No name, no idea?

The Overton-based blind tasting group took a new step into the dark last Tuesday.  I encouraged it to break the remaining link which can give you some clue as to the identity of the wine – the person who brought it. In the past this has led to some useful clues and some wrong deductions: it’s X’s wine so it is Bordeaux, it’s Y’s so it is 20 years older than you might think.  I can confess now that with my interest in Italy, I have taken many non-Italian wines knowing they are going to shoehorned into an Italian style – the Rhône or Chile works equally well! But now we all bring our wines and one of us puts them in the bags which conceals their identities and off we go. 

And how did we get on?  Well, on a personal front, I did spot the Rioja reserva of real quality. Most got the St Julien as a left bank claret, and one person called the  Albariño correctly. So far not too bad.  But then, nobody spotted the two Sauvignon Blancs (which to be fair were not very typical or shining examples), the Pinotage which exceeded our lowly expectations or the oak-on-steroids South African white blend. The Taurasi was in a bad shape as was the English white. The result then was roughly a third correctly called, third not (with some good excuses), and one third unrecognisable.  Could do better?


Harbourne Dry Unfiltered, Kent, 2000 – made from the Ortega and Regner grape varieties but really much too old to assess its quality.  Pale gold, some oxidation over honey and green apple notes, the biggest feature was the remaining high acidity.

Les Caractères, Sancerre AC, 2004 – a big disappointment, medium minus gold in colour, strikingly dry, light citrus (lemon) and yeasttwo shades of Sauvignon, tart and rather short. 

Sauvignon Blanc, Huia, Marlborough, 2004 – perhaps the most surprising candidate for anonymity: medium minus gold, off-dry on the palate, lifted honey and vanilla, dried apricot, some stoniness, medium length.  The current version of this wine is part fermented in oak but here the oak seems to have hung around after the fruit, normally so powerful, had faded.  While some Sauvignon Blanc wines can age, there is a reason for drinking most of them young!

GoliardoGoliardo a Telleira, Albariño Barrica, Rias Biaxas DO, 2010 – again not an easy wine to spot (though one person got it right) as typically this variety is not oaked, but this is.  Pale lemon in colour (despite the oak!), a complex bouquet of sherbet, elderflower cordial and vanilla, dry and quite full bodied with medium plus acidity and an austere, stony (at this young age slightly harsh) finish. A genuinely classy wine in (so far) an underwhelming line up. 

Experimental Production, Boekenhoutskloof, Western Cape, 2004 – the unglamorous name tells the person with a sight of the label that something is up here! And the experiment is with 200% new oak, ie the must is fermented in new barrels and then the new wine is transferred to another set of new barrels. So quite a few innocent oak trees were harmed in the making of this wine which is definitely one to taste but not to drink!  Pale gold in colour, a great waft of toffee and vanilla on a pronounced and rich nose; oaky palate over ripe apple and melon fruit.  The high quality fruit struggling to express itself is 35% Grenache Blanc, 33% Semillon and 22% Viognier. 

ContinoRioja Reserva, Contino, 1995 – a Spanish challenger to the Albariño for the wine of the evening accolade which would get my vote.  Garnet edge, lovely mushroom and undergrowth tertiary bouquet with a touch of tar and coconut (which was the clue to its identity), sweet, ripe, red fruit on the palate, medium and more acidity, some grip in the tannins still … complex and satisfying. 

Ch. Hortevie, St-Julien AC, 2000 – integrated rounded out blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with a smoky touch, medium weight in the mouth, medium, fine tannins, good length and classy: ergo left bank Bordeaux with some bottle age. 

Tormentoso, Bush Vine Pinotage, Paarl, 2010 – powerful nose of mint and eucalyptus followed by assertive red berried fruit received general approbation for this wine. This is why it is important to taste wines without knowing what they are as most in Tormentosothis circle would start with a negative view if they had known it was Pinotage.  No burnt rubber notes at all, a well crafted, attractive red.  Eye catching label design too. 

We moved on to two reds with something in common even if it was only warm climate viticulture, dense fruit and high alcohol levels (14.5%).  Durif, Brown Brothers, Heathcote, Victoria, 2005 was inky in its depth and spilled out of the glass with its ripe fruit, a touch of something acetic with age, and rustic sweet blackcurrant cordial fruit. Low tannin levels and medium acidity completed the picture. Powerful and simple.  Its pair was Gnarly Head, Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, 2010.   Garnet edge on a young smelling wine might point you to Zinfandel.  Ripe, concentrated, brambly fruit plus a surprisingly lean palate (a plus point for reserve?) and a mouth-refreshing finish.  Sadly the final wine of the evening, which could have been a real treat, was in poor condition, the celebration of 130 years of the Mastroberadino company, Taurasi Riserva, Cento Trenta, Mastroberardino, 1999. On the other hand, the cooking at the Red Lion in Overton is absolutely reliable, a great steak dish which went well with all these big reds.  The next few months will show how the ‘no name’ blind tasting is going. 

Brown Brothers and Gnarly HeadRed Lion beef

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