Recently, I had the pleasure of trying 14 examples from around the world, tasted blind with a group of like minded pinofiles. (Yes, those who love Pinot even have a nickname. It’s that serious of a hobby for some.) It’s moments and events like that continue to capture my imagination, drive my curiosity and also allow me to indulge my passion for wine without taking out a mortgage or selling my soul.
When tasting blind, the wine bottles are masked. The wines are poured. And while I am the designated pourer at these events, earning my keep, I also do not know what the wines are. I have one advantage and that is I get to hold the bottles. So I get to feel the weight. New world overweight bottles versus lighter examples. [Some people take the heavy bottles as a sign of a premium wine, for me it’s at bare minimum a nuisance (they are heavy to transport and carry) and at worst a gimmick to try and pass off a wine as more than what it is. In today’s world, where we talk climate and waste management on a daily basis having a bottle that weighs 3 or 4 times as much just seems wasteful, inconsiderate and self indulgent.]
You then observe the colour, is it deep or pale? Is there a hint of colour change from ruby to orange hues? Any other things to observe? You nose the wine. I approach them from a distance before I even touch the glass and swirl. Does it leap out of the glass by itself? Is it a showy and overblown wine or is it shy and needs some coaxing with a touch of oxygen? Do this for the whole bracket.
And then we taste. A sip, swirl around, some chewing, breathe in some oxygen, swirl and spit. [Yes, the dreaded spit. It is not rude. In some instances, it’s a must. Around the table, some people don’t. It is Sunday and they have paid for the privilege of being there They want to enjoy the wine and maybe get a little happy. I, on the other hand, want a clear head for the tasting part. I try and pour so there’s more wine left to revisit after the formal proceedings are done. However, it is up to the individual and I have been known to do the same. Simply taste and drink, enjoy the wines in company.] What impressions does the wine leave me with? Is it light or heavy? Is the alcohol obvious? Are the aromatics I perceived on the nose complimentary or the wine radically different? Is it pleasant? How are the tannins and the acids? Is it New World or Old World? [New World is basically, anything outside central Europe.]
I take notes. Notes these days are nothing like the page length tasting notes of the WSET Diploma exam. These are short. More for me to get some thoughts on a page and to focus. We have to rate the wines and guess where they are from. With this tasting I am all over the place. Normally, I can get the region, vintage and grape. The grape is obvious here but the regionality is less so. It could be that I have been drinking predominantly Australian recently, or it could be that climate change and wine making styles are really just messing with expectations. We discuss this at length, as most of us are not getting the regions right. On the upside, I still get the vintage or the age of the wine relatively right. Maybe I need to taste more wines, but it is hard and expensive at this level.
Tasting complete. We reveal the wines. There are some surprises, and then even more surprises. We pick our favourites, top up the glasses and then the platters of food arrive. This is also a part of tasting in groups. Enjoying the company of people, with wine and food.
The wines, in no particular order:
- Ata Rangi, Martinborough NZ, 2005
- Mount Mary, Yarra Valley Australia, 2006
- La Pousse d’Or Clos du Roi Grand Cru, Corton Burgundy France, 2006
- Bernhard Huber Sommerhalde, Grosse Gewachs, Baden Germany, 2013
- By Farr Tout Pres, Geelong Australia, 2014
- Domaine Taupenot-Merme Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru, Gevrey Chambertin Burgundy France, 2014
- Burnt Cottage, Central Otago NZ, 2016
- J. Christopher ‘Nuages’ Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley Oregon USA, 2015
- Domaine R. Puillon Mareuil Rouge, Coteaux Champenois Champagne France, 2015
- Domaine Dominique Mugneret Echezeaux Grand Cru, Burgundy France, 2012
- Pittnauer Baumgarten, Burgenland Austria, 2012
- Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Block 2, Mornington Peninsula Australia, 2012
- Las Vino Albino, Margaret River Australia, 2014