Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Our first Blind Tasting.... was it good or bad?!

So it finally happened, we received our wine sample from Russell, and this time, for the first time, it was a blind tasting.... we all screamed!  Nooooo.... we're good but we're not that good!

And he proved us correct, that is, we're good, but not that good!!  It always helps when you see the label and you know what grape variety it is, which country it comes from and any other detail you can find when you search the wine online for tasting notes and background information.  And that all adds to our opinion of the wine in what we're tasting, smelling, and our conclusion of it.  In other words, we all have a slightly biased or preconceived opinion before we've actually tasted the wine for ourselves.  Its true.

So its a great exercise to taste the wine blind.  Now, that doesn't mean that you blindfold yourself and scrabble around the table trying to find the glass you've just poured your wine into before said blindfolding! (although I have to admit that actually sounds like fun, maybe more of a party piece than a serious wine tasting though!, and high risk of wine being spilt before you've actually managed to taste it!, although I'm sure there are a few folks out there who have actually tried this... and perhaps succeeded, good on you!)

I now have the tricky task of documenting the blind tasting notes, so, here we go......

This one's from myself (Susan, Commercial Executive) - after 20 years in the wine trade, I really should have had a better result than this....!!

On first taste, I thought this one was a bit of an oddball.  Had to smell and taste it a few times to decipher what I was actually smelling and tasting. 

The wine is light, with aromas of raspberries and vanilla on the nose.  On the taste, its light bodied, dry, subtle hint of vanilla leading into sour (but pleasant) cherries on the aftertaste. 

Nice easy drinking style and very enjoyable. 

What is it?  My stab at this one is, it has the weight of a Pinot Noir but not the jammy fruit of a hot climate.  It is  young. 

Where?  Bourgogne Pinot Noir

From Keron, our Retail Manager.  Keron comes from a Trade background in spirits, mainly Malt Whisky and has a great knowledge and palate for Malt Whisky, and she's currently studying for her WSET Intermediate qualification on wine.

Great idea by the way. For the first time I am able to put my novice wine tasting skills to practice. So totally unaided here goes.

Nose and appearance – ruby in colour, light fruity aromas akin to red berry fruit, no obvious oakyness and colour indicates a young wine.

Taste – medium tannins, low acidity, light bodied and quick dry finish. I’m thinking red cherries/red currants slight hint of cranberries.

Conclusion – very good. Drinkable on a summer’s day or with food.

What is it? - I’m thinking Pinot Noir or Gamay

Where? – a bit fuzzy here but I’m going to go with Burgundy, US or Chile – if you were to push me – Burgundy/Beaujolais

Food accompaniment – Bolognese, chilli con carne, crispy duck pancake rolls with hoisin

Price - £14.00

From Jon, our newest recruit, and who is a member of our Orders Team, a great excuse for having to "know" all about wine... Jon is new to the wine trade (although not wine drinking!) and is having a bit of fun getting to know some of the wines we have here in our warehouse.

So I tried the wine last night and my first observation was that a significantly larger sample size was required! (good comment Jon, we all totally agree... Russell take heed!)

I’m not very good at this but – it smelled to me like cherries/blackberries. There was an earthy/smoky kind of taste to it and a bit of a dry bite that made me want to smack my lips (not literally, that would hurt!)

What is it?  I think it is a Shiraz Cabernet mainly because it reminded me of one’s I've had in the past.

Thought this was very good.

Good stab Jon, you got the fruit bang on, and the smokiness from the oak ageing.... or at least, the same opinion as myself and Keron ... and that's not to say we're right at this stage!

From Clive, our Systems Guru, and it looks like he's going to go to the top of the class....

Deep Red in colour with a small hint of brown on the rim, coats the glass well.

On the nose, blackcurrant and damson with a hint of vanilla. Nose not very pronounced - have to work quite hard to get the aromas.

Quite a big mouth feel, but unable to pick up the fruit flavours that I smelt on the nose. Strong savoury taste with quite pronounced tannins.

Not really sure about this wine, and Russell I think it was a particularly tough one to choose for a first blind tasting. I'm going to guess at a Bordeaux blend, but maybe one that's not quite ready for drinking yet, or needs a lot longer than I gave it to breath.

With that caveat I'd suggest not really a wine for drinking on its own, but would may be go well with strongly flavoured or spicy red meat dishes, might work particularly well with char-grilled steak.

So, the moment of truth, here is Russell's, our General Manager, critique on our critique....

Not bad generally. Off the mark with the identity but really that has little to do with anything! 

Red fruits - Not a million miles off their notes, they start going into the darker fruits though which would be there but I would agree that overall there was something a little brighter about this wine. Body nope apparently it is full (I would disagree and bung it in the middle).

There is oak in it but only 10% new oak and then 70% old oak and 20% Steel so you would not expect massive oak flavours to be coming through. Young? Not sure on that front, it is an odd one. It is starting to get into it's developed/developing phase with 4 years age on it, but I found it was still very fresh fruit forward just the tannins were starting to mellow out rather than any obvious ageing signs. At this age I would expect more of the Vanilla, cedar and oak to be coming through and then after the red fruits to be going more baked and less fresh.

Probably the big off put is that it is an Haut Medoc but with a Merlot dominance and really very little traditional Bordeaux about it. If you told me it was a Bordeaux I would pin it as a modern Cotes de Bourg or something like that (certainly nothing to do with Rothschild). Merlot dominated Bordeaux always tends toward the fruitier style, but at this age I was expecting more astringency.

Price? Right ball park


Grape Variety:  Never in a million years did we think it was a Merlot (apart from Clive!)
Body:  Seemingly it's full bodied, we all said light to medium (apart from Clive!)
Country:  On the whole, we got it right - France
Region:  We went for Burgundy, but it's a Bordeaux (Clive again, got it right)
Fruit:  In the main, we all got this right with the red fruits.
Oak:  Yep, we got this right.

The Actual Wine itself:

Chateau Peyre-Lebade Cabernet-Merlot France 2010 - 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon
from the Haut Medoc area of Bordeaux, France.

Til the next one, we can't wait....great way to taste wine, build the senses and have a bit of fun with the guessing game.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Steenberg Merlot 2010

I'm approaching the stage in my personal wine education where I'm going to start blind tasting. I think I can say with complete confidence that I would have got this wine 100% wrong in a blind tasting. I don't know what Steenberg's secret is, but they've managed to make the gentle and unassuming Merlot grape produce a more Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz like wine - big full bodied and absolutely delicious.

The wine is dark red with just a hint of a tawny rim and it coats the glass nicely hinting at a high alcohol content (14%). The nose brings an initial waft of savouriness followed quickly by deep and juicy red fruits with just a subtle hint of vanilla.

I couldn't wait to taste the wine and it lived up to its promise with a lovely mouth filling flavour a perfect melange of the savouriness and the fruits that I picked up on the nose, a nice almost chewy complexity and just the tiniest hit of tannins on the finish. Due to a miscalculation on Russell's part I got a full 75cl bottle to taste, but this wine was so good that the entire bottle only lasted a little longer than the "one gulp" 12.5cl samples we normally get to taste.  A new personal favourite.

Clive Holroyd
Database Manager

"At last a white wine that needs some air"

Mission Estate Reserve Chardonnay - I have, of late gotten into quite a comfortable place with modern Chardonnay regarding them all as really quite similar unoaked whites that could quite easily be mistaken for many other whites that we all know and don't loathe owing to not having a recent past obsession with heavy oaking.  So I have to say I opened up the Mission Estate Reserve Chardonnay expecting more of that same familiarity.  I, had not in fact, noticed that this was the Reserve wine which undergoes barrel fermentation and so I got a whopping surprise when hints of barrel (notice I am being careful not to say oak here!), jumped out of the glass and onto both my palate and into my aroma sensors. 

First impression straight out of the bottle ???????  It made me really sad this was the first Chardonnay I have had recently that was not an instant appeal.  So I tried it again and no magic had yet happened.  So I sat down and popped the glass on the table and instead enjoyed a little catch up TV leaving the glass alone for a good 20 minutes not to purposefully aerate it but in fact it was just not what I had in my head so my brain was just readjusting what it was hoping for with what it was getting.  Part way through an episode of my favourite show Gold Rush (sad I know but I just love it), the adverts were fast forwarding so I picked up the glass by habit had a quick sniff, a sip and a wine snobs gargle.  It took a moment to register but the first reaction now was just wow, what a wine.  The hints of toasty vanilla were still there but much more mellow and subdued, they had faded to the background and integrated into the wine as a whole.  That left the tropical fruits to come out and shine and boy did they, bags and bags of banana, mango, passion fruits and too many more flavours to name them all just raced around the mouth.  By this point the wine was not fridge temperature so no doubt this also helped the fruit flavours to develop.  After that glass I wanted to make sure so I poured another glass with the same result of the wine balancing out and integrating itself perfectly over the space of 10 or 20 minutes.

So there you have it, and it is a lesson I should really know by now.  If at first sip a wine does not seem right then give it a chance.  There have been many times, more commonly with a red I will admit, that first sample was really off-putting and it had been written off.  Stubbornness had then brought me back to the glass only to find a completely different wine.  Now I would not say that you need to go out and invest in a wine aerator or decanter specifically for white wine.  It is much less common and so the justification is not there, instead I wanted to suggest a few easier and cheaper options.  Firstly use your biggest glass, not a normal small white wine glass.  You do get some wider bowled wine glasses often called Chardonnay/Montrachet glasses, these are as the name suggests for more oaky styles of Chardonnay that require a little air.  Play with the wine, swirl it in your glass and take your time.  Have you ever had a mint tea in Morocco??  If so you will have seen them pouring the tea from the pot at full arm stretch into the cup, this works well with wines that need a little air but it does take a bit of patience and probably a cloth at the ready!  If none of these work or require too much restraint, then just pour yourself a glass for now and a glass for later straight away.  By the time you finish glass one then glass 2 will be ready and waiting at its’ best!

Russell Wallace
General Manager