Sunday, January 22, 2006

Blind wine tasting

(updated 1/23 9:42pm - Added the Firesteed Pinot Noir I forgot!)

We had a really fun blind wine tasting on Saturday. Alyssum chose 4 red wines from around the world, and with Raymond's help, wrapped them and re-branded them Mars, Venus, Neptune, Mercury and Pluto.

It was really interesting trying to detect such basic things as grape variety without any extra information to go on. Most of the time I was wrong - guessing that a Cabernet Sauvignon was in fact a merlot, or that a Shiraz was a Cabernet Sauvignon. Next time, I'll review this nice guide to wine varieties and wine tasting how-to. Also see this more complete guide to varieties.

Surprisingly, the tastiest wines were not always from the most lauded winery. The wines and some brief notes:

2004 Rosemount Shiraz Diamond Label, S. Australia:
The best wine of the night for me. I thought this was a California or Washington Merlot - it's definitely more fruity than most Cab Sauv's from the northern hemishpere. A great nose with fruit and spice mixing with some alcohol - you know this is a powerful wine before tasting it. It has a nice full-bodied, velvety feel in your mouth, with red fruit and spice (pepper), a good middle attack of tannins that are very soft and linger for great 30 second or so long finish. A great wine to savour on its own, or to drink with a robust meal of grilled meat or with bread & cheese.

Reading up on this wine on their great website, it sounds like the growing condition in 2004 were not as good as 2002/3, so if you find one of those vintages, definitely try them instead. (it sounds like they usually get more raspberry and fruit in a good year).
Mark's score: 92%

2002 Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon, California:
A surprise for me - I thought I'd be able to recognize "3 Buck Chuck" pretty easily. This one was quite impressive - maybe not as nuanced and powerful as a "great" wine, but at the price it was damn nice. A nice fruity nose with berries and oak, medium-full-bodied, sweet cherry/cassis and soft tannins mixed with some spice. A nice lingering finish.
Mark's score: 89%

2002? Goats Do Roam, W. Cape, South Africa:
Wooho! A South African wine! OK... so maybe that's not so exciting to you! :)
I've actually been to the winery - Fairview - where this comes from. The name is a fun reference to the goats that are raised on the farm to make cheese :

One afternoon, at harvest time, my mischievous son Jason and his friend Justin let the goats out of thier tower and sent them for a walkabout amongst the vines. As in the legend of the Yemeni goat herder, whose roaming flock firs discovered the joys of coffee beands, our goats picked out th best and tastiest fruit. Their choice which includes Pinotage, Shiraz, Cinsault, Grenache and Carignan, serves as our inspritation for this wine.

The "goat towers" are really cute: picture a narrow tall white tower with a spiral staircase on the outside. Great for giving the goats a chance to practice their mountaineering skills, and they have little rooms inside to hang out in when it's nasty outside.

Anyway, back to the wine: This is definitely more funk than the others - the smell is a little musty and reminds me of sweaty feet a little. The taste is medium bodied, fruity and quite spicy (green pepper) with a finish that fades in a few seconds. Not much oak, this is a straightforward expression of the grapes (a blend of many red varieties including South Africa's own Pinotage). The taste is quite unusual, so this stands out a bit from the cheap red blends that try to be smooth and innocuous. It's probably best with food like pasta or pizza.
Mark's score: 80%

2003 Christian Moueix Merlot, Bordeaux:
This is the 2nd label wine from the famous Chateau Petrus estate, and is highly reviewed online. e.g.:

Christian Moueix makes the most expensive red Bordeaux on the planet, Chateau Petrus, which sells for $1000 a bottle in great vintages (1989, 1990 and 1995) and just slightly less in ordinary years. He also makes Christian Mouiex Merlot for about $9 a bottle, and it's great every year. During the tremendous vintages, it's an even better bargain. The price disparity is so great, that it must be a 50th label instead of a second or third. Mouiex's talent and experience making the $1000 wine spill over into the $9 wine, to everyone's delight. It's available literally everywhere around town. [link]
I found it disappointing: not much on the nose, and a thin, unexciting taste with rather harsh tannins. Very dry and atringent. This is definitely not like the fruit-forward merlots from the southern hemisphere, or even the USA. Perhaps this is what "old world" merlot is meant to taste like, but I didn't enjoy it. FYI - Christian Moueix also owns Dominus in California. More info here.
Mark's score: 75%

2003 Firesteed Pinot Noir, Oregon:
This was the final wine, and my notes are a bit sparse. The colour was light red, translucent. The nose showed oak, smoke and light red fruit (raspberries), with a "funky" edge. On the tongue it felt light and the acids and tannins emerged quickly, leaving a harsh, hard short finish. Not much fruit on the palate. Light and fresh, but a little too acidic and harsh for my liking.
Mark's score: 72%

PS: Cabernet and Cabernet Sauvignon are not regions in France. Cabernet is not a grape variety either - it's just a populare shortening of Cabernet Sauvignon (the most widely-planted red grape). Cabernet Franc is another famous .Correct me if I'm wrong :)


Raymond said...

There was also a fifth wine - Pluto - that pretty much everybody poured out rather than finish...

Mark said...

Thx, added it - I wonder if my subconscious was trying to block this truamatic experience from my memory?