If seven people were independently to choose a bottle of quality wine from their own collections and bring them to a blind tasting what is the chance of them bringing similar wines? That two people brought Chardonnay was perhaps not surprising, even if both examples were from the new world. But in the same tasting, two people to bring not just Cabernet Franc from the Loire, but from the same (if important) appellation? The odds are beginning to stack up. The Bring a Bottle Club, Overton’s BBC, managed just that at its June tasting.
We did start with some Chardonnay, but not in its pure form; rather a classic Champagne blend which includes the famous variety. But was it from Champagne, was it even a classic blend? The fruit character was not straightforward, quite assertive lemon and green fruit on the palate, little evidence of protracted time on the lees on the nose, some noticeable sweetness on the finish, still rather un-integrated. Some of our group were in England, correctly: Camel Valley Brut 2009.
The very first comment on this wine was: cut wood, sawdust, but this gave way to a palate of rich, rounded red-apple-and-melon fruit, very good mouthfeel, some nutty characteristics (macadamia opined my learned friend on my right) and very good length. After twenty minutes, more exotic fruit emerged – mango and guava. Warm climate Chardonnay … most went for Australia … in fact it was from the relatively cool area of South Africa. Iona, Chardonnay, Elgin, 2010.
For some reason, I did not take a picture of the next wine so we will have to content ourselves with a fine fillet of fish supplied by the Red Lion. The wine itself was unusual, even strange … mineral rather than fruit, even a slight hint of graphite or struck match. Quite broad on the palate, some floral quality, same mineral finish. No amount of guessing was going to get us there: Assyrtiko, Hatzidakis, Santorini, 2010. Not all modern white wines taste the same.
Muted nose, a slight whiff of blue cheese and something nutty and then, like the Chardonnay above, an expansive palate of ripe fruit (apricot, even a bit of marmalade – due to age?), caramel and nuts; very rich mouthfeel, almost oily, fine high acidity to balance the richness, sour cream finish. All agreed on the grape variety, most went for a buttery Meursault but the fruit was a bit too rich for that. Quebrada Seca, Mayas del Limarí, Limarí, Chile. Of the two 100% Chardonnays, the first was more floral, the second had the richer palate.
The first of our reds was declared to be classic Claret, with some even saying it was predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon but I was more in Cab Franc territory and the Loire, even Chinon … a rare success. Medium intensity nose, red fruit with a green herbaceous nose, some real intensity and high acidity, not showing its age at nearly a decade and a half … Ch. de La Grille, AC Chinon, 1999. Declared to be a much better than average example of the underrated Cabernet, and then …
The next wine was a complete mystery: very ripe on the nose, even a hint of burnt tyre, with quite black fruit. No consensus emerged from discussion and I will confess I was more in South Africa than central France. After we had learnt what it was you could just about detect that herbaceous note associated with Cabernet Franc on the Loire, but we were amazed to find that this was L’Ancestral, Phillipe Pichard, AC Chinon, 2006 – warm year, long maceration time?
Oh dear, sometimes a wine is such a disappointment. A rather neutral if clean nose though someone did find ‘fake lemon’ cleaner on this (!), indeterminate fruit and a less than elegant finish. Ch. d’Angludet, AC Margaux, 2006 should have been a real treat but sadly wasn’t. To add insult to injury, we couldn’t even work out what sort of faultiness it was displaying. The only thing to do is to move on.
Ah, the perils of blind tasting! We finished with a sweet red wine (a small field) which, unknown at the time, two of us had tasted exactly a fortnight earlier on the Tuscan coast. Deep ruby in colour, rich, intense fruit but not in an obvious register, chocolate note, simple if concentrated, good acidity, decent length. We scanned the possibilities – not port, not Aleatico (not perfumed enough) but forgot Predicatore, La Cura, Rosso Passito Toscano 2011 – made remarkably from green harvested fruit (and hence no clear fruit character). It’s a mug’s game!