20 August 2009

Old World v. New World – wines, that is!

Today I'm serving as substitute blogger for my good friend Cecilia Dominic the Random Oenophile, who decided to go chase tropical storms for her vacation. She will be cross-posting this entry on her blog, which you should read anyway because of its wealth of wine and food info. She usually recounts the fine bi-weekly wine tastings at one of our mutual favorite joints, JavaMonkey in Decatur, as well as her other oenophilic and gastronomic adventures. If you haven't been there, I strongly encourage you to go check it out – great wines and beer, excellent food, and oh yes, fine Free Trade coffee by the cup or by the pound.

Anyway, on to the wines. This week's tasting was billed as an “Old World v. New World” matchup, but of course Jess (the proprietor of said JavaMonkey) wanted to throw in a wrinkle, so the tasting was essentially a blind one, with the exception of identifying the predominant varietals of each wine. That is, we got a sheet with the six wines listed, two chardonnays, two sangioveses, and two syrahs, but that was it. We were left to deduce which wine was from the Old World (which, by the rules of the tasting, pretty much meant Europe) and which was from the New World.

Our first pairing was the aforementioned chardonnays. Chardonnay #1 was grassy, perhaps slightly vegetal (but in a good way – maybe a hint of green pepper?), with some overtones of pink grapefruit, a little lemony also, and it had some funkiness (again in a good way) and a nice long finish. This one was a double thumbs-up from all tasters with whom I spoke, and was one of my faves. I guessed this as an Old World (hereinafter OW v. NW).

Chardonnay #2 had more of a green apple flavor up front (thanks to Kurt for identifying the correct apple varietal). It definitely showed some oak barrel aging (unlike Chard #1), and had a slightly shorter finish than #1. It was also a bit sweet, almost a candy apple flavor but not quite that sweet. It was good, but the other Chard was my preference. I guessed NW.

Sangiovese #1 was a light to medium bodied red, very smooth, with a slightly tart flavor – sour cherries was the best description I could come up with. It had some “legs” - for the uninitiated, “legs” refer to the coating trickles left on the inside of the glass after swirling the wine up the sides of the glass. The viscosity of the wine thus observed is a rough measure of its alcohol content (or ABV), i.e., the longer the legs, the higher the alcohol content. As a general rule, OW wines are lower ABV than NW wines. My guess here was OW.

Sangiovese #2 was darker, very big and punch on the nose with more legs. It was a little “hot” (in terms of ABV, not just temperature, although I could have done with having the reds served closer to “cellar temperature of about 65 degrees Fahrenheit). It was chewy and sticky, definitely peppery, with more of a dark cherry flavor. I picked up some tannins (but not too many); others noted a hint of anise. I guessed NW.

Syrah #1 was a little hot on the front of my tongue, and it was hard at first for me to pick out any distinct flavors as the high ABV smacked me upside the palate at the beginning. I eventually settled on “dark berries” as the flavor-in-chief, with some chocolaty aspects as well. There was definitely a lot going on with this wine, although it was just a bit too fruit-forward and high intensity for my tastes – I'm guessing, however, that this would have been Cecilia's favorite of the evening. I guessed NW.

Syrah #2 was perhaps my favorite wine of the evening. It was dark and slightly sweet, with big legs, but not quite as in-your-face as #1. I got some dark berries again – but that's characteristic of the varietal – maybe blackberries in this one, or perhaps blueberries also. There were also some tannins and a little minerality, but not so much as to overwhelm the other flavors. I also got a hint of anise on the sides of my tongue as I tasted this one. I guessed OW.

Now for the revealing of the hidden truths. First, I must pat myself on the back for going 6 for 6 on the OW v. NW identifications (not that they were particularly difficult). Here's the full lineup:

Chardonnay #1 was Verget Macon-Villages 2007, Burgundy (France)

Chardonnay #2 was Mark West Central Coast (California) 2008

Sangiovese #1 was Stella 2007 from Puglia, Italy

Sangiovese #2 was Niner 2006 from Paso Robles, California

Syrah #1 was Clos LaChance Black-Chinned Syrah 2006, from California's Central Coast

Syrah #2 was Saint Cosme 2008, Cotes-du-Rhone (France)

I hadn't thought about this until now as I was looking over the lineup, but Jess (and Joe, wine rep from Prestige Wines, who is always a fine source of knowledge) chose all of their New World wines from one specific region, the Central Coast of California (Paso Robles is pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the Central Coast). Very sneaky of them...

That's my report from the wine tasting. Thanks to CD for allowing me to fill in for her in her absence. And thanks to you readers for letting my indulge this diversion into another of my life's passions. Salut!

1 comment:

Keith said...

Interesting, but hard to say if it's representative. With well over 200 wineries on the Central Coast and numerous microclimates, there's a large variation in wines from 'round abouts. And FWIW, I haven't even HEARD of, much less drunk, 2 of your central coast wines. Niner is the only relatively well known one, and even it's a newer and less established operation.