Tasting nine wines before Sunday Lunch was going to be fun but tasting them blind as a mock Master of Wine practical examination was hilarious!
August is the time for the Harrogate Medical Wine Society’s annual blind tasting based on one of the three practical papers of the year’s MW examination. It is a non-threatening, educational but fun event designed to taste and enjoy a selection of good wine and food. No marks are given and no winers are chosen. This year, there were twenty-four of us for the tasting. We sat expectantly at a long table in Helen’s conservatory with our question papers and tasting glasses. It was noon when the first wine was poured…
Question 1. Wine 1 is not from Champagne.
- Identify the origin as closely as possible with reference to the grape variety(ies) used, discuss the method of production and comment on quality
Wine 1: Cava Conde de Haro Brut, Rioja Alta, Spain
Bodegas Muga makes tiny quantities of this Traditional Method sparkling wine from viura (90% & Malvasia 10%) grown on the Prado Enea vineyards in Rioja Alta. Muga, the most traditional of Rioja’s bodegas, with not a stainless steel tank in sight, is based in the old railway quarter of Haro, capital of Rioja Alta. (ABV 12.5%, £12.50)
Comment: The strength and quality of the bubbles show that the wine is made by Champagne (Traditional) Method excluding Sekt & Prosecco made by the Tank Method. It has no Chardonnay/Pinot Noir flavours making it more likely to be Cava. DO Cava is a country-wide appellation in Spain and is not confined to Penedes. Xarel-lo would give bracing, lemon-like acidity and lemon cordial aroma & flavour. This wine has floral, cantaloupe and lemon flavours with some almond as one finds in wines made with viura/malvasia in northern Spain.
HMWS At Muga in 2004
Question 2. Wines 2-4 are from two different countries. For each wine:
- Identify the country and region of origin, identify the grape varieties, discuss the method of production and comment on quality and ability to improve in bottle
Wine 2: McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2005, Hunter Valley, Australia
The Hunter Valley’s winemakers have pioneered two distinctive styles of wine (oaked Chardonnay and dry, unoaked, varietal Semillon). The most famous wine style is its distinctive dry Semillon, made there since the 1870s. Hunter Valley Semillons are renowned for their ability to improve with age; the better examples develop in bottle for more than 15 years. The wines start out with a fresh, grassy, citrus taste and evolve into golden wines with nutty, honeyed notes and a luscious mouthfeel. Average Price £8 (ex-tax).
It was golden and honeyed and fantastic!
Wine 3: Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2010, Margaret River, Western Australia
Margaret River is famous for having a more ‘European’ wine style than its counterparts across the country. The fruit was hand-harvested, chilled, gently whole-bunch pressed and transferred to French oak barriques as unclarified juice for fermentation with only natural yeasts from the vineyard. Each parcel was left on lees in barrel for 9 months of maturation with battonage. Can be cellared up to 7 years. Average UK price is £12 ex tax.
Fruit and subtle oak and a delightful drink now.
Wine 4: Quevris Rkatsiteli 2011, Tbilivino, Georgia
The wine is produced in the 7000 year old “quevri method.” A quevri is a uniquely Georgian creation, a large subterranean clay jar, in which wines are fermented and matured on both skins and stems. This gives quevri wines a tannin structure approaching those of red wines, as well as a complexity of flavour and structure not found in other white wines.
It is 100% Rkatsiteli, which benefits most from the quevri method of production. The wine is not pressed off the skins until 2-3 months after primary fermentation. It offers a deep and rich bouquet of pine, pear and quince. The presence of ripe stems in the fermentation gives complex floral aromas. Flavours include apple and stewed fruit. ABV 13.5% (£12.99 from the Georgian Wine Society in London)
Fined with egg white and a with bit of added SO2. Not like drinking straight from a quevri as tannin is less pronounced. Fine fruit. Not everybody’s cup of tea though.
HMWS In Georgia
Question 3. Wines 5 – 7 are fro two different countries in Europe. For each wine:
- Identify the varietal(s), discuss the method of production and comment on the quality
Wine 5: Fleurie 2012, Domaine Julien Sunier, Beaujolais, France
Whole grape clusters are loaded into the tanks by gravity and saturated with CO2 in order to begin the alcoholic fermentation in an anaerobic state. Gentle foot crushing is applied. After one to three weeks of fermentation at low temperatures, the must is manually removed from the tank and the juice is allowed to drain from the solids over 24 hours in a vertical wooden basket press. The wines are aged on their lees in 228 l oak barrels (average age 10 years) for 8 – 10 months. The wines are racked, blended and kept in tank for a month before bottling.” – Domaine Julien Sunier
Not a typical Beaujolais but very pleasant and would improve with time.
Wine 6: Mas Coutelou Paf La Syrah 2012 Vin de France
The wines of Mas Coutelou are made by Jeff Coutelou in the village of Puimisson in the Languedoc. These are ‘natural’ wines of the best sort – they don’t taste tainted or unusual, apart from being extrordinarily delicious. Mas Coutelou was one of the earliest estates in France to be officially certified as organic (back in 1987) and nowadays Jeff Coutelou is renowned as one of the foremost producers of ‘natural’ wine in the Languedoc-Roussillon. This extends to using virtually no sulphur in order to preserve absolutely the purity and elegance of the old-vine fruit. Jeff only makes the wines that suit a specific vintage, so if that means introducing a new cuvée in one year or skipping vintages of an existing wine because the conditions don’t suit, then so be it. – Roberson Wines
“A special single-plot cuvee of Syrah. Wonderfully floral, sweetly fruited cherry nose with some pure liqueur-like notes. The palate is fruity and vivid with raspberry and cherry fruit as well as some acid bite. Very pure, fruity and silky with some tannic grip. Incredible fruit purity here. 93/100 (£18.95 Roberson)” – Dr. Jamie Goode
Wine 7: Amarone della Valpolicella Corte Giara 2011, Allegrini, Italy
Made with Corvina Veronese 70% and Rondinella 30%. Manually harvested grapes were naturally dried in September for 3-4 months in the drying facility. The grapes lost 40% of their original weight. Soft pressing of the loose berries was carried out in the first fortnight of January followed by de-stalking and soft crushing of the grapes. Fermentation at 8/22°C (46/71°F) was over 22/24 days with daily periodic pump overs. The wine was aged for 15 months in oak (half in large Slavonian oak, half in second use barriques) and 6 months in bottle before release.
Analytical data: Alcohol content 15.38% Vol, Total acidity 5.6 g/l, Residual sugars 4.9 g/l, Dry extract 38 g/l, Free SO2 17 mg/l Total SO2 95 mg/l, pH 3.66
Made to drink young with grapes from near Lake Garda. Already showing age, light and not a patch on Allegrini’s top amarone.
HMWS At Allegrini
Question 4. Wines 8-9 are produced in different countries. For each wine:
- Identify the country and region as closely as possible, identify the varietal(s) and discuss the method of production
Wine 8: Mount Horrocks ‘Cordon Cut’ Clare Valley Riesling, South Australia
‘Cordon Cut’ refers to a unique, risky process that involves cutting the canes when the grapes are ripe, allowing the remaining fruit to concentrate and raisin naturally on the vine. This results in intense flavour and richness. All the grapes were handpicked. Fermentation occurred slowly in stainless steel tanks until the desired sweetness was achieved. Alcohol (ABV) 11.5%, Acidity 8.9g/l, Residual Sugar 138g/l, Wine pH 3.14.
What a joy!
Wine 9: Maury Solera 1928 Cask Number 890
Maury is an AOC for fortified vin doux natural wines made in the Roussillon wine region of France. Almost all wines are red, made from at least 75% Grenache noir (Garnacha). Other permitted grapes are Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Macabeu (Macabeo), Malvoisie du Roussillon (Tourbat), Syrah, Muscat and other local varieties. Maury is a “vin doux naturel” style created by adding fortifying spirits, such as brandy, to the wine in mid-fermentation. This halts the activities of the wine yeast leaving the wine with “natural” residual sugars. Maury is vinified in a manner similar to port, but initial aging is often conducted in large 25 liter (6.6 US gallon/5.5 imperial gallon) glass jugs known as bonbonnes, les dammes jeannes or demi-johns. The wines may also be aged in wood for up to 15 years.
The founders of co-operative laid down the base of this solera in 1928. In the past, these wines were used to beef up blends but with the market largely gone, we can help ourselves to these fine treasures. Bottled cask by cask, these are remarkable sweet wines, deeply coloured and not unlike Madeira in style. Alcohol 17%.
Showing age and tiring.
The tasting was followed by a buffet lunch (Roast fillet of beef, Home cured gravlax, Ham and chicken terrine, A variety of salads, Cheese board, Chocolate torte, Coffee and tea)
Telmo Rodriguez Al Muvedre 2012, DO Alicante and Torres Gran Vina Sol 2012 were poured with lunch. download tech sheet