Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

At last some wines we recognise!

Guest post: Rob

As regular readers of this blog know, the BBC has seen a recent trend of the rise of the “joker”, as some members of the group have sought to test our blind tasting skills by the ever more unusual offering. Did last Tuesday 21st August meeting see the start of the fightback by others offering the blindingly obvious (pun intended!). Well, perhaps.

First up, an attractive sparkling wine that was unanimously agreed to not be Champagne. Well made, good balance with the just off-dryness balanced beautifully by penetrating, but in check acid. Not Champagne, but too good to be too far away, Loire maybe, or Bourgogne. The Jansz Tasmania Premium NV Cuvée (classic Champagne blend with chardonnay at 58%), was of surprisingly good quality and an eye-opener for some. The advantages of blind tasting.

Saint ClairSurely the second wine was as obvious as it seemed on the first sniff. Grassy. Dare I say cat’s pee? New world – and we all knew which country; must be, mustn’t it? Some of us were relieved I must admit to finding that it was indeed a very good example of New Zealand sauvignon blanc. The Bell Block, Saint Clair Family Estate, Marlborough, 2011, being exactly as we would expect it to be.

If the New Zealand sauvignon was exactly as expected, surely the third wine was everything Jancis Robinsons described in her excellent “Wine tasting workbook” as “by far the most distinctive and easiest (grape) to imprint on your palate memory for future recognition”? Lychee. Rose petal. Need I say more? Unusually, did this example have a bit of age perhaps? This one worked well we thought with a bit of age, even if it lacked a bit of balancing acid, leaving it a touch soapy and flabby. The Josmeyer, Les Folastries, Gewurztraminer, 2003, was indeed slightly unbalanced by its hot year, but a lovely – obvious – example.

If we were settling into a trend of easy to spot wines, the fourth was set to confound. It was perhaps not as meant to be disguising the wine maker’s intention, and serving as sufficient justification for us not spotting it, though we made a good stab. A bit Maderised, hinting at poor storage perhaps, definitely unintended in the wine, hid what should have been a nicely mature Bonny Doon, 1996 Le Cigare Volant.

OK, obvious wines definitely over. The next was a well-aged red, doing what old reds do, trending towards a common theme that can be reached from any number of starting fruit flavours. Forest floor, animally, red meat even, but too light coloured to be Mourvedre. Lovely, but the 2004 Murdoch James, Marlborough Shiraz, was neither that old, nor obviously shiraz!

The next wine was just as difficult to identify. A lovely wine, liquorice? A lifted perfumed note. Raspberry fruit. Lovely, lively acid. But we should have, but we did not spot the excellent Sangiovese, 2004, Malintoppo, Simonelli-Santi, Orcia.

Back in the obvious territory, and lovely territory at that: cherry, slightly burnt, spicy edge, good acid. New world pinot noir surely? A good example of why the vineyard is renowned: the 2008 Knox Alexander, Santa Maria Valley Pinot, Au Bon Climat being exactly as it obviously should be!

We were lulled by the previous wine perhaps. The next was dense, full-bodied, a green edge, spicy; one taster detected orange. No one spotted the 2008, Kennedy Point Syrah, Waiheke Island New Zealand.

Very old Banyuls If a New Zealand syrah was difficult to spot, the penultimate wine stimulated quite some debate: not obvious then! Dark, dense, spicy, close-knit tannins, familiar. With all that power new world surely? Old World! Italian then; but where? No one identified the lovely 2005, Villa Medoro Rosso del Duca Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

If aged reds tend to a common theme, sweet aged reds arguably more so. The best retain that wonderful raisin sweetness still balanced by vibrant acidity. A few spotted that the final wine was fortified rather than noble late harvest, leading to a choice between Port or a few southern French appellations. No one did or really could have spotted that it was nearly 60 years old. The Domaines et Terroirs du Sud, Banyuls Grand Cru, 1955 was both obvious of its style and unobvious in its detail.

With thanks to Rob, not only for the guest post but for the amazing 1955 Banyuls Grand Cru.



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