Tasting Recap: White Wine Quality Comparison

When assessing a wine’s quality there are several aspects to consider: intensity, concentration, complexity, balance, persistence, ageablity. Too often, however, price is a subconscious consideration as well – people often overrate an expensive wine or are predisposed to like it, while an inexpensive wine may suffer the opposite fate. For this tasting, we sampled pairs of Godello, Sancerre and Chardonnay, each pair representing two contrasting price points to compare the wine’s flavors, complexities and overall appreciation – and of course this tasting was performed blind. Wine tasting isn’t easy and can certainly be a bit intimidating, but have no fear, there was no judgment passed and tasters embraced the opportunity all with smiles. Great wine was consumed and tasters left knowing a bit more about what they tasted, and why they like what they like.

Rafael Palacios 2011 “Sabrego” Godello, Valdeorras, Spain

Avanthia 2010 Godello, Valdeorras, Spain

Godello is a grape native to northwest Spain, and though inherently neutral, can be extremely expressive in the right hands. This pair was a great introduction into comparative tasting as the wines were produced in more contrasting manners. The Sabrego is a fresher, fruitier approach with bright honeydew melon and mineral notes, a vibrant acidity and a slightly textured palate from five months of lees aging in stainless steel. We’ve poured this by the glass at both locations and have seen incredible success, not only at the bar, but for the guests who return for more Godello to share with others. The Avanthia was quite the opposite with older vines, more time on lees, malolactic fermentation and generous oak maturation to bring a richer, creamier palate, brown spices and a more powerful, concentrated nose. On the palate the wine keeps somewhat light as the acidity is naturally high, which helps to accentuate and balance the heavier mouthfeel. Now the questions arises of the battle of quality, and as a more contrasting pair, this wine was certainly telling of taster’s affinity for oak, but also showed that even in lesser known regions, there can exist a spread of quality and prices.

Jospeh Mellot 2010 “Les Chatellenie” Sancerre

Ladoucette 2009 “Comte Lafonde” Sancerre

Sancerre is a classic, pebble-ridden region in the upper Loire Valley of France. Sauvignon Blanc is dominant here, and the cooler climate and minerally soils produce wines known for intense minerality, white grapefruit and often a smoky character. The Mellot sees cooler fermentation temperature to preserve the freshness of the fruit, accompanying grassy notes and a stone foundation. Bright acidity brings even more life to this wine and over all, tasters appreciated the youthful nature of this bottle. The Ladoucette was much more focused on non-fruit flavors, with grapefruit notes lingering amidst a much more concentrated palate, well-integrated acidity and simply stunning finish resembling the energizer bunny…just keeps on going. Minerality is key for this wine and this Sancerre is a classic portrayal of what this region has to offer, though the Mellot certainly shouldn’t be forgotten.

Chalone Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay, Monterey, California

Failla 2010 Keefer Ranch Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California

Chardonnay is found in the world’s greatest white wines and is a chameleon of a grape, identifying with extremely varied production methods. Though California Chardonnay can be just as varied, the common identity is that of an excessively buttery and oaky one. This can be damn tasty when the winemaking is careful and clever, but can easily be abused. If you think you don’t like Chardonnay, we encourage you to keep trying to find exactly the style of Chardonnay you prefer. These two wines are great representations of this style, and for tasters was the hardest of the three pairs to assess. For the Chalone, a blend of stainless, old and new French oak is used as well as partial malolactic fermentation to create this creamy wine. Apple and pear fruit, brown spices, a full mouthfeel and hints of lemon all bond in this $15 selection. The Failla is a leap in price as it is much smaller production, the grapes sourced from the well-known Keefer Ranch, and use of both oak and concrete (giant concrete eggs, in fact!) to form layers and ageability. This wine is a great blend of both old and new world as it holds nuanced layers of lemon curd, pears, subtle spices and mineral with a well-preserved acidity and concentration. In time this wine will open up and integrate into a stellar bottle and with even a few minutes in the glass, tasters were shocked at how this wine evolved. With every sip offering a new flavor or balance, tasters understood complexity that much better. Tasters judged the Failla to clearly be the winner here, though a few bottles of the Chalone went out the door, as well.

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