Sunday Lunch & Tasting Blind


 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


Rioja 077

SG1201Bodegas 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

mcwilliam-s-mount-pleasant-elizabeth-semillon-hunter-valley-australia-10619751The 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

10204347tMargaret 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

thumb.phpThe 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

10434026tWhole 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

coutelou-paf-la-syrah_1The 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




10371647tMade 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


Tasting with Mount Horrocks owner & winemaker Stephanie Toole in Harrogate in September 2012

Tasting with Mount Horrocks owner & winemaker Stephanie Toole in Harrogate in September 2012

HO102‘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

FC26171Maury 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 blancGrenache grisMacabeu (Macabeo), Malvoisie du Roussillon (Tourbat), SyrahMuscat 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 bonbonnesles 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)

94cbd1faf5a7562eabd5f0dc4bb02d20_0x400Telmo Rodriguez Al Muvedre 2012, DO Alicante  and Torres Gran Vina Sol 2012 were poured with lunch.   download tech sheet 


5 thoughts on “Sunday Lunch & Tasting Blind

  1. “I continue to enjoy the lifelong journey of the pleasure of wine which has been very much enhanced by what I have learned via HMWS members and particularly from you.
    I very much liked today’s tasting, especially the emphasis on how wine production affects the final product. The Amarone was my favourite although I found all the wines an interesting contrast.”
    – Dr. Peter Goulding, Harrogate, 31st August


  2. “Super tasting on Sunday — especial thanks for the Amarone – Allegrini my very favourite wine! A big thank you to Helen and Peter for hosting such a splendid lunch — it was a very enjoyable afternoon.”
    Gwynneth and Rhiannon (Owen), Leeds, 1st September


  3. “The blind tasting and lunch on Sunday was a tour de force. The wines were all interesting and most were difficult to pin down. The McWilliams Semillion ( Elizabeth) was really superb in the garden atmosphere of the tasting and worth far more than its stated price. The Mount Horricks, Cordon Cut, Riesling was the star.
    Whilst all the wines were all very good the day was made by the kind hospitality of the McNamaras. To open their beautiful home on the Nidd bank and to provide a lunch to savour was far more than kindness. A great ending to our HMWS year.
    I need a holiday to reflect on it !!! Luckily Georgia is tomorrow. Ann joins in thanking you, Peter & Helen for such a memorable day.”
    – Dr. Stephen Cameron, Pick Hill, 1st September


  4. Thank you so much for the blind tasting on Sunday. It was really interesting to find out just how much or rather little in my case I could answer correctly and fun to try the different wines whilst looking intelligent and knowledgable We couldn’t have had a nicer day and as usual, Helen and Peter did us proud with the delicious lunch.
    Your talk about the wines and the research you do is legendary. Don’t ever give it up.
    Hoping you have an excellent trip and that you all come back safely.
    – Ann & Charles Joslin, Harrogate, 2 September


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