Blind Wine Tasting: Practical studying part IV

Every week I head over to Monvinic, Barcelona’s largest international wine bar, to practice blind tasting. Typically this involves a flight of 6 wines, split equally between white and reds from all across the world. I’ve long been a believer that blind tasting is an incredibly useful study tool, and I’ve decided to track my sessions here in all their misery (mostly) and glory (very rarely!). As a result you may seem some confusing measurement terms as I am currently using the WSET Lexicon as a frame-work for my tasting notes partially trimmed down here for the purposes of brevity.

Monvic is open once again after the summer break, hurrah! With a little over 4 months until the Unit 3 exam, it seems like a good idea to get back practicing again. To ease myself in a little more easily, and also due to meeting a friend for lunch on the same day, I thought I’d do a quick 15 minute, 2 wine tasting. 1 white, 1 red, both mono-varietal. Whilst blind tasting isn’t an easy discipline, this should be about as easy as it gets!

White Wine

The wine has a pale lemon colour. On the nose there is a medium+ intensity of ripe citrus fruit, green apple, green pear, fresh stone fruits and a chalky, stony quality. A touch of white flowers and no discernible oak.

On the palate the wine is dry with high, bracing acidity, medium alcohol, a medium body and a medium+ intensity and finish. This tastes like either an incredibly young wine or a grape variety that naturally has a lot of natural acidity, although there is a nice texture to the wine; it certainly has some weight. Relatively neutral in terms of profile with a nice, fresh character and a gorgeous, saline finish, but as with the nose I couldn’t discern any obvious wine-making. Really delicious stuff but feels tight, like it’s being drank very young.

Guess: Godello from Valdeorras, Spain, from the 2014 vintage

Reality: Chardonnay from Chablis, France, from the 2014 vintage

Wine: Daniel Dampt and Fils Cote de Lechet 1er 2014

From a long lineage of vintners, Vincent Dampt continues the family tradition of excellence at Domaine Daniel Dampt et Fils, which was established by his father. The estate currently consists of 30 hectares, including 16 hectares of Chablis and 14 hectares of Chablis 1er Cru. The recently constructed cellar is equipped with stainless steel tanks which is intrinsic to the fresh, mineral style of Chablis produced here. The purchase of modern, powerful cellar equipment has enabled the group to increase its production of bottles, which now stands at 150,000 bottles per year.

Conclusions/Learning points: Gah. This is very much a case of thinking about something too much and coming to an overly obscure conclusion. Reading my tasting note back, it’s screaming Chablis. Prominent acidity, fresh citrus and green fruit flavours, no obvious oak but a decent weight with some texture… of course, Godello. Still, the profile matches for both, it’s just a case of playing the game a little bit and going with the more likely choice. On the positive side, this was a really delicious wine from a producer I hadn’t tried before. Really looking forward to finding more of his wines!

Red Wine

The wine has a pale cherry-red, ruby colour. On the nose there is a medium+ intensity of ripe red berries, currants and a hint of strawberry. Nicely perfumed, there’s some violet, floral notes here as well as some earthiness and just a touch of stalkiness – whole bunch fermentation? Hints of toast, pepper and a subtle char might be coming from old oak and there’s also a high toned, volatile aroma that lifts everything quite nicely. Very old world and slightly minimal intervention in style.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity, medium ripe, firm tannins, medium+ alcohol, a medium+ body, a medium intensity and a medium finish. Whilst slightly generous on the nose, this is a leaner wine on the palate with some grip and bite to the tannins. Much leaner in terms of flavour profile as well, with that fresh berry fruit and herbal character coming to the fore. Still fresh and well balanced, but not at the same level as the Chablis before it.

Guess: Gamay from Beaujolais (Morgon cru), France, from the 2013 vintage

Reality: Gamay from Beaujolais (Morgon cru), France, from the 2013 vintage

Wine: Foillard Morgon Eponyme 2013

Jean Foillard is a disciple of Jules Chauvet, a noted enologist who believed in fashioning Beaujolais in an altogether different way from the modern standard of semi-carbonic maceration. Foillard’s 8ha (cultivated organically though not certified) include one of the best sites in the whole Beaujolais region, Morgon’s Côte du Py. Important to the style are low yields and very ripe grapes, which are subject to a long cool vinification, practically zero use of sulphur and minimal or no filtration.

Conclusions/Learning Points: Thrilled to nail this wine, particularly as I followed a very logical process to get there. Possible grape varieties included Gamay, Pinot Noir and Syrah, almost definitely old world, suggested by the firmness of the tannins and the lean/mineral flavours. Lack of a strong black pepper and/or smoked meat character made Syrah from Croze-Hermitage unlikely and the tannic structure and slight peppery note made it unlikely to be Pinot Noir, so Gamay it is. Morgon was a bit of a shot in the dark, I’ll admit but most of the more minimal interventionist styles I’ve tried have been from producers with land there, including of course, Foillard! Very happy to get one of these completely right, even if I messed up the Chablis. Onto a full tasting next week!

Blind Wine Tasting: Practical studying part III

Every week I head over to Monvinic, Barcelona’s largest international wine bar, to practice blind tasting. Typically this involves a flight of 6 wines, split equally between white and reds from all across the world. I’ve long been a believer that blind tasting is an incredibly useful study tool, and I’ve decided to track my sessions here in all their misery (mostly) and glory (very rarely!). As a result you may seem some confusing measurement terms as I am currently using the WSET Lexicon as a frame-work for my tasting notes partially trimmed down here for the purposes of brevity.

I ended up skipping a week and opting for a lunch last week due to a severe case of needing a small break from studying in general. However, this week I was full of energy again and ready for round 3!

White Wines

Wine #1: The wine has a pale lemon colour. On the nose there is a pronounced aromas of ripe green apples, green pears, lemon, grapefruit, peach and a touch of apricot. There are some gentle, floral aromatics along with some sweet herbs; tarragon and thyme.

On the palate the wine is dry with high acidity (a little creamy), medium alcohol, medium body, a medium + intensity and a medium + finish. A fresh, aromatic style of wine with some weight on the palate despite the clearly young, vibrant style. Very refreshing and altogether a very well made wine.

Guess: Albariño from Rias Baixas in Spain from the 2015 vintage

Reality: Alvarinho (same grape) from Vinho Verde in Portugal from the 2015 vintage

Wine: Quinta do Soalheiro Primeras Vinhas 2015

Located in Melgaço, Vinho Verde’s warmest, driest sub-region, production at Soalheiro is focused on Alvarinho, known as Albarino in neighbouring Galicia, Spain. It is Vinho Verde’s star variety and Soalheiro are one of its finest exponents. Antonio Cerdeira illegally planted 4 ha of Alvarinho in 1974 and, following changes in the law, released his first Alvarinho in 1982. Today his daughter, Maria tends the estate’s 10 ha of organically certified vines, while her brother Luis makes the wines.

Conclusions/Learning points: Bam, nailed it. After having confused Albarino with Sauvignon Blanc only two weeks ago, this was a much needed victory with regards to this grape variety. Even better than that, I took a little time sorting through the evidence and coming to some logical conclusions; high acidity but with some creaminess, medium alcohol and quite a bit of florality, sweet herbs – all pointed me in the right direction. Very good start and a delicious wine; I wish I could buy more of it!

Wine #2: This wine has a medium gold colour. The intensity on the nose is pronounced and clearly oxidative in style. Ripe apricots, peach, nectarine, lemon curd and oxidised golden apple are present, along with the toasted almond, rich nuttiness of carefully oxidised wines. Plenty of oak as well with lots of toast, smoke and vanilla.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity, medium alcohol, a medium + body, a pronounced intensity and a medium+ finish, ‘Lemon curd on toast’ was my summary of the wine, although more specifically it was a gorgeous assemblage of really ripe, oxidised fruit, old oak and nuts. With the moderate alcohol levels and still elevated levels of acidity, I could only think of one wine this could reasonably be…

Guess: Viura blend from Rioja in Spain from the 2003 vintage

Reality: Viura blend from Rioja in Spain from the 2003 vintage

Wine: Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Blanco Reserva 2003

Lopez de Heredia are one of the truly classic bodegas of Rioja, having been founded way back in 1877. They now own over 170 hectares of land around the region, with Vina Tondonia making the majority of this with a little over 100 hectares of land. In a region that often changes to suit fashions, Lopez de Heredia have stayed stalwartly traditional, with long, slow elevage in American oak and delayed releases; their most recent Gran Reserva white wine is 1996, to give an example!

Conclusions/Learning points: I can’t remember the last time I got off to such a good start in a blind tasting, although it is worth pointing out that this is a very specific wine, and I knew it from memory as much as anything else. I did briefly consider the idea of white Cotes-du-Rhone/Montsant/Priorat/Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but the alcohol levels weren’t right and the wine seemed too evolved. Still, very happy to be doing so well right off the bat.

Wine #3: The wine has a medium lemon colour. On the nose there is a medium+ intensity of aromas, with some clear and obvious reduction (screw-cap? New World?). The aromas are pleasant, with ripe lemon, lemon zest, green apple, apricot, nectarine and a touch of green pineapple. There is some oak usage here as toast and vanilla are both detected, as well some some yeasty, pastry dough aromas suggested battonage, or at least extended lees ageing.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity, medium+ alcohol, medium+ body, a medium+ intensity and a medium finish. Nothing in particular stands out, hence all the ‘mediums’, but this is a nicely balanced wine with good fruit, nicely integrated oak and a the only downside being a slight reduction.

Guess: Chardonnay from Gisbourne in New Zealand from the 2010 vintage

Reality: Chardonnay from Tasmania in Australia from the 2010 vintage

Wine: Stefano Lubiana Estate Chardonnay 2010

Steve Lubiana is a fifth generation wine-maker from Italy who arrived to Tasmania, Australia, back in 1990. Along with his wife, Monique, they now produce a portfolio of pure, crisp wines from cool climate, biodynamic vineyards in the Derwent Valley. The wine-making focuses on the nature of the grape and the fruit first and foremost, and this Chardonnay is joined by an excellent Riesling and a Pinot Noir that I have yet to try. Sparkling wine is also produced broadly in Tasmania and the Lubiana Estate makes this as well.

Conclusions/Learning points: So, grape and vintage completely correct and I also correctly identified that we’re in the New World, so that’s very positive. I called New Zealand as I thought the alcohol was slightly higher than it actually was, and that the fruit profile was perhaps a little more tropical. According to my note, my guess was in the right place so I suppose I must have mistaken some bottle development for fruit ripeness, which took me in the wrong direction. A shame, but encouraging nonetheless!

Red Wines

Wine #4: The wine has a pale ruby colour. On the nose there is a medium+ intensity of ripe cherries, strawberries and red currants. There’s also a lot of savoury, earthy characteristics here suggesting bottle age and development, with some barnyard, undergrowth and gravelly/earthy aromas. There’re some hints of old oak as well, with a lightly toasted, smoky aroma.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity, medium ripe, firm tannins, medium+ alcohol, a medium body, a medium+ intensity and a medium finish. A nicely balanced wine with some fruit still singing nicely, with a good level of development; my favourite time to catch wines in their life cycles. Not a heavy wine in terms of tannins, or alcohol and clearly made in a cooler environment, although with no hint of under-ripeness.

Guess: Pinot Noir from Burgundy in France (Village level – Volnay?) from the 2010 vintage

Reality: Pinot Noir from the Ahr in Germany from the 2010 vintage

Wine: Meyer-Nakel Blauschiefer 2010

Meyer-Nakel enjoys the reputation of being one of the finest producers of Pinot Noir in Germany. Based in the Ahr Valley, a diminutive region of barely 550 hectares in the north of the country, they produce a selection of red wines including this lovely balanced wine, produced from vineyards grown on blue slate. The best wines in the portfolio are the single vineyard expressions with longer oak regimes and a lengthy drinking window, as with all top Pinot Noir based wines.

Conclusions/Learning Points: Same issue as my last tasting; what is the difference between Pinot Noir produced in Germany and Pinot Noir produced in Burgundy?! Clearly I need to attend some sort of master class where this is compared. Again, very encouraging that both the varietal and the vintage were correct. Fortunately, Monvinic have a wonderful selection of older, German Pinot Noir as well as some affordable, younger bottlings so I will have the chance to try a good few more yet.

Wine #5: This wine has a clear, deep ruby colour. On the nose there is a pronounced intensity of ripe and jammy black fruits; blackcurrant, cassis and cherry. There’s a strong herbal sensation, with lots of mint, eucalyptus and even a touch of green bell pepper. New oak seems present with pronounced vanilla, nutmeg and clove influences, along with some toasted, smoky notes.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity, full ripe, soft tannins, high alcohol, a full body, pronounced intensity but unfortunately only a medium finish. A rich, ripe and powerful style of wine that screams ‘Australia’. Very modern in style but also fresh and really quite delicious, although a single glass would be sufficient!

Guess: Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra in Australia from the 2010 vintage

Reality: Shiraz from Coonawarra in Australia from the 2010 vintage

Wine: Katnook Estate Shiraz 2010

As part of the Wingara Wine group, this winery was purchased by Freixenet in 2001. It continues to be directed, however, by Wayne Stehbens, who has made the wine in a 19th-century stone woolshed (used in the region’s early vintages) for the past 20-odd years. Much of the grape production has been sold to others but Katnook’s reds have been characterised by their intense, concentrated, ripe (often very ripe), sweet fruit and tight structures when young. The stars of the production are Cabernet Sauvignon based, but the Shiraz and Shiraz Prodigy wines are also very popular.

Conclusions/Learning points: Damn, that was close to a very good call! With the rich dark fruits, herbal notes and what I thought were clear Cabernet Sauvignon descriptors, I was disappointed not to get this one, despite getting the region, country and vintage correct. What’s the difference between incredibly ripe Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz? I need to look this up as I was expecting a little more black pepper and spice from Shiraz. A friend told me that she always gets a spectrum of blue fruit in over-ripe Shiraz/Syrah; I will have a closer look the next time and see if that helps at all. Still, a solid call and would have scored me a lot of points in an exam.

Wine #6: This wine has a pale ruby colour. There is a medium intensity of fresh red fruit; redcurrant, cranberry and raspberry. The wine isn’t overly aromatic or complex and there’s a hint of earth, toast and smoke but little else.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity and medium+ firm, sticky tannins. The alcohol level is medium and the body is medium. As with the nose, the flavours are quite simple, fresh and pleasant but lacking excitement. There’s a little grip to the tannins but really nothing much to point me in the right direction. It could be Gamay, tannic Pinot Noir, Mencia, cool-climate Garnacha….

Guess: Mencia from Ribeira Sacra in Spain from the 2015 vintage

Reality: Sumoll/Tempranillo blend from Catalunya in Spain from the 2015 vintage

Wine: Gran Autocton Negre 2015

Autocton Gran Celler is a brand new project from Albert Jané of Acustic Celler in Montsant and Priorat. The grapes are grown from both the Penedes and Tarragona but vinified in the old, family winery in Mas Vilella in the Penedes. The focus is very much on indigenous varieties, hence the name of Autocton, and the appellation is DO Catalunya. The wines have only been very recently released into the market from the 2015 vintage.

Conclusions/Learning points: Hrm. There’s a part of me that was a little irritated to be presented with a Sumoll/Tempranillo blend, but in a way it was nice to have a curveball at the end of a very successful tasting in total. I can’t think of a single characteristic that defines Sumoll comparatively to other varieties, so I’ll have to have a think about this one. Not a bad wine in all but at the asking price in Spain, there are quite a few others I would head towards first.

One of my best ever tastings; to nail 3 wines and get so many details correct about the others is a huge improvement for me. This time around I took a little extra time to clear my mind and really dig into the wine, which made a big difference, as I sometimes have a tendency to rush. I learnt a lot and also discovered a few more weaknesses to work on in my tasting, but I went home with a big smile on my face and I’m already looking forward to next week to see if I can repeat it with any level of consistency!

Blind Wine Tasting: Practical studying part II

Every week I head over to Monvinic, Barcelona’s largest international wine bar, to practice blind tasting. Typically this involves a flight of 6 wines, split equally between white and reds from all across the world. I’ve long been a believer that blind tasting is an incredibly useful study tool, and I’ve decided to track my sessions here in all their misery (mostly) and glory (very rarely!). As a result you may seem some confusing measurement terms as I am currently using the WSET Lexicon as a frame-work for my tasting notes partially trimmed down here for the purposes of brevity.

Back to Monvinic for round 2!

White Wines

Wine #1: The wine has a pale lemon colour. On the nose there is a pronounced aromas of ripe peach, green apples, green pears, white flowers and a touch of honey. There’s a hint of brioche indicating potential lees usage and lots of ripe citrus fruit.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity, medium alcohol and a medium body. There is a medium+ intensity of candied lemon, lime, green apple, green pear and apricot. There’s the same florality as the nose as the finish is medium+ and wonderfully dry. A really delicious wine with a nice mixture of different flavour components, some textural quality to the palate and lots of refreshing acidity. Great stuff!

Guess: Albariño from Rias Baixas in Spain from the 2015 vintage

Reality: Sauvignon Blanc from Martinborough in New Zealand from the 2015 vintage

Wine: Alana Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Alana Estate is a small project located in Martinborough, on the south end of the northern island in New Zealand. Founded in 1993, Alana has since been acquired by Mike Cornish and operates under the ‘Waipara Vintners’ company. Since 2011, the estate has focused heavily on sustainable viticulture and employed Alex Craighead, a minimal intervention friendly wine-maker to take Alana in a new direction. They currently produce a variety of wines, all from plots of older vines, with a focus on Pinot Noir.

Conclusions/Learning points: Swing and a miss. Martinborough is mostly known for its powerful, spicy expressions of Pinot Noir but Sauvignon Blanc is a close 2nd in terms of plantings. This is my first taste of a Sauvignon Blanc from this part of the country but due to the wine-making philosophy of their new wine-maker, I can’t be sure if this would be a ‘typical’ style of Sauvignon Blanc from the region. One of my biggest issues in blind tasting is trying to stop myself from making my mind up when presented with obvious evidence, so it’s also possible I smelt floral aromas and ripe stone fruit and my mind went straight to Albariño. I did try the wine immediately thereafter and it wasn’t what I would associate with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but then the vast majority that I’ve tried comes from Marlborough, which has a very distinctive style. I suppose I’ll have to track down a few more and see!

Wine #2: This wine has a medium lemon colour. There is a medium+ intensity of ripe golden apples, peach, bruised green apple and pear. There’s some oak here with light toast and smoke notes, as well as a slight oxidative aroma of roasted almonds and some hay.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium acidity, medium alcohol and a medium+ body. There is a medium intensity of green apple, green pear and some riper, golden apple. Definitely some oak here with more smoke, a slight bitterness and even a touch of tannic grip. The finish is medium+ and a little savoury.

Guess: Viura from Rioja in Spain from the 2012 vintage

Reality: Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre in France from the 2012 vintage

Wine: Vacheron Sancerre 2012

Domaine Vacheron are one of the most recognisable names within the Loire Valley of France, with over 47 hectares under vine, the majority of which are Sauvignon Blanc. The estate is now certified as a biodynamic producer and produces many single vineyard expressions of Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a new focus on improving the quality of their Pinot Noir.

Conclusions/Learning points: Well, that answers my earlier questions about the New Zealand wine; I apparently suck at blind tasting Sauvignon Blanc. That makes the learning point very easy at least; drink a lot more of it! This isn’t the first time I’ve completely missed a Sancerre and the reality is that I need to spend a bit more time learning what these wines are all about. I also clearly mis-read the acidity.

Wine #3: The wine has a medium lemon colour. On the nose there is a medium+ intensity of ripe melon, golden apples, peach and pear. There is clear oak usage here in a slightly clumsy fashion; a little too much smoke and cloves for the fruit characteristics of the wine to really come through. Oxidative notes of hay, mushrooms and almonds. A little unbalanced and not very fresh.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium acidity, medium+ alcohol and a medium+ body. There is a medium intensity of ripe lemon, golden apple and again, too much oak influence. Smoky, a little rubbery and lacks freshness.

Guess: Xarel.lo from Penedes in Spain from the 2012 vintage

Reality: Xarel.lo from Penedes in Spain from the 2014 vintage

Wine: Gramona Ovum 2014

Gramona are a well established producer of high quality Cava and still wines, having been founded in 1921 in the Penedes region of Spain. They focus mainly on indigenous varieties for their Cavas to great effect, with III Lustros and Cal Battle in particular being exceptional wines. They also produce a line of still wines, often focusing outside on international varieties grown at slightly high altitudes, including Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

Conclusions/Learning points: I always inwardly wince when I correctly identify a Spanish wine based on some of the obvious faults and flaws associated with some of our wine-making here. Despite the excellent quality of Xarel.lo wines around Catalunya, the overly oaky, oxidative aromas are still present and unfortunately are linked to Xarel.lo more often than not, due to its tendency to oxidise easily. Gramona are a very good producer but this wasn’t a good wine, and I thought it was older than it actually was due to the lack of life and freshness. Still, considering how wrong I got the first two whites I suppose I should be happy to get it right!

Red Wines

Wine #4: The wine has a pale ruby colour. On the nose there is a pronounced intensity of ripe cherries, blackberries, plums and damsons. There’s some oak usage here, but subtly done, with light hints of vanilla and smoke and just a touch of undergrowth/stalkiness. Really quite bright and aromatic, with subtle oak and herbal notes; lovely!

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity, medium+ ripe and firm tannins, medium+ alcohol and a medium body. There is a medium+ intensity of ripe red and black fruits, oak and the same herbal influences as detected on the palate. The finish is medium+ and full of the same juicy fruit and a lovely, dry mineral sensation. A well balanced, delicious wine.

Guess: Garnacha from Sierra Grados in Spain from the 2013 vintage

Reality: Mencia from Bierzo in Spain from the 2014 vintage

Wine: Raul Perez El Rapolao Lomas de Valtuille 2013

Raul Perez is one of Spains most famous wine-makers consulting on projects all around Galicia in the north-west of the country. However, his own winery and family home is located in the village of Valtuille de Abajo in Bierzo, where many of his finest wines are made. Raul Perez is a big part of the movement towards expressing the terroir of Spain from single vineyards and smaller zones, and I expect his success to continue along with the excellent quality of his wines.

Conclusions/Learning Points: I love this wine! Funnily enough, I had written a tasting note for it around 5 months ago and a comparison of my blind note is almost identical to my non-blind note, which is very reassuring from a tasting point of view. So, the error comes then from how I deducted from the note, but where did it come from? Probably the fruit profile; Garnacha is typically more red fruit oriented than black, and the ripe tannins rather than the austere, dry nature of wines from Sierra Grados. Not too disappointed, though, as I was very much in the ball-park and the tasting note was accurate.

Wine #5: This wine has a pale ruby colour. On the nose there is a pronounced intensity of ripe and slightly dried red fruit; strawberry and cherry stand out here. There’s some developing barnyard aromas, leather and undergrowth/forest floor. Just a hint of light oak usage with a touch of smoke, but nothing obvious.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity, medium ripe tannins, medium alcohol and a medium body. There’s a medium+ intensity of the same flavours as described on the nose, with a medium finish. The balance of flavours and structure is excellent here and again, exactly the sort of wine I love to drink. Lightly evolved but with lots of primary fruit left.

Guess: Pinot Noir from Burgundy (Village level) in France from the 2011 vintage

Reality: Pinot Noir from Baden in Germany from the 2011 vintage

Wine: Ziereisen Baden Schulen Blauer Spatburgunder 2011

Weingut Ziereisen are a small project from Baden in Germany, focusing almost exclusively on their expressions of Pinot Noir, although there is a small quantity of Pinot Gris and Syrah also grown. They tend 11 hectares of vineyards and produce 4 different expressions of Pinot Noir, divided between vine age and vineyard site.

Conclusions/Learning points: I’ll happily take this, having gotten both the grape variety and vintage correct. Trying to determine the difference between the same grape grown from a similar climate is notoriously difficult unless there clear wine-making differences between the regions, which in this case there isn’t. I messaged Neel Burton, the author of The Concise Guide to Wine and Blind Tasting, to get his take on it. The response was “Honestly, it’s very difficult!”. So, happy to get the grape and the vintage right again, and I’ll try to pin-point minute differences at future non-blind comparative tastings.

Wine #6: This wine has a medium ruby colour. On the nose there is a pronounced intensity of ripe black fruit; plums, cherries and blackberry. There is a strong note of cracked, black pepper, smoked meat and dried herbs. There’s something dark and bloody about this wine; a tell-tale sign of Brett, I believe.

On the palate the wine is dry with high acidity and medium+ firm, sticky tannins. The alcohol level is medium+ and the body is close to being full. The flavours match the palate wonderfully with lots of ripe black fruit, pepper and smoked meat leading into a long, savoury finish. All three red wines I’ve been served today are of an excellent quality and I really enjoyed tasting them!

Guess: Syrah from Croze-Hermitage in France from the 2014 vintage

Reality: Syrah from Croze-Hermitage in France from the 2014 vintage

Wine: Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2014

Alain Graillot is a locally born wine-maker, who has become a benchmark of style of quality in Croze-Hermitage over the last 30 years. Low yields, old oak and sustainable viticulture are the hall-marks of Graillots style and now joined by his son, Maxime, the future looks bright for the domain. Whilst other producers are now ramping up their efforts in Croze-Hermitage, both the red and the white wines from this estate remain in demand.

Conclusions/Learning points: The only thing better than nailing a wine is nailing a wine at the end of a tasting! This just screamed cool-climate Syrah from the get-go, so the question was simply placing the region and the vintage. It didn’t have the meat of Hermitage, nor the juiciness of St Joseph and so Croze-Hermitage was realistically the only place it was likely to be produced in.

Really happy with this tasting. One learning point remains the same and that is the constant battle to not try and ‘guess ahead’ of the tasting note itself, but to try and remain neutral until all the evidence has been gathered… easier said than done. That and I need to drink more Sauvignon Blanc. A LOT more Sauvignon Blanc!

Blind Wine Tasting: Practical studying part I

Every week I head over to Monvinic, Barcelona’s largest international wine bar, to practice blind tasting. Typically this involves a flight of 6 wines, split equally between white and reds from all across the world. I’ve long been a believer that blind tasting is an incredibly useful study tool, and I’ve decided to track my sessions here in all their misery (mostly) and glory (very rarely!). As a result you may seem some confusing measurement terms as I am currently using the WSET Lexicon as a frame-work for my tasting notes partially trimmed down here for the purposes of brevity.

17438964_141195999741056_5361310381702643712_n(1)

As this was my first blind tasting session in well over 2 months owing to my studies for exams on spirits and sparkling wines, I enjoyed it even more than usual. For a first blind tasting after a long time without practice, I was reasonably happy with the outcome although as always, the real learning is in the post-tasting analysis. With that being said, here were the wines and the results!

Wine #1

 The first wine has a medium lemon colour. There are pronounced aromas of ripe golden apples, peach, apricot, and a touch of white flowers. There is a note of wet stones, lime, lemon and a lovely honeyed note. Just the slightest hint of tell-tale kerosene.

On the palate the wine is off-dry with high acidity, medium alcohol and a medium body. There are pronounced aromas of candied lime, lemon, ripe green apples, pear, peach and honey. The finish is long with the same wet stone/mineral quality discovered on the nose. An excellent wine with a long life ahead of it; refreshing acidity, a lovely balance of both primary and tertiary flavours and a good intensity. It felt very typical of a high quality Riesling.

Guess: Riesling from Alsace in France from the 2009 vintage.

Reality: Riesling from Nahe in Germany from the 2011 vintage

Wine: Emrich-Schonleber Weingut Lenz Riesling 2011

Emrich Schonleber

Emrich-Schonleber is a small estate ran by Werner Schönleber and his family, which now comprises 18 hectares in the Nahe region of Germany, just south of the more famous Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. It has been a family ran estate since the 18th century although only became focused on wines from 1965 onwards. Today their 18 hectares of land are given over to the production of wine, mainly focused on Riesling with elements of Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).

Conclusions/Learning points: I’m reasonably happy with this conclusion, as I judged the acidity, sweetness levels (14 g/l sugar) and flavour profile well. I misjudged the level of alcohol which ultimately took me to the wrong place, and the evolution of flavours which took me to the wrong vintage. I need to drink more good quality German Riesling as I still sometimes mistake weight of flavour for alcohol in terms of mouth-feel. Even delicate wines can pack a punch!

Wine #2

 This wine has a medium lemon colour. There is a medium+ intensity of aromas, with ripe peach, apricot, nectarine and green banana. There is detectable oak here, contributing notes of vanilla, cloves, honey, bread dought and a slight nuttiness; almonds? The oak is a little heavy and there is a slightly rubbery note to the wine.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity, medium+alcohol and a medium+ body. There is a pronounced intensity of almonds, vanilla, toast and very little fruit; very muted in fact. There is a lot of phenolic bitterness to the wine which dominates into a relatively short finish (medium-). A reasonable quality wine but missing fruit and balance.

Guess: Xarel.lo from Penedes in Spain from the 2014 vintage

Reality: Chenin Blanc from Swartland in South Africa from the 2014 vintage

Wine: A.A Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2014

A A Badenhorst

A.A Badenhorst is a venture between two cousins in Swartland, South Africa, where they cultivate 28 hectares of old bush-vines. Although this wine didn’t fare well in my blind tasting assessment, I have enjoyed their other products over the past year, especially the white and the red from their ‘first tier’ of wines.

Conclusions/Learning points: A swing and a miss. This is a good example of taking a single aspect of the wine and allowing it to dominate the conclusion, in this case the relatively clumsy oaking and oxidised notes, both of which I encounter with lower quality Xarel.lo here in Catalunya. Normally acidity would be a tell-tale sign from Chenin Blanc but according to the fact-sheet on this wine from the A.A Badenhorst website; “… and slightly lower acids than previous years.” Pleased to judge the alcohol correctly here and if I were taking this as part of a WSET exam, marks would still be high indeed as I judged both the flavour profile, structure of the wine and usage of both lees contact and oak vessels. According to their website, A A Badenhorst focuses on the production of ‘natural’ wines so I suppose typicity may have been a slight issue in the wine selection? Anway, I wasn’t even close in my conclusion!

Wine #3

The wine has a pale lemon colour. On the nose there is a medium+ intensity of fresh aromas, with green apple, green pear and gooseberry coming to the fore. There is ample fresh citrus here with both lemon and lime, wet stones, freshly cut grass and elderflower. Clearly a very fresh and youthful wine with no discernible oak.

On the palate the wine is dry with high acidity, medium alcohol and a medium body. There is a pronounced intensity of lemon, lime and gooseberries, wet stones, green apple and green pear. An incredibly crisp, lean style of wine with plenty of mineral nuances. The finish is mouth-watering and medium+ in length. A very good quality wine with clean, refreshing flavours, a balanced structure and a good intensity and finish. It doesn’t speak strongly to a particular grape but is exactly the sort of sharp, white wine I enjoy, particularly on a hot summers day.

Guess: Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre in France from the 2014 vintage

Reality: Albariño from Rias Baixas in Spain from the 2014 vintage

Wine: Zarate Balado 2014

Zarate Balado

Adega Zarate is one of the oldest wineries in Rias Baixas, in the sub-region of Salnés. Tracing their lineage all the way back to 1707, the family have been recognised as a top quality style of fresh, mineral-driven Albariño since the 1950’s and have pioneered many of the new technologies, stainless steel etc, that the region now takes for granted.

Conclusions/Learning points: Another miss, although not a million miles away, this time. High acid, semi-aromatic varieties tend to quite alike and the differences can be very small. The irony of this is that I actually like and drink this wine a lot, but it isn’t like most commercial Albariño s as it doesn’t showcase the peachy, floral side of the grape and focuses more on the citric, mineral style. I’m not too sure that I can learn a great deal from this one, other than to perhaps include more grape varieties in my final grouping as I didn’t even consider Albariño!

Wine #4

The wine has a pale ruby colour. On the nose there is a medium intensity of fresh and slightly dried strawberries, cherries and red apple skin. There is a light hint of smoke, pepper and tertiary aromas of undergrowth, grass and a touch of leather.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity, medium- ripe and firm tannins, medium+ alcohol and a medium- body. The flavour intensity is quite similar to the nose but rather dilute and the finish is medium. This is a reasonable quality wine but I was underwhelmed with the intensity of flavour, as well as the simplistic nature of the wine as it felt like it had a little bottle age.

Guess: Pinot Noir from Burgundy in France (Basic level) from the 2011 vintage

Reality: Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) from the Ahr Valley in Germany from the 2010 vintage

Wine: Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder 2010

Meyer Nakel

The Ahr Valley is one the most northerly German wine regions, although at a tiny 550HA it is not well known internationally. This was my first experience their wines but Werner Näkel has been producing mainly red wines here since 1982, when he first took over the family estate. I’m not a fan on this single showing, but looking forward to trying more of their wines in the future! I did briefly consider Switzerland as an origin for this one…

Conclusions/Learning Points: Well, happy enough to correctly guess that is was Pinot Noir. The confusion for me on region was the medium alcohol (13.2%, correctly judged) but the very light, ‘dilute’ flavours and lack of complexity. As with the wine above, I’m not sure there are too many lessons to take from this other than comfort in the fact that it would be a truly horrible exam if it included a red wine from the smallest producing region of Germany!

Wine #5

This wine has a deep ruby colour. On the nose there is a medium+ intensity of ripe blackberries, plums and black currants. There’s something light oak influence here with toast and cloves, and a touch of dried herbs and leather. Not overly complex but fresh and pleasant, with some development.

On the palate the wine is dry with high acidity, medium+ firm and slightly sticky tannins, medium+ alcohol and a medium+ body. The flavours are fresh and accessible, the wine is well structured and there’s some development of flavour. It tastes Italian but I can’t think of a grape variety that encompasses all the above, or even a blend. The finish is medium+. A very good quality wine that was a lot of fun to taste and deliberate over.

Guess: A Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Bordeaux Superieur in France from the 2010 vintage

Reality: Montepulciano from DOC Rosso Conero (Marche) in Italy from the 2008 vintage

Wine: La Calcinara Folle Conero Riserva DOCG 2008

La Calcinara

La Calcinara are a small estate in the heart of Candia, Italy. They’re a relatively new establishment having been founded in 1997 by Mario Berluti and focuses exclusively on the Montepulciano grape planted on 9 hectares of land. A new winery for me but happy to try more based on this experience!

Conclusions/Learning points: A mile away in the end and this one is very much down to lack of knowledge and experience with Italian wines. In my tasting note I wrote at the side “it tastes Italian” but I didn’t have the theoretical knowledge to take the deep colour, the flavour profile and reconcile that with both high acidity and the firm, sticky nature of the tannins. One for the memory bank!

Wine #6

This wine has a pale garnet colour. On the nose there is a medium+ intensity of dried red fruits like cherry, strawberry and red plums. There is clear and obvious oak usage with vanilla and dill, as well as a plethora of tertiary characteristics like dried tobacco, leather, mushrooms, wet leaves and a touch of volatile acidity.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium acidity, medium- slightly grippy tannins, medium alcohol, medium bodied and a medium+, very savoury finish. The flavours on the palate are almost entirely tertiary and this is clearly an old wine. Incredibly savoury but there is also a sweetness to it, I believe contributed from the American oak which leads me to my conclusion.

Guess: Tempranillo blend from Rioja in Spain from the 1990 vintage

Reality: Tempranillo blend from Rioja in Spain from the 1995 vintage

Wine: R.Lopez Heredia Vina Cubillo 1995

GeotagMyPic
GeotagMyPic

R. Lopez de Heredia are an iconic producer from Rioja, being one of the very first wineries to establish themselves there back in 1877. Arguably the most traditional bodega in Rioja to this day, they pride themselves on staying true to their roots and their wines reflect this, with long, slow maturations in American oak for both white and red wines the norm. If you’ve ever wondered what quintessential Rioja was all about, pick up a bottle of Tondonio/Bosconia/Cubillo with some age on it (The 2004 Reserva sells for 20 euros in Spain; insane QPR) and enjoy!

Conclusions/Learning points: Not much really, as aside from the vintage I was right on track. It’s always nice to finish with a win, especially as this is the sort of classic Spanish wine which may well come up on an exam. Vintages are difficult to be specific about as a wine gets older and the trick is to figure out the quality of the wine, and then try to discern how far along the path it is. I slightly over-rated the Cubillo and as a result, I thought it was older than it actually was. A better quality wine would have more structure, fruit and intensity at the age of 22 years old, but I’m splitting hairs really.

Overall, a really enjoyable tasting! It’s good to be back with the more general wines of the world and I have a full 9 months of studying and practice ahead of my final exam in January 2018. There’s lots to taste and lots to learn, so I will be back next week for more!

Barcelona Blind Wine Tasting – Part I

Red Wine

If you’ve come across this post whilst looking for wine tasting options within Barcelona, please have a look at this page here.

In my previous post I talked about blind tasting and why I see it as a valuable tool to improve your palate, knowledge of wine and have a good time in the process. I tend to do a fair bit of blind tasting, either by myself in an international wine bar such as Monvinic, or with friends who are also working/studying in the industry. Last week we met after a three week break to have another late-night session with our usual format: everyone brings a bottle of wine to the tasting with the bottle covered up, or often in a different container altogether. We all pour each other a glass of wine one at a time, analyse the wine and then go round, talk about our analysis and put our cards on the table as to what we think the wine is, where did it come from, which grapes were used and which vintage were the grapes picked in. The below are the results of my analysis/conclusions:

Wine 1: Pale lemon-green wine with a quite low intensity of green apples, green pears, nettles, peach and some vegetal notes. Fresh but not aromatically complex. Lots of acidity on the palate and a little spritz, medium alcohol, a nice intensity and lots of fresh fruit.
Guess: Gruner Veltiner, Austria, Wachau, 2015
Reality: Gruner Veltiner, Austria, Weinviertel, 2015

FullSizeRender[1]
Conclusion: I’ll take that! This was a bit of a ‘fist-pump’ moment for me as GV has been a wine I’ve always struggle to identify blind in the past. I’ve had so many mis-calls with Gruner Veltliner when I started blind tasting and I finally feel that I can recognise it versus say, a Pinot Grigio or an Albarino. A nice wine and a good way to start the tasting. Other guesses from around the table included Albarino, Pinot Grigio and Torrontes.

Wine 2: A pale lemon-green wine with simple aromas of green apple, green pear, light white flowers, peach and slate. Young and fresh but nothing really going on here. Nice level of acidity, medium everything else.
Guess: Pinot Grigio, Italy, Veneto, 2015
Reality: Sauvignon Blanc, France, Pouilly-Fume, 2015

FullSizeRender[3]
Conclusion: This was our ‘dud’ bottle – the person who brought it was also very confused as apparently it had been singing when he opened it 2 hours prior at home! Other guesses included Pinot Grigio and Aligote, such was the neutrality of the wine. Not much to read into here, sadly.

Wine 3: The wine has a medium lemon colour and nice aromas of ripe lemon, peach, apricot, green apple and some obvious yeasty notes. There’s a little florality here and some toasted oak character as well. A taste of bitter phenolics on the finish.
Guess: Viura, Rioja, Spain, 2014
Reality: Godello, Valdeorras, Spain, 2011

FullSizeRender[4]
Conclusion: Swing and a miss; I missed this wine on two counts. One was the oak character and bitter phenolics; there was neither, it is apparently a signature of the grape when grown on particularly slatey soils. The other was misreading the acidity which would have led me away from an oak-aged Viura as it was just too high. Not a million miles away, though. Other guesses included Xarello from Penedes, Chardonnay from around the world and Albarino from Spain.

Wine 4: Medium, ruby coloured wine with a medium- intensity of red berry fruits, some stalky , tobacco leaf and slight touches of pepper and toast. The wine is dry with very light, soft tannins, medium+ acidity and medium+ alcohol. Quite simple
Guess: Gamay, Cru Beaujolais, France, 2014
Reality: Grenache, Spain, Priorat, 2014

ZakTK1IxTf6CccbB8TgH7A_375x500Conclusion: Terrible tasting from myself here. Missed the alcohol, flavour profile and more or less everything associated with Grenache from Priorat. Nodding off a little. Other guesses included Grenache from Montsant, Syrah from the Southern Rhone and Merlot from somewhere warm.

Wine 5: The wine had a dark, purple colour with a medium+ intensity of ripe dark fruits, burnt rubber, smoke, pepper, leather, licorice and spice. Powerful, earthy and full of alcohol, glycerol and spice. This week we were doing mono-varietal but this was mentioned to be a dual-variety.
Guess: Carignan/Grenache blend from Spain, Priorat, 2011
Reality: Carignan/Grenache blend from Spain, Priorat, 2011

FullSizeRender
Conclusion: After two bad misses, nice to completely nail a wine. Priorat smells an awful lot like Priorat, which is something that confused me about the preceding wine. The huge levels of alcohol, smoky character and purple colour led me to a traditional style of wine produced with a majority of Carignan – it’s nice to be right! Other guesses included Bordeaux blends, Syrah from the Northern Rhone and Merlot.

A nice evening with lots of lessons learnt. A shame about the dud bottle but I’ll take 2/4 as a relatively successful tasting. Next one will be the 1st September when hopefully the weather has cooled off just a touch, and the week after I’ll be recommencing my weekly tastings at Monvinic. Onwards and upwards!

Have the latest posts sent directly to your inbox!

Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: