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.

Loire Valley- Cabernet Franc with Altitude!

WineStairs_LoireShopping for some lighter bodied red wines reminded me of why the Loire Valley is such an interesting wine region. In the central Loire Valley, the predominant red variety is Cabernet Franc. That one grape produces a number of different types of wine (sparkling, still, rose, light-bodied through full bodied). These different styles are made possible by the diversity of the soil and altitude.

Tuffeau_GasnierLower elevations (nearest the Loire river) are made up of sandy soils. The wines produced here are fruity and lighter bodied. Most wines are treated in stainless steel and/or concrete to keep the fresh flavor of fruit. They are best enjoyed chilled and are great summer sippers.

ConcreteTanksMid elevation (gentle slopes) are made up of sand and gravel. The wines produced here can be fermented and aged in stainless, concrete and/or some light or neutral oak. These are middle weight wines that can be enjoyed before dinner by themselves or with food.

RedBarrelsThe highest elevations including steep slopes and or the tops of hills are generally composed of limestone, also know as Tuffeau (too fo). This is a chalky, yellowish marine limestone that helps provide unique characteristics to some of the oldest vines and the most complex expressions of the Cabernet Franc grape. The wines from this soil are generally aged for longer periods of time in oak which provides more structure.

These wines need food.

Excellent examples of a light bodied Cab Franc (Fabrice Gasnier Les Graves) and a fuller bodied wine (Baudry Les Clos Guillot).

Gasnier_LesGraves Baudry_LeClosGuillot

#Super Bowl XLVII- BEER vs. WINE

I rarely drink wine at live sporting events.
Wine doesn’t taste great in plastic bottles and cups.  And it just doesn’t feel right.

In the privacy of your home you should drink what you want, but wines are sometimes a better match with food. Try it for yourself, beer vs. wine,  with your favorite Super Bowl dishes.

 If you normally drink lager beer…

(Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois), you are drinking beers that are light bodied, bright and crisp.

Similar white wines would be Pinot Grigio (from Northern Italy), or Sauvignon Blanc (try the Loire Valley, French version). Drink with Chips and Dip!

If you want to try some reds look for low tannin, fresh acid wines like Barbera or Beaujolais (not Nouveau, please). Great with Doritos!

Summer ale (Sam Adams) or Belgian White (Blue Moon) is your thing?

Try white wines with more aromatics like Albariño (Rías Baixas, Spain) or Torrontés (Argentina).

For a slightly more aromatic red you may like a chilled Tempranillo (Rioja/Ribera del Duero), or unoaked Sangiovese.
All great with nachos or chili!

Hefeweizen (wheat) beer fan?

For whites, try Gewürztraminer from Alsace, France. Gewürz (guh-vorts) for short, is spicy and can be dry, or have a little sweetness. Perfect with asian flavored chicken wings.

Another option is Zweigelt, a funky, spicy, but floral red from Austria.

IPA (hop) head?

You might want to try the New Zealand (Marlborough) style of Sauvignon Blanc, grassy with Juicy Fruit (the gum) flavors. Another white wine option is Chenin Blanc (French, not South African) if you want a fuller bodied wine.

“Go to” reds could include Cabernet Franc or Carmenere from Chile.
Also great with chili!

For traditional Ales/Stoudts…

Since they are full bodied there are only a few whites for you, Viognier (northern Rhone, France) or oaked Chardonnay (Burgundy, France).

On the red side, go big or go home! You would probably enjoy full bodied reds like Aglianico (Italy) or Australian Shiraz.
Save these wines for the main course…

For some of my other “Super Bowl” favorites see previous recommendations:

Super Bowl XLV

Super Bowl XLVI

 

As always, please let me know what you think…

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!

What adult loves a big pile of leaves…Cabernet Franc anyone?

This weekend I traveled to the North Fork Wine Trail but when I returned home I needed to clean up  the many scattered leaves that are a constant reminder that winter is soon approaching.

The smell of the leaves swirling in the fall wind took me back to the vineyards and tasting Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Franc is native to Bordeaux, France. Generally it is used as a blending grape along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  But in some areas of the Right Bank of France (Pomeral and St. Emilion) along with the Loire Valley, they use Cabernet Franc to make a single varietal wine.

These wines have aromas of fall leaves, potting soil, wet bark as well as tea, and some other spices. If you have ever stuck your head into a damp pile of raked leaves you will recognize the scent.

Cabernet Franc is called by many names: Bouchy (in the Southwest of France), Bretton, in the Loire Valley, and Bouchet on the Right Bank of Bordeaux.

The grape has more recently found a home on Long Island where the conditions are well suited for growing single varietals that share the same woodsy components of the French wines.

Cabernet Franc actually crossed with Sauvignon Blanc, to create Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is lighter in tannin and color (pigment) than Cabernet Sauvignon. The lower tannin makes it is easier to drink on it’s own, yet it is also very food-friendly, easily pairing with a number of fall dishes like roasted butternut squash or pumpkin soup.

 

Some of my favorites producers of Cabernet Franc in New York :

Castello di Borghese

Shinn Vineyards

Paumanok

If you would like to try an example of a French Cab Franc, Bourgueil Nuits d`Ivresse Breton is an easy drinking excellent value from the Loire Valley. The name of the wine translates into “Drunken Nights”.