Tuesday, October 23, 2007

5 Friends, 5 wines, 5 countries

Last week I sprinted home 20 blocks on an unseasonably warm evening and wearing rather uncomfortable heels in order to host a wine and cheese party for some of my friends. I asked each friend to bring a wine. It could be red or white but had to be $10 or less. Upon arriving, my friends handed over their bottles and I put them into paper bags numbered 1 through 5. We conducted our tasting which was interspersed with lots of talking and eating.

I came to several realizations during the evening. First, I realized that I have managed to accumulate more wine knowledge than I thought I had. Being constantly surrounded by people who know a whole lot more about wine than I do has caused me to consistently feel behind the ball...rather than on it. Yet, when I actually think about it, I've actually picked up a lot information in the past year about wine making, grape varietals, wine growing regions and of course wine consumption. What I hadn't realized until this night, was that reading, writing, watching and blogging about wine has given me a whole new vocabulary for which to describe the things that I already actually knew about wine. So instead of saying, I like this wine; it tastes good. I can now say, I like this wine because it has ripe fruit flavors, soft tannins, a silky smooth mouth feel and long finish. I'm not actually tasting anything different in the wine, I just have the language that enables me to more accurately report my experience.

The wine community's use of language (barnyard? cat pee? foxy?) has been widely debated. And, as I have said previously, I do think that descriptors can be taken too far. I also firmly believe that while having the shared language to talk about wine enables you to communicate your opinions in a vivid and specific way, it does not necessarily allow you to enjoy the wine to a greater extent. I saw this to be true as my friends sipped their way through the five wines.

We used a form that I made to write down our notes and scores for each wine. Then at the end of the tasting we ripped off the paper bags and found out the identity of each wine. At first I thought it rather remarkable that no one chose the same grape variety and no one chose a wine from the same country. But when you think about the diversity of wines (even the affordable under $10 variety) it actually is quite plausible. Moreover, if you factor the distinct personalities of the wine buyers into the equation the wide range does make perfect sense.

Tasting Notes

2006 Fairvalley Chenin Blanc, South Africa - Crisp, dry white wine that has the grassy quality of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc quality. Citrus notes, with a relatively short finish. 8.99

2005 Costentino Winery, "The Novelist" Meritage (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon), California. Think of words that convey richness: Creamy, buttery, vanilla (balanced with good fruit and acidity) - this wine fooled me into thinking California oaky Chardonnay. If paired with a triple cream, this would make a milkshake in your mouth. Yum! 9.99

2006 Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina. Bonarda (also known as Charbona) is a grape that most likely originated from Italy and is doing very well in South America. It had good fresh juicy red fruits, with soft tannins and medium finish. This wine was unassuming but very drinkable and could go with many different kinds of food. - Dr. Vino liked this wine too! 5.99-9.99

2005 Monte Degli Angeli Monferrato Pinot Noir. This had the most open nose (are you imagining wide nostrils because I am) of the bunch - classic young Pinot smell, which quite honestly, I may not be able describe very well, but I think of a sweet jammy bouquet with a touch of earth. A rather light, astringent wine, but still lively and fruity. It had more depth than most other inexpensive Pinots that I have tried. I liked it a lot on the first day and not quite as much on the second. 7.99

2006 Oxford Landing Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Shiraz (30%), South Australia. This was the most tannic wine of the bunch. Bitter, vegetal and rubbery tires. I want to try this wine again because I think it may not be a good bottle. $8.49

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