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.

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.

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.