jamie goode's wine blog: Chile day 3 - tasting in earnest

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chile day 3 - tasting in earnest

Today was work. But it was enjoyable work. We (the nine tasters) had a quick briefing from Luz, who was organizing the tasting, and we were then given a wine to benchmark our palates with. It was an oaked Chardonnay. John Hoskins and I thought it was bronze medal quality well made, and quite enjoyable, but Julia Harding, Beverley Blanning (whose badge was hilariously mispelled as Beperly Planning) and Margaret Rand thought it was vile. Things weren't looking good.

The teams were each three strong, with the chairs alternating each session, so that we shared the job around. I started off with Julia Harding and John Hoskins, both MWs and good tasters. We worked well as a team, but there were some interesting variations in preferences. It was fun to retaste all the wines our morning shift was Sauvignon Blanc together, after we'd already tasted them individually. You get some good insights from tasting alongside others.

We tried three flights of 11 Sauvignons, and the overall quality was pretty good. We dished out quite a few bronze medals and half a dozen silvers, with one potential gold. I think the other panels were much stricter than us, and gave away fewer medals.

Lunch was a surprisingly leisurely and luxurious affair, although we didn't drink much wine because we wanted to keep our palates sharp. In the afternoon I was with Margaret Rand and Joanna Simon, tasting inexpensive Merlots and more expensive Cabernet Sauvignons. This was quite hard work: we wanted to do a good job, and so we retasted quite a bit. Many bronze medals, but no silvers. As I was pouring the last sample, I realized I was tired when I found myself pouring it directly into the spitoon and not my glass...

Despite the early misgivings, the panels I were on found consensus relatively easily, and it was good fun tasting with them.

But I wasn't finished. I'd asked Luz to keep hold of any bottles deemed faulty by the panels, and she did this. Of the 205 wines we tasted altogether, seven had been deemed faulty. There were just three cork-tainted bottles (Cork taint was assumed, but of course we are actually talking about musty taint, which is almost certainly cork-derived, but we can't be sure). For two of these musty bottles, the back-ups were musty also, and both wines came from the same winery. Three other bottles had undefined faults: I reckoned two were bretty, and one was reduced. But they weren't disastrously faulty. The line-up of faulty bottles is pictured.

When we got back to the hotel there was time for a game of tennis with John and Beverley, and then a swim in the fabulous hotel pool. I'm soon off out for dinner with the others. Tomorrow we taste again, and I'm looking forward to it.



At 7:27 AM, Anonymous keith prothero said...

Life is tough Jamie,but thanks for giving such an honest and interesting commentary on the tasting process.
Hope you may be invited out here for the Veritas awards or something similar.

At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Sounds like the pampering is getting the desired effect... ;-)

At 4:33 AM, Blogger Paul Tudor said...

But yet another wine competition which does not employ double blind tasting. Why do these wine shows continue bagging bottles, instead of having the wines poured elsewhere, as is the common practice in Australasia?

When I run my own tastings at home - I also insist on having someone else pour the wines for me.

I must say, one has to take reports of cork taint, screwcap smellies and other apparent results with a grain of salt when the judges can see the bottle neck.

This is not to mention differences in bottles and what implications they might have on quality - tall bottles, heavy glass, flange tops etc etc etc.

On the positive side, it sounds like you guys are tough markers you would be useful at one or two NZ shows). There is an interesting section in the book "Wisdom of Crowds", which confirms all my (mostly negative) experiences of "consensus marking" on wine show panels. I will try and dig it out for you.

Further to an earlier posting of yours Jamie, what have you decided to do re. Netvibes and your online presence. I am currently sorting out my own series of email addresses, websites etc.

Best wishes



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