Loire Valley Blind Tasting

blindtastingbagsBlind tasting is a method of tasting wines when you cover, or bag, the wines to see if you can identify them. Blind tasting is a key component of many wine certifications.

Single blind is when you can see the wine being poured into your glass. You know whether it is white, red, rosé, and whether it is still or sparkling from the appearance. Also, you know something about the wine (the region, the grape or the vintage) but you can’t see the bottle label.

Double blind is when you don’t know anything about the wine other than the appearance (white, red, rosé, still or sparkling).
BlindglassesTriple or Fully blind tastings use black glasses so you don’t know anything about the wine. For wine professionals, who think they know a few things about wine, this is a truly humbling experience as it is much more difficult than you would think.

There are many different styles of wines and most wines are a blend, of more than one grape, so it is not as easy as identifying apple juice from orange juice.

Recently I attended a Loire Valley blind tasting with some wine friends (Elizabeth Miller, CSS, CSW, Margot Redmond, Gawain de Leeuw, CSW) to test our knowledge about wines from this region.

At most blind tastings I am about average identifying the wine but since I have been to the Loire Valley I hoped that I would do better than 50% (coin toss).

The wines…

Flight 1- Identify a white wine vs. red wine.

1. 2014 Coteaux du Vendomois Blanc Lieu-Dit Cocagne – Chenin Blanc

2. 2012 Pensees de Pallus Chinon– Cabernet Franc

These wines have very different (distinct) aromas so this one was easy.

Results: Everyone guessed correctly.

Flight 2- Loire Valley Whites- only Sauvignon (Blanc) or Chenin Blanc- which wine is which grape?

1. Domain Curot Sancerre– Sauvignon Blanc

2. Dame de Jacques Coeur Menetou-Salon- Sauvignon Blanc

3. 2014 Domaine de La Coche Sauvignon

4. 2011 Les Choisilles Montlouis Sur Loire– Chenin Blanc

Results: Misidentified #2 as Chenin Blanc but 3 out of 4 ain’t bad. I’ll take that.

 Flight 3- 2 Loire Valley Reds- only Cabernet Franc- could we identify the region?

1. 2010 Domaine Durand Les Coteaux Saint-Joseph (100% Syrah from the Rhone)

2. 2014 Domaine Des Deux Arcs Anjou-Cabernet Franc

3. (Bonus wine) Coulee de Serrant- Chenin Blanc- this premiere wine from Biodynamic proponent Nicholas Joly is barrel aged (most Chenin is not) so this one was very different. It would have been interesting to have this in the white wine lineup as one of the tasters thought it was an aged Chardonnay.

TastingNotesResults: Margot threw us a curve ball and inserted a wine that didn’t belong (Syrah from the Rhone valley). Although I didn’t specifically guess that there had been an imposter I wrote “Black olive, white pepper” and kept shaking my head and comparing the two wines because they were SO different.

I give myself partial credit for this one.

Flight 4- Loire Valley Reds- only Cabernet Franc- could we identify the region?

1. 2012 Pensees de Pallus Chinon- Cabernet Franc

2. 2014 Domaine Des Deux Arcs Anjou-Cabernet Franc

3. 2010 Samur Champigny “Millesime”

We had already sampled 2 of these earlier but having a complete lineup clearly demonstrates how a single varietal (Cabernet Franc) wine changes when it is from different regions. I could certainly taste the difference…but I guessed none correctly. 

Blind tasting is a fun thing to do with friends/family and is an excellent “game” for paying close attention to what is in the glass to learn about wines. If you don’t do well, don’t feel bad most wine professionals aren’t that great either.

Tips for setting up your own blind tasting from Wine Folly.

Wait…this isn’t dessert wine? Lost in Translation

A prime example of how confusing and complicated wine labels can be for consumers:

After having “a few glasses” of wine for dinner I decided to open up a special bottle of dessert wine that we brought back from a trip to the Loire Valley.

I thought the label read Coteaux du Layon which is a well known area (appellation) for sweet white wines made from Chenin Blanc.

Opened it and thought, “this doesn’t smell like dessert wine” (rich and honeyed). “Maybe it needs to open up”?

Drank it and immediately knew it was a dry wine and unfortunately, a pretty good one.

Looked again at the region on the bottle which read Coteaux du Loir. This appellation produces mostly dry wines.

Looking at the label of a traditional Old World wine is NOT helpful. Many times I advise people to turn the wine around and look at the “second” or back label. This is usually put on by the importer so it is more American friendly with copy in English and the information that we are used to seeing on the label (grape variety, tasting note, food pairing inf0). Not this time.

Oh well …happens to us all…at least it was the right color!

Excellent summer white wines! Memorial Day Part Deux…

Two years ago I setup a Rosé wine tasting for family and friends to see if we could all agree on a summer favorite. Click to read.

The group asked if we could do it again, with white wines, so I was happy to oblige.

The 5 wines I chose are all wines that I recommend to people on a regular basis for these reasons:

They are inexpensive, all under $15, and a few under $10 on sale.

All are relatively easy to find- they are carried in most wine stores in the country.

They are consistent-not too much variation from vintage to vintage.

Granted, these wines aren’t going to blow you away with layers of complexity, but let’s be honest… summer wines should be simple, well chilled, and refreshing.

*All wines were tasted blind with tasting sheets for the drinkers to circle flavors, grape variety, country of origin and to write comments.

So here are the wines with some “professional” tasting notes along with comments from all of us non-professional wine drinkers who just want a great summer white…
Continue reading

Lessons learned at Wine Camp- A look back…

Last year, my wife and I traveled to the North Fork of Long Island to attend wine camp– 3 days of access to some of the best winegrowers in the area.

Welcome!


If you love wine
and have never been to a wine growing region- plan a trip, now!

It is enlightening to see how wine grapes are grown. Visiting a winery allows you to appreciate the effort required to produce wine and to enjoy the passion, of everyone involved in the process.

Every glass of wine you drink afterwards will taste better.

What I learned at wine camp:


Wine growing is FARMING. It it is HARD work
and a difficult way to earn a living.

Most wineries are not chateaus
but rather modest, generally clean environments for producing  a reliable, consistent product.

“Chateau” Old Field- lovely people live/work here

Wine people (producers, owners, tasting room managers) are fun, patient people who LOVE to talk wine and answer questions, so feel free to ask away.

Vintage does Matter
The vintage year (the year listed on the bottle) is ALWAYS the year the grapes were harvested, not when it is released (available on shelves). Therefore it is a snapshot of what happened in the vineyard during that growing season.

The North Fork has a cool, sometimes cold, maritime climate. Similar to Bordeaux it is greatly  influenced by dramatic, unpredictable weather shifts.   In 2010 when we visited, winemakers were anticipating a fantastic harvest. For the entire spring, temperatures were moderate, they had plenty of sun, and the grapes were ripening very well. Literally the day we left, a hail storm hit and some wineries lost as much as a third of their crops in one day!

Check your grapes! Europeans have spent thousands of years determining what grows best in a certain area. Most have laws that restrict what can be grown, and how it can be grown, to maintain the integrity of a specific region.

We do not have many of these laws in the United States so you will be well served to ask winemakers what grows best in their region, and stick to wines made with those grapes.

The PRODUCER is important (Look at the name of the winery)
A good producer provides quality and consistency. Many factors are out of their control: weather, temperature, hungry birds, etc. But a good producer can make a good wine in a not so good vintage. And a reputable producer won’t even make wine in a poor vintage!

Read on for some of my favorite producers from the trip: Continue reading