A Tasting ChallengePosted on: 28 March 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring
Would you recognise your favourite wine in a line up if you were tasting it blind?
Perhaps you would but it’s funny how we tend to use our eyes better than our noses. Give me a label and I can tell you what the wine is like, but the other way around is a bit more tricky. Now I enjoy a good challenge so when I run my wine workshops I always include an element of blind tasting. Not to trip anyone up of course, but just because it puts the wine at the heart of the matter rather than the label or the price. It is the juice in the bottle that counts.
If you think you would know your Chablis from your Sancerre then think about this. A few years ago at a blind tasting in America, tasters were given two glasses of wine to taste. They were told nothing other than the price. The first wine was $5, the second $25. What they weren’t told was that both samples were exactly the same wine. But somehow all of them managed to find them different, and often dramatically so. The same wine described as both simple and complex, then light and full-bodied. You get the idea. Once our brains have been fed the information we start to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together. And that’s why blind tasting is so difficult. Our brain gets in the way of our nose.
What I love about these challenges is how it can change people’s perceptions. Particularly the look of disbelief from a self-confessed Merlot hater who happens to find one that knocks their socks off. A determined drinker of Australian Shiraz happens to love a Grenache blend from the southern Rhone in France. And they might even enjoy a German Riesling. These experiences make my day and people smile and sometimes gasp in disbelief.
It is all about experimentation and opening your mind to some new wines every now and then. They might just surprise you. Of course it is safe to stick to what you know but there is a real joy in discovering something new and unusual. This month’s wine is a firm favourite in the workshops and very often we taste it blind. But I like to match it to some hearty food as well. A beef stew, chicken in a red wine sauce, something along those lines.
“L” de Lyeth Merlot 2007, Sonoma County
Slurp.co.uk - £11.10
Californian Merlot got a major raw deal a few years back when ‘Sideways’ the movie was released. In this road-trip movie the two main characters go in search of the ultimate Pinot Noir, pouring scorn on Merlot along the way. It physically meant sales of Californian Merlot fell off a cliff. This one should put the record straight though. It is one of the most popular wines in the blind tastings and it is simply gorgeous. The fruit for this Merlot is grown in Sonoma County and high quality region just north of San Francisco. The wine has a soft velvety texture, lovely ripe fruit, spiciness, and all in perfect harmony. It has a certain old-world elegance that sets it apart. Well, the winery is owned by French wine company JC Boisset, so that might explain it.
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