On Saturday myriad_freckles
hosted a wine tasting dinner party. Her brother Arthur (of the not-very-recently-updated-but-very-
informative wine blog
) had decided on a selection of wines for us to try.
First was Cava
. Cava is normally made with three grapes: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello; but in this one, the Xarello was replaced by Cardonnay. It has small delicate bubbles, which shows it was made in bottles (like champagne) rather than in a vat. Flavours noted by the testers included Christmas pudding, dried fruit, apples, brioche and biscuit
Then 2004 white Burgundy
from Château de Chamirey
on the Mercurey vineyard. This is an oaked Chardonnay, which gets its buttery taste from the conversion of malolactic acid into lactic acid during the fermentation process. To Rosy and me, this smelled of nail varnish remover
at first. People thought it tasted of butter, pears, pear drops and lychee
Then 2007 Chardonnay
from Montes Alpha
in Chile. We thought this smelled of pears and apples
and tasted of lemons, vanilla, pineapple and passionfruit
. New World wines are supposed to taste more of exotic fruits, and Old World of old-world fruits.
We moved on to red wine. The first was Merlot
from Casa Lapostolle
in Chile. Clare noted that this was very dark, meaning that the grapes had had a lot of sun. It might be called "Chilean gothic", we thought. The main flavours were vanilla, plum and chocolate
This wine was oaked by American oak rather than French oak. American barrels are sawn, while French are split, so in the American barrels there is more pore contact with the wine, making the flavour more obvious. All red wines and some white wines (Chardonnay) are oaked. In cheaper bottles (under, say £6.50 ish) the oaked flavour will not come from being kept in a barrel, but instead from oak planks or (even worse) "tea bags" of oak chips being suspended in the vat. Barrels are expensive. (Here
is even more about barrels.) Wine barrels can be reused, either by shaving the inside, or by selling them on for sherry or whisky or cider. We imagined a sort of barrel food-chain.
Next was 2005 Valpolicella Classico
from Italy, which uses left-over grapes after the Amarone wine (made from partly-dried grapes) has been produced, which gives it a rich flavour. "Classico" means that it came from a vineyard higher up the valley where the soil is less damp. The flavour we got from this one was brown sugar
, and we also noticed that it was very acidic and tannic
, and makes you salivate
. This is a characteristic of Italian wine, which tends to be designed to go well with food.
The third red wine we tried was a Syrah
from Casa Marin
in Chile. We thought it tasted full-bodied but understated and of milk, black pepper and mineral notes.
Harry noted that there were purply bubbles when it was poured. Someone (we'd drunk a bit by now) said that it had a touch of evil
. Arthur says this is an iconic style which is going to be big in the next five years.
And then was Muriel Rioja Gran Reserva 1996
fron Spain. We tasted blackcurrant and vanilla
. Arthur noted that rioja wines often have a liquorice flavour. This wine was oaked in American oak barrels, giving it the very rich vanilla taste. We also learned about the Phylloxera louse, which devastated the roots of European vines from about 1840. As a result, the vast majority of vines in Europe are grafted onto rootstock from the New World, which is resistant to the pest.
Our last red wine was 2002 Burgundy
Ladoix Premier Crun Les Corvées. People commented on its light red colour, and the taste of strawberries
. It is made from the Pinot Noir grape, which has the characteristic tastes relating to decay
, like mushrooms
Then we had a pudding wine
and unaccountably my notes stop before I have written down what we actually thought of it. I remember it was very tasty though. It was a Sauternes, which is a blend of three grape varieties: Muscadelle (not to be confused with Muscat or Muscadet), Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc.