Blind tasting #1

blindfolded-man

Over the last 2.5 years, through the use of this blog, twitter and other social media, my network has considerably extended. The various means of communication on offer today are mesmerising. Speaking a second language is also an enjoyable bonus as it creates even more opportunities to extend your reach.  I can communicate directly with journalists, bloggers, winemakers, wine critics….. politicians… Anyone who speaks French or English. In the Mondovino, this represents a large portion of the community.

Intrinsically we all share a common and significant interest in wine. But that doesn’t mean we all agree on everything and it certainly doesn’t mean we can all be (or want to be) friends and have each other over for dinner. There is an anthropological phenomenon that applies which makes us all unique even if we belong to the same community.

As well as tweeting, facebooking and using other forms of digital interactions with many members of the wine community, I have also met a few in real life. Wine appreciation has always been a great social catalyst and meeting other human beings in the outside world is one of its great consequences. Some of these have become contacts, some merely a name to keep in mind for future reference, one or two have become good friends. And so it is that I met Max from Young Wine Cellar  at a #7wordwinereview dinner. We naturally got chatting about Bacchus, his wife and his grapes, but we also subsequently went to various tasting events together which led to more talking and getting to know each other better. It quickly became apparent that we live our wine passion in a very similar way. We are both fuelled by the desire to discover and learn more and we’re both pretty impatient about it; and in this we can relate to each other significantly.

We’ve both been through WSET courses, we have read numerous books (interestingly very different ones), we’re dangerously collecting and keeping an increasing number of bottles in our cellars… so it seems we’re having the right approach to become more knowledgeable and become better tasters. Yet we need more, wherever it is we’re going we know full well that the road is long and so we need to press on the accelerator. It must be an age thing. Past the 30 mark, there’s no time to faff about.

This is how recently I decided that we needed to start blind tasting wines. It’s the only way I can think of that will sharpen our senses. We can have all the theory we need from books but they won’t help us make the difference between a Sancerre and a Chablis in the glass. With blind tasting, there is no bias from the information given on the bottle. There is nowhere to hide. All there is, is knowledge, sense of smell and taste and a game of Sherlock Holmes. Elementary Dr Watson !

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So to get the ball rolling, we suggested that Miss Mash and I would host Max and his Mrs at ours with a spot of dinner. Our able assistants would go and dig out a £10 (approx) bottle of white and red wine each from a local shop (no supermarket). On the night they would serve us all four wines in ISO tasting glasses and game on. There was a vivid excitement to face the challenge that was only matched by the pressure to do well. It is one thing to find black pepper spice when presented by an Aussie Shiraz but discerning specific aromas and guessing the varietal of an unknown wine is quite another for green amateurs like us.

So without further ado, here are the wines that were served to us on the night, followed by a summary of the notes I took BEFORE the wines were disclosed:

13911914571. Grüner Vetliner Tarrassen 2012 from Markus Huber, Niederosterreich, Austria. (Oddbins, Chorlton)

A clear and pale lemon-green colour. Quite subdued on the nose with light green apples and pears and a certain smokey flint to it. Very dry on the palate, a bright lemony acidity, well balanced with the alcohol and the fruits (apples and lemons) more present than the nose suggests. Again this titillating flint that led me to think it may be oak… A good finish full of lemon citrus to keep the palate sharp and fresh.

I thought it may have been a lightly oak aged Chardonnay which would not have gone through malolactic fermentation. I clearly over thought it, it wasn’t oak, it was Grüner Vetliner and its vegetable-like aroma which I confused for flint. #BIGFAIL

13911905912. Chablis La Colombe 2012 from Boutinot Wines, Chablis, France. (Reserve Wines, Didsbury)

A clear, pale lemon colour. Again quite mild on the nose with apples, lemons and pears. Youthful, mineral with buttery notes which I attributed to malolactic fermentation (I didn’t think of it but 6-month ageing on the lees may have had something to do with it too). Dry, medium bodied, fresh green apples and lemon with light buttery notes again and a slightly creamy mouthfeel.

Re-reading these notes I don’t know what led me to think this could be a Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre or Chile. Admitting it publically here probably forebodes the imminent death of any attempt at wine credibility for a lifetime. But the game is the game and practice makes perfect. #FAIL2

13911892853. Platónico Tinto 2012 from Manz, Alentejo, Portugal. (Oddbins, Chorlton)

A deep ruby/purple colour and a bright purple rim. Youthful, fruity aromas of fresh cherries as well as more pungent blackberries and black cherries; also a trace of spice and herbs. Maybe a young French Syrah? Good acidity but enough soft and ripe tannins to give it structure, alcohol slightly out of balance, bodily but not overly so as it had a freshness to it still. Flavours of rich but juicy black and red fruits but not the expected pepper from the Syrah. More like cloves.

I ventured for Portugal, with their mix of indigenous grapes including Touriga National and other culprits or possibly a Shiraz from Chile but that would have been a wild guess as I rarely have a Chilean wine. I am glad I bagged that one. I recently had a Montaria Premium from Naked Wines and that must have helped jiggle my memory as it was similar in style. #WIN

13911925334. Chianti Rufina Vendemmia 2010, Fattoria Selvapiana, Tuscany, Italy. (Reserve Wines, Didsbury)

A clear, medium garnet, almost going on tawny on the rim suggesting a bit of age (pre 2008?). Fruity aromas (blackcurrant and strawberries) but obvious oak too with mellow cigar box and soft wood toast. Great acidity so not a dead wine at any rate, with mature tannins. Pungent flavours of black and red fruits with lovely oak and a bit of spice. Medium bodied, good balance and yummy although maybe a bit one-dimensional and not overly complex. Definitely ready to drink now.

My lack of experience in aged wines sent me guessing for Bordeaux or at least a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend with over 6 years of age. Massively wrong again unfortunately. But to be fair, I still do not understand how a 2010 Chianti can taste that advanced. I have yet to understand what makes this wine taste pleasantly like a 8-10 year old wine when it should only be starting to show signs of development. #FAIL3

Not that simple now, was it ? But we’re putting that down as experience and it only served to reinforce our will to persevere and play this game again and again. It is still a lot of fun and with the girls in charge of the selection (which by the way was top notch so thank you for that) we’re more likely to travel further than our personal tastes would dictate as there are areas we are not naturally drawn to, or we just forget about them.

I believe we are due a lovely curry next time so it’ll probably be an all white session unless we keep the reds for after dinner. The Dr Watsons have got their work cut out 🙂

So what do you think? Have you ever attempted a full blind tasting at home? How did you do?

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