Tasting in pairs

There’s no better reason for drinking lots of wine than a week away at the seaside. When there are six of you in self catering accommodation, with a few eager home/holiday cooks then it is obligatory to drink plenty of wine and it offers a great opportunity to try lots of new stuff.

I decided to take an eclectic mix of bottles with me this year and also had the idea of putting “pairs” of wine together. As there were 6 of us, a bottle only allows for a glass each, so you need at least 2 bottles to get through dinner anyway. I selected pairs of wines with something in common, that we could compare and contrast and decide which one each of us would prefer with that evening’s meal. It worked out great and everyone found it easier to talk about the wines when they had one thing to compare it with.

This is something I’m looking forward to doing more of in the future, but here’s an overview of the week long experiment!

On Easter Sunday we walked across the cliffs from Beer to Branscombe, enjoyed a couple of pints at The Mason’s Arms, before heading back to the cottage for a roast turkey dinner. In my recent post on matching food and wine I suggested either red or white Burgundy with chicken or turkey so I decided to pit Burgundy against New Zealand…

Round 1 – Chardonnay

Pouilly Fuisse versus Marlborough. Two excellent wines I have enjoyed before, which I found very difficult to separate as there was plenty to appreciate in both bottles. In the end I just gave NZ the edge… But only just. Between the six of us it was 3-3.

Domaine Nadine Ferrand Pouilly Fuisse 2008, Burgundy, France (Wine and the Vine £22.99)
A delicate nose but very elegant and very sophisticated. Delicious mixture of stone fruits, hint of citrus and mild smokey oak. Medium weight on the palate but more than made up for in depth and richness. Peachy fruit, nutty with a balanced oaky finish. 91 points

Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Chardonnay 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand (Wine and the Vine £16.75)
Peach, apple and honey aromas with a lovely smokey/toasty notes – even a hint of bacon. Good body and weight with yeasty, bready and honey notes, and below a foundation of apple and peach. It tastes like a spicy, baked apple. Very much in the Meursault mould – if I’d served this first I would have gone for Burgundy. 92 points

Round 2 – Pinot Noir

Another close call but the class of Drouhin just about won through. The amazing thing for me again with NZ Pinot is how evolved these young wines appear.

Domaine Joseph Drouhin Chorey-les-Beaune 2011, Burgundy (Waitrose £11.99, usually £15.99)
Raspberries and cherries, lots of young fruit and a lovely fresh palate. There is a whiff of leather and spice but mostly clean and fresh fruit. Delightful and a wonderful introduction to red Burgundy. 89 points

Te Tera Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011, Martinborough (The Wine Society £13.50)
Darker fruit than the Chorey with lots of black cherry and even a hint of damson. There is lots of savoury spice, definitely a touch of star anise, and a really quite developed meaty, feral note. It’s very good but lacking a bit of elegance. 88 points

Next we had a battle of wonderful spicy Grenache/Garnacha. The food was the leftovers from the previous evening and lots of other bits and pieces – not an ideal match but the battle was immense! In the blue corner representing France, a blockbuster from Lirac; in the red corner representing Spain, a beauty from Priorat. Thus was one hell of a tussle that we all loved. Two wonderful wines and the winner by a split decision… Priorat!

Domaine des Cigalounes Lirac 2009, Southern Rhone (Wine and the Vine £11.25)
Black cherry and dark plums from the hedgerow with a beautiful waft of herbs de Provence on the nose. The spice and fennel comes first and is beautifully balanced with black cherries and really fine and silky tannins. This is elegant and delicious. 91 points

Badaceli Priorat 2006, Priorat (Wine and the Vine £12.85)
Now we are really talking! Brambles, spice and smoke. Lots of black currant and blackberry fruit, warm spices that really dance on the tongue and a lovely hint of bacon-like smoke. There is a good proportion of Cabernet here giving that blackcurrant and eucalyptus lift but what I love are the rustic, edgy tannins. So much charm and plenty of edge. I love it. 92 points

Takeaway Tuesday! The majority went for a curry, with a couple heading to the chippy. But both options screamed white wine and for this round we went back to NZ (sorry I’m getting hooked) and pitted Sauvignon Blanc against Riesling. Many of you will know how much I love Southern Hemisphere Riesling and also how I’ve fallen out of love with Sauvignon Blanc. Until now. Both of these wines were fantastic, but the Dog Point Sauv Blanc was a real winner.

Greywacke Riesling 2011, Marlborough (The Wine Society £16.00)
From Kevin Judd, king of NZ Sauvignon Blanc – this has everything I love about NZ Riesling. Lots of bright citrus fruit but what hits you around the head is the crunchy and sweet tin of pineapple chunks jumping out of the glass. A very pleasant and very refreshing glass of wine and a great match for the spicy food. 90 points

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough (The Wine Society £12.50)
I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think this was my favourite wine of the entire week. This is so subtle compared to so many other NZ Sauv Blancs. Lots of green pepper, balanced with grapefruit, lime and black currant. There is real tension here – thus a really electrifying wine with masses of acid but the balance is simply superb. Couple with that a length of flavour I have never before witnessed in Sauvignon; I really love it. And at £12.50 I think I’ll have a case please! 93 points

After the takeaway it was time to sit in front of the telly and watch a film. We actually watched Bottle Shock, which I wrote about recently… And no, it wasn’t my choice, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. So here we enjoyed a couple of big Aussie reds. Cabarnet vs. Shiraz, Coonawarra vs. McLaren Vale. We loved the huge fruit flavours of both but the eucalyptus elegance on Coonawarra just tipped the balance.

Walter Clappis The Hedonist Shiraz 2011, McLaren Vale (Waitrose £9.74, usually £12.99)
Inky black with chocolate, black pepper and smoke. Blackberries, black cherry and damsons, concentrated and intense with nicely integrated oak. I like it but it doesn’t hit the highs of the 2010. 89 points

Berton Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Coonawarra (Wine and the Vine £11.55)
Loads of blackcurrant and cassis fruit aromas and lots of fresh eucalyptus and a hint of chocolate. On the palate there is plenty of grip, the black fruit is massive and there’s loads of minty freshness and beautiful mineraliness. The finish is very rich and very long. 91 points

Give it a go – its a great way if learning what you really like.

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Posted on April 17, 2013, in General, Tasting post. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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