Vina Arana Reserva, La Rioja Alta 2001 review

… is like a sweet mouthful of ripest autumn — and is the nicest wine to grace Old Parn’s palate so far this year

Macro photo of the label of a bottle of Vina Arana Rioja

Vina Arana’s Rioja was the nicest wine I drank this year. As such, I wrote about it effusively.

Then I goddamn well managed to save over the file. What a tremendous great pillock.

So now, like someone on a contrived, low-budget TV documentary, I have to attempt to relive that bygone experience at second hand. Ideally, I’d have some unthreatening smalltime celebrity meet me at my house (he’d knock on the door and I’d answer it as though we’d never met and there weren’t a frigging filmcrew standing five feet away) and interview me about Vina Arana. They’d do some Ken Burns effect stuff with slow, repetitious voiceovers, to conceal an embarrassing dearth of actual material, play some music and make it all (no doubt) rather delightful.

But I don’t have the resources for that shit. Even though I am pretty good at concealing an embarrassing dearth of material. So you’re going to have to make do with me embroidering some notes I wrote on my iPhone. Sozamonia.

So. Drinking Vina Arana is like taking a mouthful of autumn. It’s all russet and ripeness and deciduous nostalgia. Juice-dripping plums, spices, that kind of shebang.

There’s this quality called balance that wine writers burble on about. In fact, as things that wine writers burble on about go, this is one of the less pelvis-gnawingly irritating. Because it’s an actual word that a normal person might understand. But still. What balance means in the case of Vina Arana is that this wine is on a knife-edge of ripeness.

You know how there’s that (maddeningly brief) period during which fruit — a punnet of raspberries, say — is perfectly ripe? A day less and it’s still a tiny bit young; a day more and it’ll start going ever so slightly rotten and degenerate. But right now? Right now, it’s perfect. Right now, that fruit absolutely fucking sings.

And that’s where this wine is. Right goddamn there.

It doesn’t have that loose, woofy, over-the-top quality where the flavours start to become caricatures of themselves. But it could hardly be more ripe. And — like perfect fruit — it’s all about acidity underpinning sweetness.

It’s soft but strong. Firm but gentle. Confident but seductive. It yields and it withstands.

I like wine like this almost as much as I like people like this. (Oh, boy: people like this.) And, like I said, it was the nicest wine I’ve drunk all year.

Now to post this goddamn review rather than cretinously deleting it.

Rating ★★★★★ 5 stars (outstanding)
Region Rioja
Grapes Tempranillo (95%) and Mazuelo (5%)
ABV 13%
Price I got mine a fair while ago for under £20 (I think) from The Wine Society (but it’s no longer available). A Google search throws up a few places still selling it, such as Smithfield Wine (£22.26). Both The Wine Society (£18) andWaitrose (£18.99), meanwhile, are selling the 2004.

Jurancon Sec Chant des Vignes, Domaine Cauhapé 2010 review

… doesn’t play remotely hard to get: extrovert, fruit-laden, immediate

A closeup of the label of this Jurancon Sec half bottle from The Wine SocietyThis Jurancon — made from the outstandingly named Gros Manseng grape — has that grassy, springy, verdant burst that you associate with Sauvignon Blanc. And, like Sauv Blanc, it’s mightily accessible. A garden-friendly, pub-friendly, gob-friendly kind of wine. Not remotely playing hard to get, it’s extrovert, fruit-laden, immediate.

But here’s where it beats the pub Sauv Blancs. Yes, it’s got that front-of-mouth accessibility. But it stays in balance. It doesn’t gank up your mouth or descend into sugary blandness. Instead, it’s taut and toned throughout. Balanced, yeah?

Good, simple stuff. And, yes, I’m reviewing another half bottle. Because I like half bottles. Alright?

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region Jurancon, south-west France
Grape Gros Manseng
ABV 13.5%
Price £4.95 for a half bottle from The Wine Society

Alsace Pinot Noir, Kuentz-Bas Collection 2005 review

… will help you avoid meting out acts of equine violence should you be confronted with the prospect of a Pinot Noir Twitter shindig

Closeup of this Alsace Pinot Noir's label: gold and brown, with a simple crest and typographic focus

Way back — way, way back — there was some kind of pinot noir ‘event’ on Twitter. ‘Let’s all drink pinot noir,’ the governing philosophy of said event seemed to be, ‘and pretend that doing so has some kind of higher purpose or conceptual justification.’

Well, Old Parn doesn’t necessarily need conceptual justification to wrench the cork from a bottle of PN. But one doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, does one? (Or, in the words of Young Parn, many years ago, one doesn’t knock a gift horse in the mouth. Which would be even more churlish.)

Anyhow. Conceptually justified to the max, I took out the above-depicted half bottle of Kuentz-Bas. And rather fine it was, too: poised and sharp, cialis online to buy fruited and taut. Its colour was pale, russet-tinged. Once it’d been out in the glass a while, it really bloomed and softened. Relaxed.

(A little like that gift horse did, once it realised I wasn’t about to crack it a swift uppercut to the jaw.)

Verdict

Supple and smooth, with a tiny gruff stemminess at the back of it. Beautiful to hold in your gob. Light, effervescent.

It is an absolute avalanche of joy to be able to buy a wine like this in a half bottle. Thank you, once again, Wine Society; thank you. And thank you, Pinot Noir Day. Or whatever your name was.

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Region Alsace
Grape Pinot Noir
ABV 13%
Price £7.50 for a half bottle from The Wine Society

The Wine Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir review

… is just the kind of wine into whose welcoming alcoholic embrace you’d yearn to tumble after a day of bubblewrap and despair

A closeup of the magenta-dominated label of the Wine Society's Chilean Pinot Noir. The label bears an image of a flower.

I’m on my way to London. Right now. Yeah, check out my power-commuting ass.

(Poor beast. He really doesn’t like the motorway traffic. I knew I should’ve taken the camel instead.)

Jokes, jokes. I’m actually on a bus. A bus enchanted with the sweet, sweet magic of wifi. When I boarded this bus, accompanied by a suitcase big enough to bury me in (although, I like to think, aesthetically unfit for such a purpose: let it be noted that I’d prefer my final place of rest not to possess zips and expandable compartments), I chirpily remarked to the driver that I had ‘all my worldly possessions’ with me.

That, dear reader, was what is known in the trade as a downright fucking lie.

Because — I have discovered — the sum total of Old Parn’s worldly possessions is roughly equivalent in volume to the sum total of the worldly possessions of the dragon in Beowulf.

(Although drastically inequivalent in terms of fiscal value.)

So you may well imagine (if you have nothing better to imagine, you poor, impoverished sod) the innumerable hours of box-stuffing, newspaper scrunching and cutlery-sorting that have lately consumed my evenings. As I BUBBLE-WRAP MY LIFE.

(Or rather — let’s keep this metaphor on its toes, shall we? — as I decide that large portions of my life will probably survive the journey without bubblewrap, because I can’t be arsed with that nonsense.)

Wha’? Uh, sorry, I think I just nodded off, there. You were saying something? Wine? What? You say this is a blog about wine? Uh. Right. Okay. Jesus. Have some patience, won’t you?

Because what I was leading up to (if you’d just let me finish) was this: should you find yourself bubblewrapping your life, what you’re going to need is a welcoming alcoholic embrace into which to tumble, at the end of the tedious, tedious day.

And The Wine Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir gives a pretty comforting embrace.

First up, let’s talk price. Because people keep saying these are straitened times (though I guess they might actually, on reflection, be saying that these are straightened thymes, and I’ve been reading a wholly unintended economic subtext to what are in fact observations of niche culinary trends. It would explain why they were waving a bunch of unusually rigid herbaceous offcuts in my face at the time).

YES, LONDON, YOU ARE LUCKY TO HAVE ME. There ain’t no suitcase big enough to bury my puns.

In any case, this wine is very, very good value. It’s relatively soft. Pinot Noir can (especially at a price like this) be on the austere side. Not so here. It’s pretty ripe, y’know? Fruited, gobfilling. Very accessible. It’s a wine that gives of itself generously; no haughtiness.

To be fair, it doesn’t have anything to be haughty about — it’s not a fine wine, not a highly-strung Pinot Noir racehorse. But you probably don’t need me to tell you that Pinot Noir racehorses don’t come with a price tag like this.

So should you find yourself — drained and desperate — at the end of a day of packing, I urge you to tumble into the welcoming arms of the Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir.

As opposed to tumbling into the dark, hypnotic maw of that large open suitcase in front of you…

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Region Leyda Valley
Grape Pinot Noir
ABV 14%
Price £6.95 from The Wine Society

Allegrini Valpolicella review

… is a happy wine. And the perfect stimulus for a collaborative essay about contemporary art

The label of a bottle of Allegrini: red and grey lettering on a neutral backgroundIf you ever find yourself needing to write a collaborative essay on a piece of contemporary art, may I suggest you take along a bottle of Allegrini when you’re meeting up with your fellow writers? After all, it’s a situation we’ve all been in, at one time or another.

As one of my collaborators-in-arms, Satu, said, upon our first mouthfuls of Allegrini, ‘Oh — this is a happy wine.’

Yes, indeed, Satu. I couldn’t have put it better myself. So, um, I won’t.

Allegrini is a happy wine. It’s warm, soft, gentle. Fruited. There’s cherry and chocolate and a smidge of coffee at the end. It’s summer evenings on a roof terrace in Tuscany. On a holiday with more than half its duration remaining.

It’s not dazzlingly unusual, but I reckon it might make you smile.

Now, stop procrastinating and get on with that goddamn essay.

Rating ★★★ 3 stars (good)
Region Valpolicella
Grape Corvina
ABV 13%
Price £8.50 from The Wine Society (2010 vintage)

Verd Albera, Emporda review

… is a plump, florid, indulgent kind of wine — a hint of that chardonnay roundness and chubbiness, overlaid with a sprinkling of spice and pepper

Closeup of the elegant label of a bottle of Verd Albera from The Wine Society: minimal typography on a textured plain label

God, don’t you get sick of me telling you about wines from The Wine Society that are sodding good value?

Well, apologies. Because here’s another. Verd Albera is a relatively plump, florid, indulgent kind of wine — it has a hint of that chardonnay roundness and chubbiness to it, but overlaid with a sprinkling of spice and pepper. So the luxuriant fruity, buttery gubbins is cut with a savoury bite. And it’s all dashed through with that matt zing of lemon zest.

Extremely nice, and tastes as though it could’ve cost a fair stack more than it does. It also looks good, in an understated, elegant sort of way.

What’s more, I’m going to send a bottle of this as a prize to the person who posts the funniest/most ludicrous example of terrible wine label writing on my post of yesterday. Quick!

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Region Emporda
Grapes Muscat and Grenache Blanc
ABV 13.5%
Price £7.95 from The Wine Society (for the 2010 vintage)
Don’t take my word for it? [Sob.] Check out Jamie Goode’s review of the same wine — posted, would you believe, on the same day — for a second (also glowingly positive) opinion.

Domaine du Salvard Cheverny 2009 review

… is a welcome contrast to some Sauvignon Blancs, that are a bit like ketamine-laced teenagers, spoiling for whatever it is ketamine-laced teenagers spoil for

A bottle of Domaine du Salvard — typical French wine label, signed by Delaille

Ah, that’s rather a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire. There’s the grass and the snap of it — but also a swoonsome waft of blossom. Suck’n’swirl and you may find yourself encountering bit of sweet, toffeed, fudgy stuff in there.

It’s quite soft, even if you let it linger — in contrast to some Sauvignon Blancs, that are a bit like ketamine-laced teenagers, water pill vs lasix spoiling for whatever it is ketamine-laced teenagers spoil for. You’ve seen them. The rap singers.

Yeah. It’s gently, restrained. Not too harsh or zingy — it nibbles rather than bites. Elegant. And fine, fine value for thy wodge.

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Region Loire
Grape Sauvignon Blanc
ABV 12%
Price £7.50 from The Wine Society (link is to 2010 vintage, as 2009 is sold out)

Pouilly-Fume 2009, Seguin (half bottle) review

… is a sharp, acidic gob-flasher who reads Zola novels and plays the bassoon

A half bottle of Pouilly-Fume from the Wine SocietyThis is a delicious wine. Buoyant zing, spring leaves. I love it when a sharp, acidic gob-flasher like this is backed up by that bready wholeness that rounds it out and gives it depth.

A flasher who reads Zola novels and plays the bassoon.

Almost criminally drinkable, it’s lovely, balanced, fresh. A long-lasting tongue-tingler. And it comes in a half-bottle, alright?

Legend.

Again, here’s what Sauvignon Blanc can do, kids. (And when I say ‘kids’, obviously I mean ‘over-18-year-olds’.) Sauvignon Blancs can be exquisitely balanced — fresh, immediate, springy — yet non-cloying.

Lovely stuff.

Rating 4 stars (very good)
Region Pouilly Fume, Loire
Grape Sauvignon Blanc
ABV 12.5%
Price £7.50 for a half bottle from The Wine Society

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)

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