Posts Tagged ‘Chenin Blanc’
Blind tasting of random wines again … I think the best thing is to group the wines by type, clarity after the event being so much easier to achieve than at the time. So off we go with a, er, peculiarity:
Blind tasting sounds a slightly terrifying prospect. The phrase itself is slightly worrying, like ‘deaf skiing’ or ‘mute horse riding’. It’s not entirely accurate in that you can still use visual clues in the colour or viscosity of wine, but obviously not read the label. But it is a remarkably different experience. Rather than interpret what you taste in the light of what you know and what you expect, you are forced back on to your basic senses and wine knowledge. But it’s a great way to extend your experience and can be very convivial.
The formula is simple. A group of friends or colleagues each bring a bottle of something that is worth savouring, carefully wrapped in tin foil, decanted into another bottle or somehow covered up. Each bottle is then tasted in turn. A first taste is poured and mused over – appearance, aroma, taste, finish – but no information is given. You immediately realise how much you depend on your preconception of what a wine is and how much it cost. More tasting and musing. Sometimes you just know what it is, sometimes you can make an intelligent guess, often you have no idea. Questions can be asked, especially to see if the group can agree some basics: is it Old World or New, warm climate or cool, a single grape variety or a blend? Of course the person who brought the wine doesn’t have to answer or confirm anything. Then comes the great unveiling. If you get it right, you feel (quietly) elated, if you get it wrong … you are in good company. And my did we get some of these excellent wines wrong! In a way it’s very reassuring … even the professionals get it wrong, so it is a genuinely difficult and revealing task.
Stanley Park, Berkshire, England, quality sparkling wine: this had been decanted into another bottle for disguise and so wasn’t as sparkling as it once had been. Good colour, heavy legs, slightly oxidised nose. Nobody guessed England!
Engelgarten, Marcel Deiss, Bergheim, Alsace, 2003: it you are going to set a test, it might as well be a bit of a tease too. This wine puzzled people, with its strangely deep yellow/gold appearance and disappearing ‘petrol’ nose. Most plumped for Riesling initially - that nose, the substantial texture – then the aroma seem to fade or transmute. Lots of appreciation and head scratching. As I had brought this wine I was in the Jeremy Paxman/University Challenge position – I had all the certainty that knowing the answer in advance gives you. Yes it’s 50% Riesling but the rest is a field blend, a mixture of three Pinots (Blanc, Noir, Gris) and Muscat, and hence the disappearing trail of the Riesling/non-Riesling nose.
Domaine de Montbourgeau, L’etoile, Jura, 2006: another real puzzle, big oxidized nose, sherry like almost; again quite a mid yellow colour, appley fruit, much bewilderment over the grape variety. It turned out to be Chardonnay of all things but made in an oxidative style, rendering it interesting but completely unrecognisable. But a wine of real character and in a old-fashioned style.
Christian, Chenin Blanc 2007, Barossa Valley, Australia: mid pale gold, excellent fruit, some floral notes, decent acidity, long persistence. A moment of triumph as I guessed the grape correctly … and we all remembered that we had drunk this wine quite recently during Dennis Canute‘s visit from Rusden vines. Yes, tasting blind does make for a level playing field.
Chateau du Tetre, Margaux, 2001: this fabulous claret pretty much fooled us all. Everybody got the presence of Cabernet Sauvignon with the menthol and blackcurrant nose but its bright, full-on fruit had most of us in the New World or Italy. It turned out to be from this classed growth, a tribute to what Bordeaux can now do. Incidentally, the Chateau is owned by Eric Albada Jegersma who owns not only a second Bordeaux chateau but also the excellent Caiarossa on the Tuscan coast.
Ch. Cantemerle 1971 - sadly had passed away, very tired. It could have been a great experience but this wasn’t to be.
Hermitage, Monier de la Sizeranne, Chapoutier, 1999: a great depth of strawberry/raspberry to plum fruit, nice mineral streak and sour like so many Rhône Syrah. Big debate over whether New or Old World. Happy to say I spotted the Rhône Syrah. But for each one you get right, there’s a following one you have no idea about. The ageing of Syrah is also a much subtler process than some grapes – it was quite difficult to spot this was more than a decade old.
Cornish Point Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand, 2005: probably the biggest surprise of them all. A deep ruby colour, complex fruity almost porty nose, big in the mouth, rich and dense. One brave soul plumped for Pinot Noir and was roundly met with disbelief from the others – it’s too dark, too fruity, too big … but it was. An amazing feat of extraction in the winery, by the company now known as Felton Road. An excellent wine and quite an eye-opener.
This was a great evening with excellent wines of real personality (£20+ per bottle), a good meal at the Red Lion in Overton, and great company. We all learned something, had a stab in the dark and were often wrong … and enjoyed one another’s company. And appropriately enough the evening ended in the dark. We had a lift back home but sadly we broke down and ended up waiting for the excellent bus service on a dry, warm and starry night.
But how many places have thatched bus shelters? Very classy, Freefolk, Hampshire.
Writing in the middle of the World Cup in South Africa it is just as well this is about the country’s wine and not about football. Along with most of the other African teams, the home team could not get out of the group stage of the competition. Meanwhile England played poorly and departed in the most spectacular fashion. By contrast, South African wine has much of which it can be proud.
The history of wine production in South Africa is long and varied. Initially famous 300 years ago for the sweet white Constantia, the trade came to be dominated by the production of huge quantities of cheap wine destined for the distillation plant. But in recent decades a crucial section of the business has been concentrated on quality. And as this Andover Wine Friends tasting showed, that quality is available in everyday wines as well as in more expensive bottles. These wines were sourced from a Wine Society offer.
Bon Cap Viognier 2009 (£11.50): nice pale gold colour, rather neutral on the nose, not obviously fruity but full of flavour including a slightly salty note on the palate, decent silky texture.
Villiera Chenin Blanc 2009 (£6.75): an inexpensive example of South African’s star white grape variety. An excellent complex nose, floral and fruity the apples and especially pears register. An excellent wine at this price level.
Sequillo White 2008 (60% Chenin Blanc, 20% Grenache Blanc, 10% Viognier, 10% Roussane; £15.50) This classy white blends Chenin with some white Rhône varieties to produce a mid gold in colour, a fine expressive nose (honey, nuts, a bit of oak), lovely silky texture combined with real structure, fine and long. Outstanding.
In the Rosé department, we tasted Circumstance Cape Coral Mourvèdre 2009 (£8). This was many people’s favourite wine – a lovely pale salmon pink, nice perfumed nose, substantial and rounded in the mouth, slightly strawberry fruit, moderate to low acidity.
The reds were somewhat atypical as they were heavily weighted to top quality. While they were all more than drinkable, the last three would have a lot of development in them.
Douglas Green Shiraz Viognier 2008 (£5) – fully ripe rich fruit (cherries and plums), good balancing refreshment, easy drinking but with real depth of flavour and interest. You can’t really ask more for the price, assuming of course that you like the style.
Impressive levels of concentration here!
Kanonkop Pinotage 2007 (£17): a big price jump here in a top example of South African’s own grape variety, Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Deep purply red in colour, complex berry nose, brilliant sweet fruit on the nose and depth of flavour in the mouth, great acidity for keeping and development in the bottle, some good bitter notes. Excellent.
Boekenhoutskloof Chocolate Block 2008 (mainly Syrah with Grenache, Cabernet, Cinsault and Viognier; £18) Brilliant strawberry/raspberry/oak nose, the fruit-oak balance just right on the palate as well, full on and substantial in style, rich texture, excellent.
Meerlust Estate Rubicon 2005 (69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc) Super rich Cabernet nose, very ripe and full of blackcurrant and red fruit, mint, very substantial but balanced.
Congratulations to South Africa. The football team might need a bit more work, though perhaps not as much as England’s, but the wine already has star quality.