The May meeting of the blind tasting group was a great evening out … if more chaotic than usual. It wasn’t obvious why. We had the same format: everyone brings a good/interesting bottle, we taste them blind, we get the wrong answer (mainly), we have a fine meal courtesy of the Red Lion, Overton, everyone has a great time and vows to do better next time. Even the photographer, despite spitting all evening, seems to have had an off night and my notes are scrappier than usual. The only excuse I can think of was that, as it happened, we started with a series of near-impossible whites, lost motivation and so concentration flagged. But that did not affect the enjoyment one bit … the wines were interesting (on this occasion not all good), the company excellent. Here is a flavour of the evening, summed up perhaps by the first photo.
Printable suggestions for the nose of this wine included: cabbage, cheese, Waldorf salad, mushroom. By contrast, the palate was creamy, medium dry and pleasant. And what was it? Nobody got close to a 15-year-old English white: Harborne, High Halden, 1996, a blend of Muller Thurgau and Ortega. ‘Null points’ for the deduction.
Alsace Grand Cru Zotzenberg, Reifel, 2005 had a very neutral nose, a rather crunchy palate and then a rather chemical finish. It doesn’t sound very appetising does it for a Grand Cru wine? The colour looks quite good in the picture, but I fear that is mainly down to the rather gloomy light. The quest for a really good wine made from the Sylvaner grape goes on.
This should perhaps have been better, indeed the person who brought it said other bottles were better. Quite attractive sharp apple fruit and some creamy/yeastiness perhaps brought about by stirring the sediment, but then really high and rather untamed acidity. Perhaps it was just to soon to drink Chablis, PC Les Fourneaux, Patrick Piuze, 2008.
One of the Way/Tomlinson wines kept up the noble tradition of this tasting group of the curveball: in this case, a white wine made from a little-known red Italian grape. But a very attractive, full-bodied white, smooth, with good fruit and acidity: Come d’incanto (‘like a spell’), Cantine Carpentiere, Puglia, Italy, 2008, made entirely from Nero di Troia probably could age successfully.
Hurray, finally an easy spot: old Riesling, more fuel aromas than your average petrol station. But was it Old World or New, young or old? This wine split the group – some liked the extreme petrol notes and the lime cordial fruit, very dry on the palate, others didn’t. The Contours, Riesling 1999, Eden Valley, Australia
Everyone thought this was Pinot Noir, but then the fun began. Initial thoughts about the New World were overwhelmed by a Côte-de-Beaune, Burgundy, consensus … wrongly. Pretty opulent raspberry and strawberry fruit, taut palate, good finish, a very enjoyable wine. In fact, it was Cloudy Bay’s Pinot Noir 2004, so New Zealand and definitely New World. Always stick with your first instinct …
Another controversial wine, which started with some wet cardboard and/or farmyardy notes, prompting questions about its soundness. But then a lot of fruit on the palate and quite a lot of tannins. Most thought it was Claret but then opted for the wrong side of the river – this was Right bank, and so predominantly Merlot: Ch. du Tailhas, Pomerol, Bordeaux, 2001.
Lots of praise for this wine, with its rich palate, and complex pencil shaving, coconut and pepper nose, and well-managed finish. But what was it? It seemed rather too rich to be straight Northern Rhône unless it was very grand and anyway the acidity was lower. But at least we were roughly right: Sotanum, 2004 Les Vins de Vienne, Cuilleron, Gaillard, Villard, Vins de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes – Syrah from the Rhône but the ‘wrong side’ of the river. A pretty grand wine.
Claret lovers, do you recognise this label? The wine was superb, perhaps the wine of the evening: cloves and leather to start with, then dense but lively developed fruit, excellent poise, structured and delicious. Ch. Chasse Spleen, Moulis en Médoc, 1986 … a twenty-five-year-old wine in vibrant mid-life. If you are going to drink Bordeaux, drink the best you can.
Bright red and black fruit, smoke and chocolate notes, we have to be in the New World, with lots of new wood. A much-appreciated wine, this turned out to be a pretty complex bend, called appositely, The Blend, Errazuriz, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, 2007: this year’s mix is, as the label says, 45% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Franc, 20% Carmenere, 5% Roussane. The sum is greater than the parts – a very informative label indeed!
Again much admiration for this wine and lots of debate. As it was a Way/ Tomlinson offering it was deemed to be Italian, but views varied on whether it was from the South because of the alcohol level and body, or from the North for the fine savoury notes and cherry fruit. Full marks for perception. This was, in fact, Nero di Troia again (see Come d’incanto above) but in its normal red guise. A very fine example in an over-weight bottle: Vigna Pedale, Castel Monte DOC Riserva, Torrevento, Puglia, 2007. We then reminded the group that we had just had two weeks in Puglia … so it had to be.
Supposed the final wine, we agreed this was a New World Bordeaux blend of some sort, and most likely Australia. In fact, the gorgeous rich fruit notes and lively acidity was Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1, [vintage], a fine blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Malbec and a little Petit Verdot. And sorry, no bottle shot, so we will have just do with the drinkers.
A bonus bottle, generously offered, just in case there was not enough to taste/ drink … an old Caviste friend, the excellent Rusden Driftsand, a blend of Grenache and Syrah. I can’t help noticing I didn’t take a single note so concentration was not high, for obviously pleasurable reasons. Here is to the next meeting.