When a wine writer of Victoria Moore’s stature says in the Telegraph that a shiraz is “rather fabulous value”, it’s like a spicy red rag to a bull like me. I’m always wary of descending to CJ’s pricepoint – see posts below for some of the vile territory into which I have been lured – but a bargain is surely a bargain. However, being Majestic, you have to buy two bottles in order to get a discount, so just to reassure myself, and avoid ending up with a second unopened, undrinkable bottle, I thought I should check out the Majestic website before plunging ahead.
The website told me a couple of interesting things; first, that The Parcel Series Shiraz is actually a blend with 7% Grenache. I wonder why they don’t say this on the label? After all, a Shiraz/Grenache blend suggests complexity, shifts it into the more intriguing territory of, say, the Shiraz/Viognier we wrote about. And there’s certainly room on the label, although its understated style does appeal to my refined sensibility. (CJ appears to feel robbed of some artistic and architectural experience when labels fail to illustrate in Victorian drypoint the chateau where it is bottled; however, as we shall see, in this case that brief would be somewhat challenging.)
But the second, ridiculous thing the website says is this: “The producer recommends drinking with braised pork belly with seared scallops and a white bean mousse.”
What an absurdly singular recommendation. It’s rather like a car manufacturer saying, “The maker recommends this car for driving along the A406, turning left on to the Finchley Road.”
I could understand if I was in a restaurant, if I had just ordered the said braised pork belly with seared scallops and a white bean mousse, and the waiter said, “May I recommend the Parcel Series Shiraz to go with that?” But unusually, my Affianced and I were not having that particular dish at home last Friday. We happened to be having a steak and kidney pudding. Sod it, I thought, caution to the wind – I’ll take my chances with The Parcel Series.
The label says it is “from the vineyards of Margaret River”. This might lead some to ask, “Who?” Is she the “producer” with the peculiarly sophisticated kitchen? Unfortunately, the correct question is “Where?” (I know CJ’s question is already “How much?” but we’ll come on to that.) This wine is grown in Margaret River, a renowned region of Australia, according to the back label. But it is actually bottled, not in Margaret River, not by any Ms River, nor indeed by any river at all, but by W1507 UK. A name, I’m sure, which infrequently troubles Hugh Johnson’s lips.
My World Wine Encyclopedia is surprisingly silent on the history of W1507 UK. Indeed, the only other product I could find related to it was a boxed shiraz at Asda. which, at £10 for 225ml, or £3.11 a bottle, is clearly more in CJ’s territory than mine. Or for that matter Hugh Johnson’s.
So this “parcel” of wine – what a lovely, romantic euphemism – is bulk-imported and bottled here. Not mis en bouteille au chateau, then. Perhaps the subsequent process was not conducive to the label illustrator’s art. But “parcel” sounds so much more attractive than “tank”, doesn’t it?
The other thing they have on the back label is this bizarre graphic (above), barring a lady, who happens to be pregnant, drinking out of a beer glass. Now, I am acutely aware of CJ’s concerns about drinking receptacles, but if this is a campaign to stop people swilling fine wine out of pint mugs, I’m all for it.
Sadly, I suspect that this is actually some kind of campaign to stop those who are pregnant from drinking. Well, blame it on my gender if you must, but like half the population, this does not actually trouble me. What about those drink-related concerns which do? Why not put a graphic of a car on here instead, with a line through it, to bar drink-driving? A raddled looking kidney, warning against overindulgence? Or barring an off-balance, argumentative-looking chap wielding a bottle in a threatening manner?
Fortunately however, I am not barred from drinking The Parcel Series. So I can reveal that, even without the ideal food, this is really a very decent wine. It’s got a rich, blackberry nose, and a full-bodied, slightly spicy and aromatic flavour – but not too heavy; clean, not cloying. It doesn’t have the weight of so much New World shiraz. Yes, it’s predominantly single note, like any varietal, but am I fooling myself into thinking the fruitiness of the Grenache is adding something interesting? And it’s reduced from £7.49 to £5.99 when you buy two bottles.
For six quid (CJ!!) this is an ideal kitchen wine, which would accompany an enormous range of food, way beyond the single dish recommended by the producers. Indeed, I finished off the bottle on the second night with a chicken, chorizo and chickpea combination. I’m not saying it was the ideal match of food and wine – I’m just bragging about our cooking.
And eschewed as it must be by pregnant women, there will clearly be enough to go round the drunk drivers, alcoholics and belligerent amongst us all.