jamie goode's wine blog: Results from The Berlin Tasting, London

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Results from The Berlin Tasting, London

Very enjoyable day. Began with lunch and a couple of pints of Harveys at the White Horse, Parsons Green, with James Gabbani of Cube. We were discussing the closures debate at next week's wine trade fair. Then, the Wine Rack tasting, at the same venue. I was actually quite impressed with the wines - the whites, in particular, showed well.

Then it was off to The Landmark Hotel for the Berlin Tasting, London. My full write-up is already online (here). In brief, the Chilean wines were quite easy to pick. Superb tasting: thanks to Eduardo for organizing such a great event.

Group top 3: (1) Margaux 2005; (2) Lafite 2005; (3) Solaia 2005

My top 3: (1) Margaux 2005; (2) Solaia 2005; (3) Opus One 2005

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At 12:07 AM, Blogger Martin said...

Sounds like an interesting tasting. 2 bottles of Latour with low level cork taint (TCA or just flavor mod?) If TCA would be unlikely to be from cork but more probably from the barrel room. Even the newest high quality barrels are prone to TCA, and once blended with the others will spread like crazy. Often not noticed until after bottling. Or it could be just a great coincidence and just in time for next weeks debate.

At 12:34 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

Very troubling to see that a young bretty wine can finish first in such a tasting. But not very surprising from a british panel used to unclean high end european wines. Reading your comments on the wines, I had the feeling that chliean wines were guilty of being chilean. But on the other hand, a wine showing a character masking it's true identity was rewarded as the best???? 4-ethyl phenol can be obtained in wines from around the world. It is like putting the same unneeded spice in great meals from around the world. Even if you like that spice, in the end it is boring. Imagine for those like me who hate that spice. At least, the chilean wines had somenthing of their own.

At 6:44 AM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

From your main article:
"In short, he’s to be congratulated by attempting to benchmark his wines with those acknowledged to be among the world’s best in such a public fashion."

Sorry Jamie, but I totally disagree. This seems like a publicity stunt (at least it's not a particularly cheap one!) where he can't lose. What would have been truly brave would have been to pick other wines from around the world at the same price level.

At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Hugo Rose said...

Not sure what you meant in stating that tasters in the previous 'Berlin' events 'weren't doing it reliably' when they gave high marks to the Chilean wines. It should never be the rule that the First Growths come top, and certainly that would have been against the spirit of this event, in which I also participated. We were asked to rank, 100% subjectively, how we found the wines. For me, on the day, some of the Italians and the Chileans showed as much virtue as the French, albeit in different ways.

At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Tim said...

I have had a number of Chilean reds recently of a variety of vintages and grape varieties and they all have what I experience as a strong "boiled sweet" aroma.

Is this what you mean when you say that a wine "has a Chilean nose" and why you feel you are confident of spotting them blind?

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Hugo - I quite agree. This shouldn't be a guessing game, and furthermore I'd expect many 2005 first growths to be not that pleasant right now. Indeed comparing them seems a bit daft. I suppose the problem is that there aren't any mature Chadwicks or Senas around yet.

Sorry to be so negative on this, Jamie!

At 10:57 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

I'm quite uncomfortable with this 'choose what you most enjoy' approach in this sort of setting. OK, say the tasters choose the wine that they find the tastiest now - then Eduardo publishes the results, and the headline becomes 'Chile beats iconic European wines'.

I think there's an objective level to wine tasting, and I think in this setting we have to say, 'which is the best quality wine?' where quality is defined by the aesthetic standards that are accepted by the wine trade.

The Chilean wines are delicious and ripe and forward, with lovely lush fruit. But they are simple (as Spurrier kept trying to imply), and by objective fine wine standards, really don't yet belong in the same company as the acknowledged greats.

This assessment is, of course, complicated by the fact that the 'great' wines here aren't as great as some peope think they are - but that's another story.

I admire what Eduardo is trying to achieve, and I would love Chile to produce world class fine wines, which as of yet it hasn't managed to do. And I've tasted extensively and visited. I think the closest so far is Matetic, and Falernia and Maycas aren't too far off. Vinedo Chadwick is certainly excellent, as is Eduardo's Kai Carmenere. And I've a soft spot for Viu Manent's top old vine wines. But these are still not wines that I would suggest can compete at the very highest level - this tasting should reinforce that, but previous installments of the BT may have led Eduardo to think he has already arrived, whereas (humbly) I would suggest there is some distance to go. Specifically, there is still a distinct Chilean character to the wines which I think holds them back a little.

What is it that makes them taste Chilean? It is a character that seems to trump terroir and grape variety, and the wines would be better off without it IMHO.

At 6:11 AM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Nice comment, Jamie. I hope readers of the main blog get to see it.

At 7:35 AM, Anonymous Tim said...

Re the character, do you have any views on what causes this?

I absolutely agree it trumps variety, region and seemingly, even some age (I have certainly had 2003s and I think even a 2000 that display this, as well as 2007s).

Does this indicate that it is a winemaking related issue?

At 8:05 AM, Anonymous Hugo Rose said...

You have, I think, touched on the key issue surrounding this sort of tasting, which is how can we legitimately compare wines from quite different backgrounds. I have always struggled with this, and I am sure that a dialogue attempting to establish global quality criteria would be a long one. But that's why I attended, to learn a little more about the process.
It was, perhaps,inevitable that the British cohort would find the non-French wines did not, largely, match the French ones based on conventional yardsticks. But I think that those yardsticks are largely defined by our deeper knowledge and experience of French wines in the first place.
I dream of a Mars Test: how a Martian would assess the wines, free of any Earthly cultural baggage.
Chadwick claimed that his intention (apart from a PR win) was to show that Chilean wines could stand in the same company as the leading wines of the world. Personally I think a more important goal will be, over time, to develop a greater understanding of the different taste and quality paradigms that I suspect already exist.

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Nick Oakley said...

Jamie, As a cricket fan, I know you will have seen similar arguments in the blogosphere, to wit.... 'which is the better sport, baseball or cricket?'. We have a similar thing going on here don't you think?

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Nick, in some measure, yes. But then it's legitimate to ask questions about whether there is an aesthetic system for fine wine, and how it is reached. We have a fine wine system that gladly accommodates vintage port, bordeaux, burgundy (red and white), Champagne and Mosel Riesling - all of which are very different. So we could accommodate Aussie, Californian and Chilean wines, too - and make legitmate distinctions about objective quality measures (this wine is world class, this wine is superbly complex, this wine is ageworthy, this wine is simple and so on).

Hugo, it's not just a French thing, as you imply - my top three were French, Italian and Californian in this tasting.

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous glenn watson said...

I've got an idea. why don't you send 12 of the best french and chilean wines to me here in south africa and I'll taste them all objectively and tell you which I prefered. I'll taste them all blind so i'm not influenced by the labels and I've tasted few french wines and no chilean so I'd be a bit less unbiased.

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Simon said...

I'm actually with Glenn Watson on this - the tasting would be much more interesting conducted with non-professional tasters.

Why doesn't Chadwick take this around the country to merchants that sell his top-end wines, get them to invite their customers and see what they think?

It certainly couldn't be any more expensive to do than hiring out the Landmark - and at least this way you get the opinion of people who might conveiveably buy your wines.

Conducting this tasting with the wine trade is rather like getting a group of Formula 1 drivers to review a selection of road cars - their criteria are likely to be markedly different to those of the general car buying public and, therefore, not particuarly useful to them when making a buying decision - although, obviously interesting to read about and great from a PR point of view.


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