26 March, 2002

Twelve blind bottles

The first night of wine tasting is devoted to blindtaste some of the different grape varieties, that grow in the vineyards around France. Our teacher hides six bottles of white wines in orange champagne coolers. Later the same evening he hides six bottles of red. Only if you are able to recognize a wine from the visible bit of the bottle, you may be able to guess the identity of the wine.

Parameters and characteristic aromas
Each grape variety has its characteristics. If you are able to smell and taste and then name some of these aromas, you may also rather easily be able to guess the identity of the bottle. As a further help you employ the following parameters:

  • Acidity
  • Tannins
  • Grease
  • Alcohol

    To determine these parameters will help you to place the wine geographically - Northern France, Southern France, Mediterranean climate, maritime influences and so on - which brings further hints about the possible identity. A wine with a lot of alcohol is probably from the sunny South, whereas more acidity is more likely to originate from the cooler North.

    The method
    The white wines are poured into the glasses two at a time. In this way they keep at least quite cool. The method now is to notice and describe:

  • the looks (la robe)
  • the smell (le nez)
  • the taste (la bouche)

    We taste the wine twice. Spit it out in the elegant bucket, made for this purpose. If you drink too much wine, you will destroy your ability to taste too fast, and after all we still have another 10 wines to go. A few times the teacher askes us to go back and taste a wine we already tried in order to compare, for instance glass four with glass two. When you in this way crisscross your way through the glasses, you may some times notice new aromas in glasses, where you did not notice them at first. I generally find it rather difficult to name aromas. It is much more difficult when they are combined as they are in a wine than when you smell them isolated from a little bottle.

    The notions that come along with the field of wine tasting are also not that easy. You must know what lies in a notion before you can begin to quantify the wine. A fat wine for instance. What excactly does the word fat mean in connection with a wine? I cannot quite gauge how many silly questions I am allowed to pose in this group of people, so I stay quiet tonight. Cannot keep the teacher busy all the time, can I? So...

    Whirl the fat wine around
    To determine how fat the wine is, you whirl it around in your palate, not too long, not too short, you swallow and then - da da - you have an impression. I decide to check a few books and articles, and then ask if the big mystery has not moved closer to final solution.

    Other parameters such as tannins, alcohol and acidity are a bit easier to understand and place. Even they too are rather complicated to place on a scale from one to five as we are supposed to do to determine the grape variety. Lack of experience. So I have suggested to Alain to dig a bit deeper into our cave and see if he can find something else than the usual suspect, our own red Coteaux Champenois to test my palate now and then.

    During the tasting we are introduced too:

  • Riesling (grapefruit, ananas, honeysuckle, oil)
  • Muscat-Viognier (abricot, peach, violet, liquorice)
  • Sauvignon (box, mint, flint, pebber)
  • Marsanne-Rousanne (anise, thyme, violet, iris, green coffee, butter)
  • Chardonnay (hazelnut, butter, ambergris, acacia)
  • Chenin Blanc (quince, honey, apple, rhubarb, chestnut)

    All white wines have tastes of citrus fruits and white fruits.

  • Cabernet Franc (green pebber, violet, liquorice, raspberries)
  • Gamay (banana, sweets, plum, peony)
  • Syrah (pebber, leather, blackberries, liquorice, violet)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (blackcurrant, blackberries, leather, pine, rose, pebber)
  • Pinot Noir (cherries, blackcurrant, strawberries, smoke, musk, vine)
  • Grenache (strawberries, brandy of fruits, fruit stones, garrigue (sunny, spicy and stony slopes of the Midi, caramel)

    We stay far away from vintages and characteristics of the years at the moment. The themes next time - in two months - will be Bordeaux and sparkling wines.

    You may also read: Use your nose right

    På dansk

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