Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wine Tastings - DIY

For the last couple of years I have been hosting a wine tasting party at my brothers cottage during one of our yearly family get togethers. Between golf, eating and drinking wine we manage to squeeze in a couple of hours where I do a blind tasting.

 We usually gather around the coffee table, put out some wine glasses, pens and sheets of paper (to write down our thoughts), a few different cheeses (who doesn’t like cheese) and then go through each of the wines studying colour, aroma, taste, mouthfeel and a food pairing.  The fun and laughter starts when some individuals who have secret aspirations of becoming a chef describe extravagant full course meals to be enjoyed with the wine. There's a lot of "au gratins and red wine reductions" phrases thrown around.

Now you have to know that at our age we have sampled a lot of wines over the years...really… a lot of wines... so I have to be very selective of the wines that I put into the tasting so that they are not easily guessed. I also try to make a point about wine when I do the tasting. For example, last year I did a blind tasting of 3 chardonnays. I picked a Inox chardonnay, a regular oak aged chardonnay and a barrel fermented, sur lies and oak aged chardonnay for the tasting. As predicted, everyone guessed the first 2 wines as either a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Viognier or Torrontes. It wasn’t until we got to the last wine with it’s heavily oaked flavours that people began associating it with Chardonnay. 

The point I was trying to make was that even though it was the same grape, the vinification process plays a major role in how the wine turns out. Don’t think that all Chardonnays or Shiraz/Syrahs or Cabernet Sauvignons will taste the same.

Here’s some examples of wines I have selected for blind tastings or try your own variation. You don’t have to be a wine expert to experience the difference.

Primitivo and a Zinfandel. Same grape DNA but two totally different wines.

Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blends from Niagara/BC and a french Bordeaux. Compare old world versus new world wines

Ice Wine and Sauterne. Demonstrate different harvest methods to get a sweet wine. Combine this with a food pairing of desserts. Yum !

Similarities – Different Shirazs from the Barrossa valley or Gewurtztraminers from Ontario – similar wines from the same region but try different vineyards to see how the vintner puts his own special brand on the wine.

Food pairing – Pick an appetizer and wine to go with it. The fun starts when you mix and match wines with different appetizers.  Trust me, you don’t need dinner after this one.

The combinations are endless so don’t be shy about trying different wines. The whole point is to explore wines and have fun.

Here’s my picks for this week.

Enzo Vincenzo - Valpolicella Ripasso - 2008 - Veneto Italy

Don't you like the way the name rolls off your tongue and I'm not even Italian. The 3 grape blend that goes into the famous Valpolicella red, Ripasso and Amarone wines is remarkable in flavours and aroma. This particular dark ruby red Ripasso from the Veneto region in northern Italy has aromas of dark fruit, raspberry and some spice. A nice balance of fruit, acidity and tannins with flavours of cherry, dark fruits and some earthiness to it. It also has a nice crisp finish. 
Price - under $15 at the LCBO
I like this wine because it pairs well with most Italian pasta and pizza dishes without the big bold and sometimes overpowering flavours of an Amarone. 

Errazuriz Estate Reserva Chardonnay - 2010 - Valle de Aconcagua Chile

This 100% Chardonnay is mostly fermented in stainless steel tanks with 12% reserved for fermenting in french oak barrels. The final blends yields a wine that is nicely balanced between fruit and acidity. The oak brings flavours of vanilla to the melon and tropical flavours of the grape. 
Price - under $12 at the LCBO
I like this wine because it combines a crisp tropical flavours with some smoothness on the finish. Another good value Chardonnay from Chile. 

Cheers !