at those of a chubby baby, but whack it into a decanter (or just a bloody measuring jug for all I care) for half an hour and it softens up nicely.

It’s not going to set your meticulously curated world alight, but it’s pretty good. A proper everyday Bordeaux.

I’ve said before that I don’t tend to buy supermarket Bordeaux in this price bracket, as I think there tends to be better price:quality ratio elsewhere — and I probably wouldn’t steer you towards old Esprit de Puisseguin at full price, to be honest. But reduced to under a tenner, it’s rather a good shout.

Also: Puisseguin in my mind has become Pissed Penguin. Extra marks.

Review: Moselle Les Hautes-Bassières Pinot Noir, Château de Vaux 2016

This is an extremely nice, supple, elegant pinot noir from Alsace. I gulped it down alongside some Burgundian escalopes a la Keith Floyd.

Ah, Floyd, lovely Floyd.

I wrote about the lovely Keith Floyd (who, I’m aware, was perhaps not consistently lovely as a man to live with in real life — but, by god, was lovely on camera in his heyday) as an inspiration for restarting this blog. Today’s wine, a fabulous Pinot Noir from Alsace with a ludicrously long name, was an excellent accompaniment to a recipe cribbed from one of the low-fi Floyd clips that the BBC hasn’t yet snatched away from those of us without TV licenses:

I made something akin to the above, but with pork rather than veal. Floyd’s culinary reference point is Burgundy, and the closest I could muster (without straying too far into the costly zone of my wine rack) to Burgundy was a Pinot Noir (same grape, you realise) from elsewhere in France: Moselle Les Hautes-Bassières Pinot Noir, Château de Vaux 2016 (The Wine Society, £13.50 — link is to the 2017, as they’re out of stock of 2016 now).

And, Christ, it’s good.

Snatch it to your nose and you’re enveloped in a heady musk of solvents, fruit and sand. To me it smells oh so magenta. Your own pretentious synaesthesiac mileage may vary.

Straight out of the bottle, it still had a certain stalkiness and petulance, but we hoofed it into the decanter and coaxed away its sulkiness. If you’re drinking the 2016 as well, I suggest you do likewise (or else hold onto it for a few more years, you patient, sensible, tedious old fart). It has that blooming, fruited warmth of a bloody good cherry brandy (dry, rich, complex; not some hideous confected crap) but absolutely no sentimentality or flab. There’s a wonderful steely edge of acidity that stirs your tastebuds into action like a riding crop to the arse of a shambling pony.

Then your pony effortlessly breaks into this sinuous, viscous canter of fruit and spice and warm, long, lovely, friendly alcohol.

I love this (amongst other things — so many other things) about Pinot noir: its ability to be both dancingly light and ridiculously powerful. It’s so goddamn honed. A featherweight boxer of a wine.

And it went delightfully with my pork escalopes — thank you for asking: that acid cutting elegantly through the cream and butter. I’m sure Floyd would have approved. And opened a second bottle.

Yeah, it’s been ages. No, I’m not sorry.

Ghemme, Ioppa, 2004. A wine that smells like all those memories you goddamn wish you had. But you don’t. You loser.

Bottle of Ghemme Ioppa with a teapot in the background

Smell. Smell is the most evocative sense, innit? The one that can yank you (via a chance waft of teenage perfume) back to that time when you first kissed that girl. You know. That one. Or to that time when you walked out in the field and the air was heavy with summer and you knew that in two weeks’ time you’d be going into the big school. Or to that time when a dog pissed on your bag.

Yeah. Smell.

So let’s talk about the smell of a wine called Ioppa. I like the fact that it’s called Ioppa, because it sounds like the kind of word a maladroit Italian waiter might exclaim as a plate of food buy clomid online medication slips from his helpless hand and crashes onto the floor.

And I like the fact that it smells a-fucking-mazing.

It smells of sweet, sweet, squashy red fruits, heaped with dark (satanically dark) muscovado sugar. It smells like all those memories you goddamn wish you had. But you don’t. You loser.

Then you drink it. And it slides into your mouth like something that shouldn’t be there but really should. Sinuous and lithe. Before exlopding into soil and life and violence.

It’s powerful, and it is very damn nice. You should probably try it.

It’d give you something to remember.

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Wine Ghemme, Ioppa, 2004
Price £10.95 from The Wine Society

Boss Wine

In which a glass of delicious Valpolicella is pressed into the not-remotely-reluctant hand of Old Parn, and he feels guilty, the next day, for his inability to review it properly

A bottle of Bussola ValpolicellaWhen your boss invites you round after work and gives you a glass of wine, you’re not reviewing that wine.

But you still notice when that wine happens to be a lovely fucker, don’t you? And if you have some kind of weird disorder whereby you actually feel a bit guilty for not reviewing a lovely wine (as though the wine’s feelings might be hurt by this scandalous omission), you end up resolving two things:

  1. TO MAN THE FUCK UP AND STOP ANTHROPOMOPHISING THINGS, YOU LOSER; and
  2. to write an unabashedly subjective blog post about it, anyway.

So. My boss (who has a very generous way with the wine, I might add — a generosity that has its drawbacks, the following day) pressed a glass of Bussola Valpolicella into my hand. And — jeeps, boy — it was very lovely indeed. Huge, intense, strong — but soft, yielding, gentle.

The wine, that is; not my hand.

Though my hand is also all of those things.

Anyway. Bussola Valpolicella is a delicious wine. I’m not going to give it a star rating, because this ain’t a real review. But if you’re in Majestic, I’d grab a bottle (it’s £22). You don’t have to review it, either. Just drink the old bugger and enjoy it. Sharing it with your boss is optional.

Bricco Rosso Suagna Langhe Rosso 2006 review

… is neither despicable nor mucky. Or, if it is a tiny bit mucky, only in a reassuringly rustic kind of way.

A bottle of Suagna from The Wine SocietyYet again, a staggeringly good value Italian red from The Wine Society. If they’re not careful, they’re going to start topping consumer satisfaction lists, y’know?

I mean, look at the despicable muck you could be buying for £3.50 more than this. Look at it. Weep.

I said WEEP.

This is neither despicable nor mucky. Well, maybe it’s a tiny bit mucky — but only in a reassuringly rustic kind of way. You know. Aniseed, a bit of leather and bramble?

Nothing wildly unexpected, I suppose. But that’s not the point, is it? The point is that it’s £6.50.

Good point.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region Piedmont
Grape Dolcetto
ABV 13.5%
Price £6.50 from The Wine Society

Potel Aviron Moulin-a-Vent 2005 review

… triumphantly reminds us that the word ‘fruity’ actually refers to real, honest fruit — not the synthetic sugar-water peddled by oily bell-ends in ugly suits

Label of this bottle of Beaujolais from Moulin a Vent. Simple, text on white

What have we here? A bottle of Beaujolais, yeah. This’n hails from the region of Moulin-a-Vent — one of the ten so-called ‘crus’ (specific small areas of Beaujolais that are classified as the top regions).

Which is all, doubtless, very nice to know.

The reason I mention it, though, is that you may already have an idea what to expect of a nippy little Beaujolais. And this Moulin-a-Vent may upend your expectations.

Because Beaujolais is the Lolita of the red wine world, except (I damn well hope) with a bit less implicit moral degeneracy. We expect a Beaujolais, don’t we, to be consumed in the very bloom of its youth? All flowers and fruits and heady perfume.

But it needn’t always be thus. And this is one wine that you may not want to tip down your gullet before it’s even reached its second birthday.

And so — with the aid of my parents and some damn nice lamb leg steaks — I decided to give this six-year-old a whirl.

And a rather damn good whirl it was, too.

Verdict

First, can I just say: fruit. Fruit. This is what I want to taste when someone tells me a wine is ‘fruity’. I want it to be — like this — as if I’d just crammed my thirsty gob with a handful of sharp, wild berries, picked from, oh, I don’t know, a forest thicket or something. All bright and sharp and savage, the shudder-inducing burst of flavour giving way to the bitter, matt cud of the skins.

That’s fruity. Let us never forget, and allow some oily bell-end in an ugly suit sell us the notion that ‘fruity’ actually means ‘tastes like fucking synthetic fruit-flavoured sugar-water’.

So this is fruity like wild cherries fished from your the pocket of your grandad’s tweed jacket — overlaid with spice and tobacco and polish and leather. Still youthful, oh yes — but this is a kind of autumnal youth, a rustic youth. Not a lab-grown, foetal youth.

I love wine like this — wine that combines a come-and-get-me vitality with a self-confident integrity.

And reminds us that the word fruity belongs to us, to the hedgerows, to the soil — not to some bunch of pink-tied FMCG wankers.

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Region Moulin-a-Vent, Beaujolais
Grape(s) Gamay
ABV 13%
Price £10.99 from The Wine Society (no longer available)

Domaine de Mourchon 2005, Seguret, Cotes du Rhone Villages

… will seduce you with a heady waft of fruit, then pull you up, slap you and strap you, look you fucking DEAD in the eye and ask you: ‘Do you think you’re hard enough?’

A closeup of the label of a bottle of Domaine de Mourchon. Relatively modern label design for a Cotes du Rhone, typographic emphasis

I’m sorry, but that was fucking amazing.

Rare, rare — fuck, practically endangered — sirloin steak. Meat so tender its fibres splay apart like fishnet. And a big, chunky Cotes du Rhone. Nothing too venerable or refined — still young enough to play loud music and pout when its parents come and tell it to quiet down.

Something avec spunk.

And Domaine de Mourchon’s got spunk. At the same time as being rather complex. Sure, it may play loud music, but it also surreptitiously reads William Blake and watches film noir.

The combination of spunk and complexity doesn’t always come cheap. But I don’t begrudge a sodding penny of the £14.50 I spent on this wine; nor of the £5 I spent on 200g of the best steak I could find. So take your ‘Dine in for £10’, Marks & Spencer, and stuff it up the rotisserie-ready orifice of your choice. Because I’m dining in for £20 — yeah, just me — and it’s STILL A PRIVILEGE.

Yeah, the wine. That’s what we were talking about, wasn’t it?

So — it’s got that initial jubilant fanfare of blackcurrant that you so often find in new world wines from these grapes (Domaine de Mourchon is made from 60% grenache; 40% syrah) — but, here, that gleeful fruit isn’t allowed to dominate. First of all it’s softened up by a delicious — almost bready — savouriness. Then it’s wrestled to the ground by stern tannins, their muscles laced with dark veins of pepper, spice, wood, leather.

And all the while there’s an alluring slip of aniseed waifing around, smiling coyly, just to confuse you.

Verdict

I don’t know about you, but I go weak and jibbly for wines that 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.

I suspect I’m not hard enough.

But get enough blood-oozing red meat and Domaine de Mourchon down my gullet and I might start to think I am.

Rating ★★★★ (4 stars)
ABV 14.5%
Price £14.50 from The Wine Society

Burgo Viejo Rioja Tinto, Naked Wines

… a Naked wine that’s like silk wrapped around a slightly splintery wooden post. Does that sound sexy to you? Eh?

A bottle of Burgo Viejo Rioja from Naked Wines

Decant! Decant! Decant!

Apologies for that triple imperative — arguably a rather abrupt (if not outright boorish) way to begin a blog post. But if you happen to be in possession of a bottle of this Rioja from Naked Wines, let’s hope you’re also in possession of a decanter.

But before I elaborate, let’s talk a little about Naked Wines, shall we? Because it’s quite a funky idea for a business.

Background: Naked Wines

Essentially, the whole shebang is based on the principle that wine is cheaper the earlier one buys it. The logical extension? You buy up all of a wine before it’s even been made. You are giving the maker the security (so the thinking goes) to spend all their time and money making a good wine. Read more about the business model on their website.

Now, I’m not quite sure what I think about this. On the one hand, it’s an attractively original approach, and fosters engagement between grower and customer; on the other, capitalism is economically dominant for a reason, after all, and an organisation that has to fight for its sales arguably has a greater incentive to strive than one that’s implicitly insured against risk. Does a guaranteed income not potentially lessen the drive for excellence?

But that’s theory. I’m no economist; and, besides, we’re interested — aren’t we? — in practice. So let’s dive into this Rioja.

The review

Okay, so here’s where my opening battlecry of ‘Decant!’ comes in. Because the first mouthful I took of this Naked Rioja was pretty disappointing. Sure, up the snout it has a sweet, enticing, raisiny waft. And sure, my tongue tingled like a fairy on acid — but the taste experience was oddly flat, despite the apparent intensity of the wine, leaving an impression of thinness, hollowness. My palate went largely untouched

And my palate LIKES TO BE TOUCHED, alright?

Enter decanter, stage left. Just as well I had a few thumbs to twiddle while I waited half an hour or so to let oxygen work its magic.

And it was worth twiddling. The wine became noticeably deeper, silkier — filled out, if you will. I’m glad my instincts told me I should try decanting, for I was otherwise poised to give this wine a bit of a belting.

The flavours and aromas (initially underdeveloped) expand to transformative effect. Peppered blackberries (just the way momma made ’em); liquorice. The combination of bitterness and fruit is strikingly like that of biting into a dark, dark chocalate-encased cherry liqueur.

Even after decanting, it’s somewhat austere: spiny, coniferous. In some respects it put me in mind of youthful pinot noir: it has that stalky vigour. That haughtiness. It plays hard to get.

Its bitter roughness, however, isn’t so pinot. I wonder if age would meld these two sides of the wine better? At the moment, it’s like silk wrapped around a slightly splintery wooden post.

(What do you mean, ‘That makes it sound kind of sexy’? Jesus.)

Just because it’s naked doesn’t mean you need to get all pervy about it.

Anyhow, this was the first of my six-bottle ‘trial’ case from Naked Wines. So we shall see how the remaining bottles stack up, shall we? They’re certainly in the game.

Rating ★★★ (but only if you decant it, or let it age a while)
ABV 13%
Price £7.99 from Naked Wines (though if you join as a Naked Wine Angel, you get 33% off all the wines)

Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005

… will put you on a level with Vladimir Putin — or else leave you yearning for a cellar

A bottle of Balgownie Estate Cab Sauv

We all have our own milestones in life.

Some people tell themselves they’ll have made it when they finally get that bmw they’ve always lusted after; others, when they have their first child. Or their first million. For other people still, their life truly attains meaning only once they have undertaken a stage-managed execution of a large predatory beast that, thanks to odds stacked monumentally in its disfavour, has absolutely no fucking chance of defending itself.

(Ah! To be a True Man!)

But I? I, dear reader, am — relatively speaking — humility itself.

I tell myself that I’ll have made it when I have my own cellar.

NO, NOT IN A JOSEF FRITZL KIND OF WAY, YOU ABSOLUTE FUCKING MESS. GET OUT NOW.

Unfortunately, see, Old Parn is forever schlepping his arse from one rented hovel to the next. And the rented hovels of Oxford, it seems, are low on cellars.

(They are also, FYI, low on pianos. Irrelevant but true.)

The point? For, of course, there is always a point, my pretties, isn’t there? Yah. The point is that the very best place for the above-depicted bottle of Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 would be a cellar.

A cellar. Alongside 11 other bottles of Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, if you please.

Because this is a wine I have done something of a disservice by killing before its prime (and, seamlessly, we’re back to Vladimir Putin again). In 5–10 years, it’ll be fucking delicious. No mistake.

Right now, it’s formidable — commingling fruit and wood and frost and metal. Bracing stuff. In the same way that rugby on a frost-hardened pitch in mid-January was (apparently) also bracing.

As you’d expect (if you’ve been paying attention so far, not allowing your mind to wander to fleeting visions of the Russian President’s naked torso), there’s a welter of tannin going on in this mouthful, which gives it more backbone than a frigging brontosaurus.

It filleth thy gob.

There’s pepper and, yeah, fat juicy black olives squished between the back of your tongue and the roof of your mouth. That bit where it’s all slimy and squishy. Yes, right there. But don’t keep poking around, alright? You’ll only make yourself sick.

What else? In the catalogue of flavours (never convinced how interesting this is to read, but still) we have ticks next to liquorice, parma violet and young sour blackberries.

Sniff (if you dare) and you’re hit with that huge, almost impenetrable board-pen smell. Well, obviously it doesn’t actually smell like a board-pen. That would be horrible, and this is, in fact, lovely. But you know how a board-pen’s smell absolutely fills up your whole nasal world and makes you almost cry with the intensity of it?

(NO I HAVE NOT BEEN ABUSING SOLVENTS.)

Well, this is like that in its intensity. Dude.

The length is great, the balance is great. The wine is powerful, matt, complex.

All great, then. And drinking it right now, I’d give it three solid, solid stars. If that’s what you’re going to do, then you should definitely decant the old boy well in advance to let him breathe and relax a little. To, um, massage that huge backbone a little, y’know.

But, oh sweet messiah, how those three stars would multiply (I have no doubt) after a good few years in the quiet, the cool, the dark.

A good few years in my non-existent cellar, in other words.

In anticipation of which, I’m upping the rating to 4. But only if you’re patient.

Verdict

Well, you big smug cellar-owning bastard, buy a case of it then, why don’t you? Leave a comment with a link to a photo of it in your goddamn cellar, alongside you, smirking like a fat little oik.

I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY NOW.

Rating ★★★★ (but only ★★★ if, like me, you persist in drinking it now)
ABV 14%
Price £13.50 from The Wine Society, £15.99 from Marks & Spencer.

Review: Chateau de la Grave Caractere 2005, Bordeaux

…will bloom, big & magnificent, in your gob

Photograph of a bottle of Chateau de la Grave Caractere

A brief third instalment, this evening, in my jamboree of Christmas wines. We’ve already had the festive sherry and the pre-Christmas-dinner Champagne. With the dinner itself (goose, courtesy of my splendid parents) we drank a bottle of Chateau de la Grave Bordeaux 2005.

It was big and blooming. Blooming big and big-blooming, if you want to be all corny about it.

Supported — but not constrained — by a taut scaffold of tannins (this wine could’ve aged further, had I but the patience to let it), it easily squared up against old monsieur goose.

Amidst the usual big bordeauxy flavours there are sprinklings of bitter sildenafil online overnight dark chocolate laced with orange zest. And there’s a real old mushroomy depth to each mouthful, assuming you give it time to bloom and linger, rather than cramming hot parsnips into your maw the very next second. You big yokel.

Verdict

So, yes. A very good, solid bordeaux. Not quite awe-inspiring enough to make me leap and cavort around the festive table (a mercy, perhaps, for all concerned), but very enjoyable, very robust, very satisfying.

Rating ?????
ABV 13%
Price Was something like £18.50 from The Wine Society, but is no longer available there or, it seems, anywhere much else.