Last night our tasting group was together once again, and we had pre-selected Riesling for the white varietal focus and Syrah for the red. It hink the group's hidden selections were very instructional and we all agree that the blind tasting format, while challenging, makes you a better taster and a better student of wine.
The Rieslings consisted of five wines: two from Germany, one Alsace, one Australian and one from Washington State. The color aspects of all the wines was fairly consistent with pale, yellow to golden throughout. Two of the wines had a slightly more golden aspect than the other three. These wines turned out to be the older vintages and / or the warmer climate wines. The two most fresh and vibrant for color and aromatics ended up being the German wines, but the Aussie was pretty interesting and complex on its own. The least appealing of the group was the Washington State wine; it was a little muted and leaning towards slight oxidation (2013 vintage under screw-cap).
Here are the wines in order of tasting:
Maximum Grunhauser Spatlese 2011
Beautiful expression, loads of fruit in the glass with ripe acids balancing throughout. Pretty classic wine, but very young, still.
Trimbach Cuvee Frederick Emile 2007
This showed a slight oxidative note on the nose, and I suggested when tasting blind that it may be from some barrel contact as well as age. Turns out, probably true on both fronts, although i have not gone back to check about the barrel. Dry and austere, but full and complex.
Dönnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett 2015
My pick of the night. This wine is expressive, zippy and long on the finish. Beautiful fruit on the nose with just a hint of sweetness off-setting the racy acids. Could drink all night long.
Jim Barry The Lodge Clare valley 2015
Wow, this wines showed really well. Typical of the Aussie Riesling - bone dry and rippin' acids. Complexity though from the delicate fruit that carried through. Liked this, although I prefer the flowery Mosel and Nahe wines, in general.
Pacific Rim Washington State 2013
A little oxidated and the color was showing it. Kind of lower in the acids making this feel a bit weighty and tired.
For the Syrah, we had a good selection of three wines that pretty much stumped the group, except until the wines opened a bit and started to show. This was mainly when we got further into them and we could compare better. The lesson was basically that syrah is pretty rippin', doesn't have to be huge and tannic and meaty to show well, and none of the wines was from Australia. Here are the wines.
Ramey Sonoma Coast 2014
Pretty much all new wood on the nose with loads of vanilla, smoke, dark fruit. Very New World and I do not think anyone was really thinking this could be anything other than that. It does show some elegance and sleek finesse, but the wood comes out and buries that a bit. Showy wine from a showy winery.
Copain Tous Ensemble 2013 (I think)
This was perhaps the least well identified. Sleek and polished it had some traits that could be described as Old World - earthy, not overly sappy and a bit tannic. The wood was reserved and not impacting. Pretty well styled wine.
Jean Luc Colombo Cormas les Terres Brulees 2006 (my wine)
This was showy and delicious. I wanted to bring something with age on it so the guys without a ton of experience with older wines can get a perspective; this wine definitely helped with that as a few described it as being a few years older, with one pulling 2004 as guess. Definitely not in line with the other two on color - more brick red around the edges, but still quite youthful, opaque and deep pigments. Nose was all about the old world, showing some smoke and meaty flavors, but not too over the top as some Cormas can be. This wine was lovely to drink as it was smooth and polished, had a bit of slightly decayed fruit on the palate, but again still showing a good amount of youthfulness. Wish i had some more of this wine.
The conclusion at the end of the night was that we are all getting better at describing the wines along the CMS grid, we are all getting better at cataloging our flavor and aroma characters and we are learning to eliminate the variable to draw more educated conclusions. Riesling was complex, Syrah was no slouch, either. Taste Blind!
A 25 year drinks industry expert, Brian has worked on just about every side of the beverage business, specializing in wine & spirits education, staff training, creative consulting, and of course service. He lives and works in Connecticut, where the number of working Somm's is limited, but he hopes through the effort of this site and its related events, that will change.
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