Saturday, May 08, 2010

Further Adventures in Blind Tasting

The other night my pal Peter came over for dinner. He's one of those former Brooklynites who packed up his wife and kid and moved out of the city to somewhere in the Hudson Valley. Now he has room to do his art, he cooks, makes ceramic plates, gardens, composts, uses crystals as deodorant - you know the type.

Peter and I have been following each other's blogs for a while now, and I have a decent sense of what he likes to eat. He has a decent sense of what I like to drink. This guy cures and smokes his own bacon. He likes pork. So I made pork belly (my first ever attempt). It came out tastily enough, although I served it the way a guy behind the counter on a naval vessel might put together your lunch plate - sloppy.

Peter brought a red wine that he wanted me to taste, and he decanted it and poured it blind. I love blind tasting. If you feel that you have something to prove, or if your companion is challenging you, it isn't fun at all. But if you feel that you have something to learn, and if your companion is participating in that with you, it's really fun.

There is, however, a lot of psychology to get past. Peter knows what I like. Would he pour some oddball version of a Pinot Noir or something? Would he pour something entirely off the beaten track? Something that he likes, but that I am not familiar with? Something that I am completely and entirely familiar with? Kind of reminds me of these few minutes of utterly classic cinema:

Anyway...When Peter first poured me a tiny bit I immediately thought the wine was from the southern Rhône. I got distinct black olive aromas. The wine was not as dark as I would expect though, if it were really a southern Rhône wine. We left it for a while and enjoyed our salads and our Mas de Gourgonnier rosé, and when it came time to eat the (sloppy) pork belly, back to the mystery wine.

I began to try in my mind to make the wine fit within some Burgundy compartment. This was sturdy and brawny wine, the fruit character was jet-black, the tannins smooth and sweet. The texture of the wine was remarkably silky, considering it was such a well-muscled wine. The perfume was by no means delicate, but it was graceful. And it still sung of black olives and dark earth. Could it be a Volnay from near the Pommard border? I kept trying to make it a Burgundy.

In blind tastings past I've tried to turn Châteauneuf du Pape into Burgundy. This wine felt like Châteauneuf to me. Would I be making the reverse mistake this time? In the end, certain that I would be wrong, I said "I think it is a southern Rhône wine, late 1990's."

Turned out to be the 1998 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape. How do you like that - even a broken clock is right twice a day. The wine was really great, by the way. Something I would eagerly drink again. Finishing the bottle together it became more and more expressive, in the end showing that beguiling mix of herbs that they call garrique. And really, such finesse for a wine from this part of the world. A real treat.


Weston said...

nice work there on the blind tasting!

now you need this video too so funny

peter said...

Hey Neil-

The pork belly was not sloppy. Anything but. And it was very, very tasty. A pleasure to see you- sorry I missed last night. And the Cour-Cheverny that you didn't mention was a real treat. I'll be posting about my adventures tomorrow.

wine student said...

funny thing - I drank the same wine last weekend in Whistler, BC.. although it may have been the 1999. Fantastic wine that, yes indeed, keeps developing over the several hours we had it opened and savored