Last week’s tasting was a little different than usual – instead of focusing on a particular varietal or region, we did a little blind challenge of white wines throughout the world. There were 5 wines, each a single varietal, from 5 different countries; the challenge was to correctly identify the country (or varietal) for each wine. I only picked wines that were widely grown and representative of their country and showed good varietal typicity. To make it a little easier, I gave a list of 6 countries that the wines could possibly come from along a list of what varietals typically came from those countries. The choices were Spain, United States, Argentina, France, Germany, and Italy.
Wine 1: Crios de Susana Balbo 2009 Torrontes, Argentina: If you’re familiar with Torrontes, this was one of the easier ones, as Torrontes is a very distinctive grape – aromatic and floral, with a bit of stone fruits, lots of white flowers, and an almost perfumy mouthfeel. The 2009 Crios just got released, and it’s delicious – as usual, a standard-bearer for the varietal. If the varietal’s Torrentes, then it had to be Argentina (Torrontes is not grown much elsewhere – a small amount is in Spain, but too little for the parameters of this tasting.)
Wine 2: Newton 2007 Chardonnay, Napa/Sonoma, United States: Not as easy as it sounded – this wine has much more acidity than most California Chardonnays (which is why I like it), so that threw a few people off. Still, the richness, ripeness and relatively high alcohol content screams New World (i.e., anything but Europe). By default, that was the US or Argentina. Classic Chardonnay characteristics of malolactic fermentation (giving a creamy, buttery texture); some spicy oak; and pear/lemon curd / apple flavors. Most people got this one.
Wine 3: Johann Peter Mertes 2005 Riesling Spatlese Halbtrocken, Mosel Germany:Probably the easiest of the bunch. Drier than most German Rieslings (halbtrocken means “half-dry”) – I didn’t want to make it too easy – but still noticeably sweeter than the rest. High acid, no oak, and a floral / petrol / tropical fruit confirms Riesling; low alcohol and sweetness level points to Germany. Almost everyone identified this correctly.
Wine 4: Thomas & Fils 2007 Sancerre “La Crele”, France: This was a challange, and the wine didn’t show loads of overt fruit (which was a clue in itself). High acid, very minerally, great structure. Lots of wet pebble flavors, and some underlying white grapefruit that grew over time. A complex wine, and very representative of Sancerre. Acidity + citrus leads you toward Sauvignon Blanc, wet-pebble minerality points to France.
Wine 5: Marco Felluga 2007 Pinot Grigio “Mongris”, Collio Italy: In my mind the hardest of the five, because Italian Pinot Grigio is generally less defined than most other varietal/regions. Again, though, that’s a clue. This wine has more texture and structure than most Italian Pinot Grigios, with great phenolics, flavors of golden raisins, and underlying fall spices. Those characteristics are hallmarks of Pinot Grigio,; this wine had more concentration and structure than most. A few people got this one.
Overall, everyone had a great time; no one got all five right, but Tim Hansen came the closest with four. I’m looking forward to how the red blind challenge goes in a couple of weeks.