PABLO OLD VINE GARNACHA (2011)—And some musings about the kids’ future therapy sessions

My Fellow Inebriates,

If you’ve noticed the reviews are getting a little sparse lately, you’re not imagining it. A recent parental resolution has curtailed our tastings.

It’s not totally drastic, although it feels drastic. There’s been no decision to quit drinking. But there’s been a decision to quit drinking every day.

Some of you may be applauding this idea. After all, small children reside at LBHQ and would prefer their parents’ alert attention and consideration (as opposed to useful fodder in the form of psychological baggage for later creative writing or filmmaking careers, you be the judge). Misses P and V will not perceive the value of such baggage until well into adulthood, and, to be honest, my parents aren’t sold on it either. I lobby pretty hard to keep the alcohol flowing here, and to ramp it up to dysfunctional levels, but it never quite gets there. My paranoid mother is convinced that the world is winding up to sock it to the kids psychologically; that even without alcohol we have enough to do to get them through childhood without being shot at school, blown up at a parade, co-opted into Scientology, or enlisted as Justin Bieber’s concubines; and that they will still end up reciting their fucked-up childhood stories to some overpaid psychologist.

And they had this bear, right? This bear was there all the time. It was mangy, and they talked to it like it was one of us. They bought it alcohol and then drank most of it themselves…

But mainly the new LBHQ policy of not drinking every day is financial. My mum thinks an excessive chunk of our budget gets spent at the liquor store. Even though nobody’s getting drunk, those here-and-there beers add up, and she’d rather have that money for wholesome family-type pursuits.

If they ever had a highball, that bear would be on the table with it. They’d let it stick its face in the glass. It was starting to reek like alcohol…

Sigh. It does make sense. If two beers get drunk every day—one for each parent because, contrary to what the children will one day tell their therapists, they don’t pour one for me as well—that’s 60 beers a month. That’s $129, on top of which you can add four bottles of wine, and next thing you know—conservatively—$190 has evaporated in a delicious, hedonistic vapor.

All right, so $190 sounded perfectly reasonable to me, and my dad probably wouldn’t arrive at that number; he’d say we drink much less per month, but then he wouldn’t go through the exercise of adding it in the first place, so we kind of have to trust my mum, who unfortunately is a counter.

Dad and I have a visceral distaste for counters. Why he married one I’m not sure; perhaps she pretended not to be a counter while they were dating. But now she’s that person who, when one of the kids gets a birthday invitation, thinks: “How much did they spend last time they give us a present?”—then matches it or tops it slightly. Classmates come collecting for charity—“What did they donate to our last pledge drive?” Girl Guides show up with cookies—“I’m sorry, I cannot justify paying $5 dollars when Golden Oreos cost $2.99.” You get the drift.

She wouldn’t buy my friend S’s cookies because they were five dollars. Then she spent twice that on an Argentine Torrontes. She said that bear told her to.

Basically, my mum is totally hateful and cheap, and she’s decided to punish Dad and me by declaring dry weekdays.

Admittedly this has made weekends something to look forward to. Last Saturday, for instance, we decanted a bottle of PABLO OLD VINE GARNACHA (2011). The source vineyard was planted over 100 years ago in Atea, Spain and boasts “dusty, dry slate soils at an altitude of 1,000 metres,” producing lush fruit that has achieved some fame, especially at the price point. PABLO sells for $13.99 at our local booze shop and delivers 14.7% alcohol—a win-win equation to satisfy even the most stingy wine-buying parent to whom a bear might be shackled financially. But is it a nice wine?

pablo old vine garnacha

Out of the gate you get a slight yeasty aroma. PABLO is pretty young still, but it’s got a lot going on. That breadiness is a minor chord rafting along with blueberries, blackberries, spice, and floral notes. It’s hard to let it sit in the decanter, but that’s exactly what we did, and for almost half an hour, people. Under my mum’s new directive, we’d been jonesing all week for a glass of wine; a half-hour couldn’t damage us. Could it?

Well, maybe, but all the same it was rewarding to wait. PABLO hits the palate with intensity, cherries and black fruit coming to the fore and a well-modulated backnote of pepper. Not overly complex, perhaps, but hitting some winning notes and overdelivering on a moderate investment.

All those years, we’d be in bed, and out in the living room they’d be offering wine to that bear while making sure it had a good view of the TV screen.

I’m still not on board with dry weekdays, but being thumbless I have no choice. Happily, my dad’s not really on board either; he showed up with some GUINNESS BLACK LAGER after work. Mum went tsk tsk but still grabbed a swig from his glass, because apparently that doesn’t count. Review to come. 😉

I thought if I dressed the bear up in doll dresses my parents would realize it was an object—just a thing that I could manipulate, and not a drinking buddy. I wonder if they ever really got that.

GARNACHA DE FUEGO—The cure for the End of Days, but not Fluffy

When we bought GARNACHA DE FUEGO (2009), we did so just in time. Some dude was grabbing up all the bottles! Naturally this made us eager to hang on to our treasure and maybe even taunt the guy with the one bottle in our basket.

Ahhhh, the liquor store. The clinking! The tinkling! The samples! The atmosphere! The scent of empties being returned…I don’t accompany my parents there very often because they don’t trust me, but if my mum’s using her big patent leather bag I sometimes jump in just as they’re leaving. On this particular day I wasn’t just lured by the thought of thousands of booze bottles. I wanted to get the hell out of LBHQ. Scarybear had just mentioned that we were approaching Fluffy’s first Halloween in the house.

On this day last year, Granny was very sick, and Fluffy was with her. Far away in Ireland, he sat on a chest of drawers, observing Granny’s last days…waiting.

Fast-forward to today. Granny: dead. Fluffy: haunted by Granny, who didn’t always get along with my mother. Scary: preoccupied with the earth’s overdue magnetic field shift and needing to project his apocalyptic anxiety onto the easiest victim, yours truly.

Scooping that one bottle of GARNACHA DE FUEGO felt like such a score that I forgot about these problems. Spain has been lucky for us lately, $15.99 wasn’t painful, and 14.5% alcohol gets two paws up any day. Situated high in the hills of Calatayud (say that drunk), old vines produce grapes bursting with concentrated sweetness and depth. And when the guy ahead of you in the checkout is buying 15 bottles of the stuff, it’s a strong endorsement.

My dad was afraid of the silly label. True, it’s a little over the top, but at LBHQ we are much more leery of a wine label bearing wombats or chooks than one depicting “Grenache of Fire.” Indeed, the former type is more frightening than Fluffy’s paranormal antics and the great magnetic pole flip put together.

What Scary doesn’t realize in his countdown to December 21, the generally agreed-upon End of Days, is that a magnetic reversal would take tens of centuries to occur. It’s not like planes will fall out of the air or birds will start bonking into each other suddenly. The change will be subtle. Some scientists believe the shift is already in its early stages but is so slow as to be imperceptible.

North is magnetic by virtue of atomic majority rule in the planet’s molten core; more atoms face north than south. As individual atoms flip, eventually the dominant magnetism may shift to south, but a long and middling interval will precede any definitive magnetic south. During this time—and this is the potentially dangerous part—the earth’s magnetic field will weaken as its atoms’ polarities split roughly evenly between north and south orientations, leaving the planet more vulnerable to the solar flares that a strong magnetic field would deflect. In turn the ozone layer will be more susceptible to holes, although, as Scary should know from his other theories about Armageddon, by then we’ll have torched the whole protective layer anyway. We’ll (well, you will, and I if I shave my fur off) be running around with skin like crispy KFC, but not this December 21, people.

Scary is a total dumbass but at least he stayed out of the GARNACHA DE FUEGO. The “fire” may be a reference to the peppery spice that characterizes the wine, especially at rear palate after it’s dealt you much-welcome lashings of rich, earthy fruit with a nice acidic backbone. Considering the reported desolation of the Calatayud region, it makes some kick-ass grapes, which translate into a gorgeously balanced wine with just the right tannic profile. You could drink it with food, but if you’d prefer to get ripped out of your head, enjoy this quaff solo (especially if “solo” means you don’t have to share with Scary, Fluffy, or your dad).

The best thing about having a whole bottle of GARNACHA DE FUEGO to yourself is that you’ll lose all concern for magnetic shifts, tectonic upheavals, solar flares, and the like. But you might still worry about the occult potential of any possessed members of your household, especially on a night like tonight. I hear that when you’re really wrecked you become more susceptible to suggestion, and this was probably the case when I thought I heard Granny asking me if I had any cigarettes. I didn’t (holy shit, my fellow inebriates, I’m too flammable to mess with stuff like that, and where would I keep them—being ever-nude I don’t even have a pocket for a flask), but when I turned toward the voice, all I saw was Fluffy with his vacant eyes.

And how was YOUR Halloween?