A spot of blind tasting Blind tasting is fun. It isn’t the only way to taste, and I don’t think it’s necessarily all that useful to assess fine wines blind – largely because there is more to a wine that what is just in the glass.
But when you taste blind, you learn. You learn about the wine, and you learn about your own palate. Best of all, it humbles you. Most of us need humbling on a regular basis. Last night, after quite a bit of Champagne consumption, brother-in-law Beavington tested me with five blind wines.
I was rubbish. Properly humbled. But I learned something. In the spirit of open disclosure I’m going to share my impressions.
Please don’t laugh. Sometimes I can be quite good at this, I promise.
Spice, chalk, cedar, earth. Bordeaux with some age? Mature plummy fruit with nice tannic grip. Blackcurrant notes with a grippy, savoury edge. Ripe but with some age. Quite rich and ripe: a warm Bordeaux year? 1990 or 1996? Complex and mature. 92/100
The wine: Domaine de Ravanes Les Gravières du Taurou Grande Reserve 2000 Vin de Pays des Coteaux des Murviel, Languedoc, France
This wasn’t a terrible guess, because it’s a very Bordeaux-like Languedoc wine. Last time I tasted it blind in 2004, in a flight of 3 including Petrus, I guessed this as the Petrus.
Sweet, ripe, green herby edge to the nose which shows sweet blackcurrant fruit. Leafy and floral. The palate shows fresh blackcurrant fruit that’s green yet ripe and sweet at the same time. It makes me think of Loire Cabernet Franc, but it’s quite sweet so could also be from a warmer climate. Languedoc Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 vintage?
The wine: Chateau de Pennautier 2008 Cabardès, Languedoc, France
This was a pretty good guess, although I should have had the courage to ditch the Loire and head south straight away.
Ripe and aromatic, with herbs and spice as well as some exotic berry fruit and a bit of earth. Lovely chalk and gravel edge to the palate. Showing some maturity, but very rich and ripe with sweetness to the fruit. Ripe Syrah? 1995 Rhone? 93/100
The wine: Château Ducru Beaucaillou 1996 Saint Julien, Bordeaux
This was a bad guess. Vintage was close, but region was wrong. Does terroir become diminished with age? A classy wine, none-the-less.
Very rich, warm, ripe aromatics, with tar, spice and warm fruity notes. The palate is rich, mature, cedary and quite elegant, with some chalk and spice. Complex and really elegant, showing good concentration. This is a lovely Bordeaux, that’s mature, ripe and sophisticated. 1995 right bank. 94/100
The wine: Château Gruaud Larose 1996 Saint Julien, Bordeaux
A good enough guess, but not quite right. It was left-bank 1996. A lovely wine.
Sweet, ripe, pure and lush. Good definition to the pure, elegant ripe blackberry and black cherry fruit. Lovely purity here. Ripe but fresh. This is a modern high-end Languedoc style red. 2010 vintage? 89/100
The wine: Quinta do Noval 2007 Douro, Portugal
This was the most striking error of the night. Tasted sighted, I have rated this wine very highly indeed. On tonight’s showing, it was very appealing, but showing little more than pure, sweet fruit. This was simpler and less compelling that I’ve found it on previous tastings. I have a bottle: I’ll be keeping it 5 years more at least to hope that it develops some complexity. Was I wrong in rating it so highly on previous occasions? I hope not.