Blind tasting oddities?

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:

Red sparkler It’s definitely red, it’s sparkling, it’s slightly sweet … it’s not Shiraz, it’s lighter in weight, simple, and has cherry-aid and light plum fruit. The combination of being slightly sweet with a few tannins was a bit strange. We did know that its provider has a record of ‘enjoying’ some of the lesser well known German wines: Ferdinand Pieroth Burg Layen Meister Rouge Sekt Rot Mild. This wine comes from the Nahe region of Germany and basically is an inexpensive – and inoffensive – slightly sweet sparkler. It was the subject of considerable verbal abuse: ‘not as bad as I thought’ being capped by ‘it’s nice to try a wine you know you don’t want to taste again’

On to a famous name from New Zealand: quite a powerful if restrained nose, gooseberry and some mineral notes, a slightly salty tang – I thought it was Sauvignon Blanc around Sancerre, 50% correct. Superb palate, the raciness of NZ Sauvignon Blanc reined in by the moderate use of oak.  This is from Kevin Judd, erstwhile winemaker at Cloudy Bay, now making excellent wines of his own: Greywacke, Wild Sauvignon, Marlborough, 2009, ie wild as in yeast, rather than rampaging grapes.

There would have been a fascinating comparison between Mas de Daumas Gassac, Vin de Pays de l’Herault, 1995 and Le Soula, Vin de Pays Côtes Catalanes 2004, but sadly the latter was faulty: not much going on except hints of curdled milk … But the former aged southern French white, an eclectic mix of Chardonnay, Petit Manseng and Viognier (plus 10% undeclared!) was all ripe apricots and dried fruits …. papaya got mentioned in passing.  It was perhaps beginning to fade or at least for there to be a question about oxidation, but it is well into its second decade. 

And while we are on the subject of the unusual, what about a somewhat atypical white Burgundy:  Domaine des Forges, Clos sous le Chateau, St Romain AC, 2004?  A slightly yeasty nose, some minerality leading some think about a more famous village such as Puligny, stylish and worthwhile.  Saint-Romain as an AC is a pretty recent invention and well worth it judging by this example. 

Through an unveiling accident of an innocent sort, we all knew this was South African Chenin Blanc … DeMorgenzon, Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, 2007. It’s all so easy when you know what it is:  white flowers, citrus, apples, great ripeness, indeed fat and waxy, superb full fruit on the palate and very good length. 

Etna Four reds followed, two Italians, both unusual in different ways, and then a Corbières and a northern Rhône. 

Italy has many famous red wines and many important grape varieties which are quite widely dispersed. But it also has local specialities like this Nerello Mascalese (and presumably a close relative Nerello Mantellato) which produce find ‘Burgundian’ wines on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily.  Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso, 2009 – pale ruby in colour, rather funky fruit and some green tannins – is produced from vines surviving on their volcanic soils for between 40 and 140 years. 

Further north in Tuscany, the second half of the twentieth century was marked by a great deal of experimentation with French grape varieties, producing the so-called Super Tuscans.  Nambrot IGT Toscana 1998 belongs to this trend and is basically Merlot from an aristocratic estate in the Pisan hills, Tenuta di Ghizzano. The reminiscence of chocolate and balsam on the nose are quite typical, the high levels of tannin (after 13 years) was not.  I am not sure they had quite mastered this style in what was quite a difficult year in the Tuscan Maremma, a vintage rated only 88 by

The evening finished with two French wines, one from up and coming Corbières and one from established Cornas.  In Les Clos Perdu, Mire La Mer, AC Corbières, 2005 you could taste the Languedoc sun: ripe fruit, new oak, hints of burning, soft tannins – despite the fact that this is more than half Mourvèdre, known for its tannins.  The blend is 55% Mourvèdre, 35% Carignan and 10% Grenache.  

CornasThis final wine was surprisingly difficult to spot given that it is 100% Syrah from a classic region, the northern Rhône: attractive nose of liquorish notes and sweet fruit, ripe red and black fruit on the palate, prominent tannins – but no obvious pepper or spice which might have given the clue:  AC Cornas, Domaine de Rochepertuis, 2003 – all that ripeness was no doubt due the sweltering conditions of that very hot year. 

As usual this was a splendid evening, with excellent food from the Red Lion at Overton. The quality of the wines certainly did exceed, or even compensate for, our ability to track them down in a blind tasting.  I think the picture on the right sums this up well: this blind tasting business is seriously overrated!  You can decide if the oddities of the title are the wines or the tasters. 


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