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France v. the rest of the world (in wines) - Printable Version

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- wondersofwine - 07-02-2007 07:19 PM

I attended this wine tasting at the French Embassy Saturday night. We tasted four French white grape varieties and four French red grape varieties and the same number of whites and reds (from same varieties) from other parts of the world in flights of four wines (16 total tastings). We knew what pair of wines were being tasted (such as a Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc but not which wine was A and which was B or which was C and which was D.
(They had a Bordeaux v. Napa tasting in the afternoon but I couldn't get to that one).
French Wine Society and and American Wine (Association) put on the event. Rules were that wines had to be available from local DC shops and whites were to be no more than $25 and reds no more than $35 (I think one red wine went over by $1.00 at retail price.)

First up:
REVERDY SAUVIGNON BLANC, SANCERRE, FRANCE 2006
CLOUDY BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC, MARLBOROUGH, NEW ZEALAND 2006

I guessed the nationality correctly on this one and prefered the Cloudy Bay which had grapefruit and tropical fruit notes. The Reverdy was quite mineral on the nose and rather austere. I thought it might have benefited from another year of age but one of the presenters made a point about prefering Sauvignon Blanc in its youth. (I know some of the Cotat Sauvignon Blanc improves with a few years in bottle.) Cloudy Bay and Reverdy were a pretty close split in the voting for favorite on this round. 2006 is a good vintage for Cloudy Bay. I liked it better than some other vintages I have tried.

Second pairing in the first flight:
BOURILLON CHENIN BLANC, VOUVRAY, FRANCE 2005
MULDERBOSCH CHENIN BLANC, STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA 2006
I thought wine C had a deep note, partly from oak, and more distinctive nose than wine D and also slight vanillin flavoring. I found wine D pleasant but less distinctive. Unfortunately, I'm still confused about which was which. I thought wine C was the Vouvray but it may have been the reverse order. The majority favored the French wine in this round.

Third round:
CORDIER CHARDONNAY, ST. VERAN, FRANCE, 2004
SAINTSBURY CHARDONNAY, CARNEROS, CA 2005

I was fooled here by a St. Veran that was made more in the winemaking style of a Meursault and tasted more like a Mersault. The American wine presenter said it "out-Cal charded the Cal chards." I picked the St. Veran as the California wine but prefered it to the Saintsbury. It had seen some oak and had a richer, oak-influenced nose with vanilla and a faint hint of toffee or caramel. Definitely the oakier wine on the palate but balanced, with a long finish on the verge of being buttery. The Saintsbury Chardonnay had a pleasant apple scent but not the richness imparted by the oak. The presenter of the French wines talked about roasted hazelnut and toasted almond being signatures of Chardonnay from France but I would have to stretch it to find any nuts in the St. Veran. I think the French wine was favored by the majority on this round.

Round 4:
SCHOFFIT "HARTH" RIESLING, ALSACE, FRANCE 2004
RADFORDALE RIESLING, EDEN VALLEY, AUSTRALIA 2004

I prefered the Alsace wine which was the clear favorite of the crowd (out of maybe 100 120 people only about five voted from the Australian Riesling)but I mistakenly thought it was from Australia. Wine C, the Australian Riesling, had an unpleasant amount of kerosene or petrol on the nose--maybe in an unfortunate state of development. I also thought there was some cement on the nose. Wine D, the wine from Alsace, was much fruitier and while said to be bone dry, presented as an off-dry wine.

Round 5 started the red wine flights:
DURUELL-JANTHIEL "EN GUESNES" PINOT NOIR, RULLY, FRANCE 2005
WILD EARTH PINOT NOIR, CENTRAL OTAGO, NEW ZEALAND 2005
I got the nationality correct on this round where the women on either side of me had it the reverse way. I prefered the wine from Rully as did the majority of the crowd. It had almost a Grenache nose of berry fruits and was more extracted than the New Zealand wine. (The French wine presenter encouraged us to count the number of swallows we took with the first sip of the wine. Three swallows indicates a wine with some extraction whereas one swallow indicates less extraction and quality. I took 2-3 swallows with the Rully and 1-1.5 with the Otago.) The New Zealand wine was darker and more tannic which should indicate more extraction shouldn't it, so go figure. It had a fresh fruitiness and I liked both wines but liked the Rully better. In a close vote the crowd prefered the New Zealand Pinot Noir over the Rully.

Round 6:
CHATEAU ROLAND LA GARDE GRAND VIN MERLOT, FRANCE, 2000
TREFETHAN OAK KNOLL MERLOT, NAPA VALLEY, CA 2002
I didn't vote for a favorite in this round because I prefered the nose of wine C (the Trefethan) and the flavors of wine D (the Chateau Roland la Garde. The Trefethan smelled very ripe--not so much plum as berries. It was viscous on the sides of the glass and measured 2-3 swallows with a puckery finish. Wine D, the French Merlot, had a bubblegum nose that I didn't like but was more elegant on the palate than the nose indicated. I measured 1-2 swallows here and found it to have a nice finish. Another close vote from the crowd on this round--could be termed a tie.

Round 7:
DOMAINE DU TUNNEL SYRAH, ST. JOSEPH, FRANCE 2005
TWO HANDS "ANGEL'S SHARE" SHIRAZ, MCLAREN VALE, AUSTRALIA (winery in Barossa but grapes from McLaren Vale)

The Australian Shiraz was the crowd favorite here. I liked it too as more approachable and drinking well now but thought wine A, the St. Joseph, had better aging potential. Both were quite dark in color. I actually thought the Australian wine had a more typical Syrah nose (maybe from old vines?) Wine A was slightly tannic which I found offputting. I tried sips of both wines with a dry chocolate brownie and thought the Australian was a slightly better match.

Final round, round 8:
GOULEE CABERNET SAUVIGNON, MEDOC, FRANCE 2003
BUEHLER CABERNET SAUVIGNON, NAPA VALLEY, CA 2005
Both were quite dark in color. I prefered wine C in a close contest (this turned out to be the Buehler). I thought wine D (the Medoc) had sort of a "lifted" nose. It did take two swallows for the first sip.

Overall, it was France 3, rest of world 2, and 3 virtual ties. France won on the Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling; rest of world won on the Syrah/Shiraz, and either the Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon and it was close on the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and one of the final two rounds, either the Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Fun event!


- winoweenie - 07-02-2007 08:20 PM

How dare them dudes to modify me lapper formula to sips! I knew someone would get around my copyright. WW [Image: wink.gif]


- hotwine - 07-02-2007 09:57 PM

Nice notes, Wonders. Can see going for the Old World in my preferences. Your clarity allows vicarious tasting! Well done.