jamie goode's wine blog: Big tastings

Friday, February 23, 2007

Big tastings

Big tastings. We all go to them. Have to. But we all hate them. Not for the fact that we get to meet lots of producers and colleagues: that's what these events are good for. But because it's really hard to do wines justice when you are tasting one after another in an often crowded, noisy environment where it is very hard to concentrate, and where your palate definitely undergoes some sort of transformation in response to the physical assault of repeated challenge by acidic, alcoholic and frequently tannic liquids.

It requires experience, discipline and perseverance to get good information from big tastings. Yesterday afternoon I was at the Austrian trade tasting, which was packed full of really good - often great - wines. But it's so frustrating to know that simply through the constraints of time and the fact that I have just one mouth/nose/palate/brain I couldn't taste all the wines I really wanted to. What I did taste, I liked very much.

One slightly annoying aspect of the tasting is that some leading producers were showing their 2006 Gruner Veltliners, which are simply too young to show well at this stage. Gruner is a funny beast: it starts out all bright, rather tanky fruit, and takes a year or so to begin to express its true character. It just seems really hard to assess it when it is very young, although I guess winemakers must be able to do this to a degree.

Pictured is Christine Saahs of Nikolaihof. I learned yesterday that this estate, which makes very pure, mineralic wines, was the first biodynamic wine producer in Europe (they are certified by Demeter). They converted back in 1971, under the guidance of Christine's Aunt Uta, who was an anthroposophical doctor. One of Christine's daughters is now an anthroposophical doctor, too.

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At 7:45 PM, Anonymous john parr said...

Dear Jamie

Following your comments what is the 'ideal' number of wines that
you personally would wish to taste in a session of 2 to 3 hours.


At 7:56 PM, Blogger Joe said...

I am a big fan of the Gruner Vetliners, but I wasn't aware of the time required for them to really 'show their stuff'. I don't think I have ever tasted them so fresh, so thanks for the tip.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger Jan-Tore Egge said...

Ah, Nikolaihof...

They've released a few early-nineties vintages of Riesling Steiner Hund and Riesling Vom Stein here in Norway. I've yet to taste them, but I'm really looking forward to it. When Christine Saahs visited a few years ago, the mature wines at the tasting were in very good condition (both riesling and grüner veltliner), so they're obviously built for aging.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Colin said...

I was lucky enough to be helping out at the Decanter French fine wine encounter in London yesterday. In the Masterclasses there were tastings plus associated material on viticulture, vinification etc etc of 12 wines in each of 3 1.5 hour sessions.

I would have loved to have been able to listen to them being described and to have tasted along in tandem to increase my knowledge but alas I was helping pour the wines so had limited time to appreciate them. When I did get a break and went out into the tasting halls it was all too easy to get distracted and not fully concentrate on what I was tasting.

It really is a hard way to make a living Jamie!

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Hard to answer - a lot depends on how easy it is to concentrate. But my ideal for a session would be fewer than 100, if I'm taking notes - perhaps 50? It's a compromise, really.

Joe, it's hard to assess really young GVs, but I guess winemakers who regularly track their wines through fermentation to maturity are best at it.

Jan-Tore, we tasted a 1992 Nikolaihof, but it had only recently been bottled. Ageing very nicely, but for most of its life it was in cask.

Colin, the masterclasses sound great, but I often get frustrated by the pace - 12 wines in 90 minutes is just a little too slow. Now I'm being fussy! If you are drinking over an evening, then it's a different matter, I guess.


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