Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tasting Notes: Blind Tasting at JavaMonkey

I've written about blind tastings and how they make me nervous before. It's not that I don't like them, it's just that I like to be right, and to be honest, my blind tasting track record isn't that good.

Here's one way to think about it: remember those vocabulary tests from grade school? For the easier ones, you'd get the definition and have to fill in or match the word. On the hard ones, you'd get the word and have to write the definition or use it correctly in a sentence. Now imagine that, in addition to knowing the correct use, you have to figure out what language the word came from. That, my friends, is what a blind tasting is like. Now imagine being one of those people who supposedly knows something about wine. The pressure's on.

But they're fun, really.

The most recent tasting at JavaMonkey was challenging even beyond the blind aspect because Jess was inspired by the recent Gallo Red Bicyclette scandal, when it was found that French winemakers were selling Merlot and Syrah as the more expensive Pinot Noir. That actually makes me feel better. I sometimes get confused between them, too (see below).

So, with due humility, I present the tasting notes, my guesses, and the answers.

1. White, very light in color, floral and mineral with lime notes.
My guesses: Oregon Pinot Gris or unoaked Chard
The correct answer: 2008 Hopler Gruner Veltliner (Burgenland, Austria)
Comments: Normally I nail the Gruner Veltliners in blind tastings. Not an auspicious start, but a very good wine.

2. Another white, this one was a little bitter and grassy with a lot of floral notes.
My guesses: Sauvignon Blanc or Albarino
The correct answer: 2008 Astica Torrontes (Cuyo, Argentina)
Comments: Okay, feeling a little better that one of my guesses was a Spanish grape, even if the wine itself wasn't from Spain.
Rating: Good

3. On to the reds! Plummy nose with hot alcohol notes, but the wine itself isn't big. Smooth acidity with cherry notes that cling to the roof of my mouth.
My guess: Something Italian
The correct answer: 2005 Montupoli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy)
Comments: Feeling good that I got the place right, even if I'm not familiar enough with Italian wines to have ventured a specific varietal guess.
Rating: Good

4. Smells oaky and a little smoky that quickly dissipated. Light-medium bodied, but nice cedar-fruit finish.
My guess: Okay, the first one was, "Haven't a clue," but I did write, "Merlot?"
The correct answer: 2009 Michel Torino Pinot Noir (Calchaqui Valley, Argentina)
Comments: Maybe I can get a job with Gallo.
Rating: Very Good

5. Very fruity with some funkiness, but smooth on the palate.
My guesses: Cabernet or Syrah
The correct answer: 2008 Hacienda Araucano Carmenere (Cohchagua Valley, Chile)
Comments: Note to self -- all varietals are fair game for these things. I hope this winery was spared in the recent earthquake and aftershocks.
Rating: Good to Very Good

6. Cinnabon in a glass with yeast on the nose, wow! butter, and a cinnamon finish. Ohyeah, there's fruit in there as well.
My guess: Zinfandel
The correct answer: 2008 Piluna Primitivo (Salento, Italy)
Comments: Okay, I was pretty darn close with that one, Primitivo being the Italian version of Zin.
Rating: Very Good

The bottom line is that wine grape varietals have such variability even within type that, for most of us, it's not always easy to distinguish between them. It's fun to be reminded that different places in the world do interesting things with their grapes. At the very least, I've maintained my wine amateur cred.


Marisa Birns said...

It isn't easy to distinguish among the wines for me. I'm so terrible at it. For example, whenever I drink white wine, I just care that it's sec!

And I also like prosecco.

Hmm. As you can tell from the above, I have no idea about wine. Wish I did.

Yes! You can be proud that you still have the cred! Heh.

Joe said...

I'd love to do one of these...haven't done a blind in years.