There is nothing like a blind wine-tasting to get you out of your comfort zone. And if you do not know what wines are being served, it makes it all the more difficult particularly since you have no indication whether the organisers are pulling out any tricks to make it even more difficult.
On a recent visit to Malta, we participated in a blind wine tasting with the theme being France vs the rest of the world. The event was organsed by R,W&R, Amateur Wine Appreciation Group at the Commando restaurant in the idyllic village of Mellieha in the Northern part of this Mediterranean island.
At the end of the evening the outcome was a 2-2 draw between France vs Rest of the World. But as they say comparisons are odious and it was more about the fun of testing our palates and finding the wines we loved without any influence whatsoever.
The only hints we received before the tasting – there would be four flights of three wines served. These would be Alsace wines, Oaked Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Bordeaux blends.
The first flight was immediately complicated because the first wine to be served put us off track. The Gewürztraminer from Chile had the acidity and petrol smell that is normally associated with Riesling and given that we were assessing an Alsace wine, we thought that this was a Riesling. The next two wines to be served had aromas that were closer to the Gewürztraminer but the first hint that the wine was a Riesling put us completely off track. We managed to guess which was the Alsace wine and which were the New World wines but alas, we got the grape wrong. That was a rather humbling experience given that one would think that you would know your Riesling from your Gewürztraminer.
The next three wines to be served were 100 per cent oaked Chardonnay. It was obvious that one of these would be a Burgundy wine. It was a Chassagne Montrachet by Albert Bichot. The next wines to be served were two Italian Chardonnays. They were the Ca Del Bosco 2011 and the Pio Cesare Piodilei 2013 from Langhe in Piedmont.
In this case, the star of the flight was the Ca del Bosco Curtefranca Bianco D.O.C. A 100 per cent Chardonnay this is a wine with a very long finish and which was immediately my favourite. We knew it was a Chardonnay, we knew which was the Burgundy but we could not guess from where this wine came from.
The next flight of wines to be served were three Pinot Noirs one from New Zealand, the other from Austria (Hoepler) and a third was a Burgundy Pommard made by Albert Bichot. In this case, the favourite of the group was the Burgundy wine but everyone agreed that in terms of value for wine, the Austrian wine fared extremely well.
The last flight of the evening were three Bordeaux blend wines. These were a wine from Israel, the Clos de Gat, the Chateau du Tertre Margaux 2008 and the Cignale 2010 from Castello di Querceto in Tuscany. The latter wine proved to be the favourite out of the flight.
During the tasting we were served an excellent meal at the restaurant. We started off with cured salmon blini and pickled cucumber, Parmesan and chive risotto with balsamic pearls, grilled Irish beef medallion with an onion tart and mushroom ketchup followed by a baked vanilla cheesecake with white chocolate, strawberries and sabayon.
The evening proved very enjoyable and a reminder of how we sometimes allow prejudice and marketing to affect our taste. We have often read about studies that show how the enjoyment of wine is directly linked to its price or reputation but in the case of a blind tasting, all you have at your disposal are your senses, the sense of smell, taste and sight. It may take the joy away from appreciating a highly reputed wine but on an evening like this, every wine starts the tasting at a par.
And that alone is something worth doing from time to time.