There is a certain allure to a blind wine tasting. Last weekend, when I visited Vini Birre Ribelli I was discussing with a friend what a humbling experience I had at a blind tasting dinner last month.
We were a group of wine lovers who went to eat at a restaurant in Brussels (Ventre Saint Gris) which lets you to take your own wines on a Tuesday evening. It is a perfect way to try different wines from the cellar which you might not necessarily try in a restaurant.
As an avid wine lover, I think I know my wines. I would think that it is easy to recognise a Riesling from a Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir from a Cabernet Sauvignon to give some examples. So it was an incredibly humbling experience to go to this blind tasting and find that I could actually not even recognise two Pinot Noir wines (together with many friends around the table). Neither could I spot the two Syrahs (a Hermitage and a Cote Rotie) despite the fact that Syrah is also an extremely distinct grape.
Many wine lovers have read about the challenge of tasting wines blind. There is a myth about tasting wines blindfolded and not being able to recognise whether a wine is white or red let alone spot the varietal. I have always been sceptical about the veracity of such a test though I must admit I have never tried such an experiment. But my friend was telling me how he could only recognise 2 out of six wines tasted blind folded so there might be some truth in that statement.
The following are the top wines that I have tasted in November. All the wines listed here were exceptional and hence highly recommended. Most of them still have very good ageing potential.
Chateau Calon Segur 1989: This was without doubt the best wine I have tasted in November. Exceptional balance, the wine is still fresh and the common agreement around the table was that this could be enjoyed for another 10 to 15 years. Calon Segur is a winery that does not need any introduction. It is from the Saint-Estephe appellation of the Bordeaux region. In the blind tasting, it was one of the most recognisable wines with many noting that this was a Bordeaux wine. This wine has a heart shaped design on the label. This comes from he maquis who owned this winery as well as Latour and Lafite. The owner however always said that while he made wine at Latour and Lafite, his heart was in Calon-Segur.
Gevrey Chambertin 1st Cru Domaine Trapet Pere et Fils 1993: For a 21 year old wine, this was exceptional. This winery is considered to be one of the best estates of Gevrey Chambertin with a history of wines dating back to 1870. This was one of the Pinot Noirs that many of us could not recognise because of the emphasis of pure red plum and black cherry fruits which was more pronounced than usual.
Hermitage La Chapelle 1998 Paul Jaboulet: This was a lovely Syrah which showed the potential of the grape and also the appellation for ageing. It felt like a much younger wine (2005). It had the necessary complexity to make it a great wine.
D’Arenberg The Custodian 2004: A Grenache wine, this was another perfectly balanced wine. I must admit that I am not accustomed to old Australian wines but this showed the ageing potential that great Australian wines can have. A perfectly enjoyable wine.
Cote Rotie Patrick Jasmin 1999: The second Syrah we tasted blind. Patrick took over from his father in 1999. This wine was still extremely young and elegant. We liked its balance and freshness. A superb wine.
Bodegas Faustino 1 1994: This was one of the best wines in terms of quality/price ratio. A 20 year old wine, it was amazing in its freshness and a perfect example of a classic Rioja wine from Spain. Most of us agreed that for the price of this wine, the quality was exceptional. If you can find it, do not hesitate to buy it.