It is no secret that blind tastings offer a reality check on your wine temperament. I have extolled enough, the virtues of tasting wine blind in my earlier post. This time I’m taking you to a Chardonnay blind tasting that we (a.k.a. my blind tasting group) recently had at ITC Welcomhotel Dwarka in New Delhi. Our tasting room on second floor of the hotel had an optimum atmosphere with a serene space and natural lighting from the glass facade. This brings me to list out the essentials of an ideal wine tasting setup:
- Ample room for comfortable seating and service facilitation.
- Table(s) big enough to accommodate several wine glasses, spit buckets,breads – and if ambitious- a cheese platter.
- Natural or white lighting. Coloured lighting interferes with observing the wine colour
- Insulated from kitchen/ food service area.
- White table linen for a neutral background to enable uninfluenced observation of wine colour.
For this tasting, we had the luxury of 8 wines brought in by the 8 attendees. It afforded us a good range to taste. Chardonnay is known to be a versatile grape varietal easily grown in different parts of the world. It offers a multitude of flavours. These broadly range from “cold climate” tree fruit/stone fruit to “warm weather” tropical fruit flavours. The other attributes are oak, minerality and dairy nuances et al depending on the terroir. The main challenge for the varietal however remains to maintain the acidity level especially when cultivated in warmer areas.
Having handed over the shrouded wine bottles to the earmarked service staff dot on arrival, we were good to go by the time everybody assembled. The tasting started soon enough with the first of the wines poured out at just the right temperature.
I present to you the view from my seat. My immediate reactions being denoted in italicised purple :
Wine # 1
Colour: Medium gold.
Aromas: Citrus fruits, apples, vanilla, hint of spice.
Palate: Dry, light body, semi crisp, ripe peaches, pears, oak towards finish.
My take on the wine’s provenance: South Australia.
Reason: Looked like a warm climate chardonnay with medium acidity and ripe flavours.
What it turned out actually: Westend Estate Down Under Chardonnay 2013 , South Eastern Australia
I was elated with a sense of pride – only to be grounded with the next wine.
Wine # 2
Colour: Deep lemon.
Aromas: Floral, tree fruits (apples, pears).
Palate: Dry, light body, refreshing acidity, complex yet subtle flavours with a mineral accent.
My take on the wine’s provenance: Old world (Not sure but I bet on Italy).
Reason: The acidity level, discernible minerality, restrained flavours made me narrow down to Old World. For this tasting I had brought an Italian wine from Friuli. Not having much exposure to Italian Chardys earlier I ruled out the other regions by exception.
What it turned out actually: Finca Don Cano Chardonnay 2012, Mendoza, Argentina
Oops! Had it totally wrong. My next mission should be to try more wines of this style from Argentina.
Wine # 3
Colour: Medium gold with green highlights.
Aromas: Citrus fruits, ripe peaches and wet leaves.
Palate: Dry, light body, gooseberries, stone fruits, leafy. medium acidity.
My take on the wine’s provenance: South of France
Reason: The typical flavour profile experienced umpteen times earlier.
What it turned out actually: Laroche Chardonnay de la Chevalière 2012, South of France.
A wow feeling again but this time with the much required humility.
Wine # 4
Colour: Pale lemon with green highlights.
Aromas: Citrus and stone fruits (peaches, apricots).
Palate: Dry, light body, medium acidity, grapefruit, mineral.
My take on the wine’s provenance: Burgundy.
Reason: Appeared as a cool climate chardonnay with subtle flavours, balanced acidity, minerality and no oak.
What it turned out actually: Fratelli Vitae 2013, India.
This one had me completely foxed! It shattered the text book interpretation of a “warm climate” Chardonnay. If Fratelli is able to maintain the style (note that deviation from style is the bane of most Indian wines due to absence of appellation regulations) then I would love to buy this wine often.
Wine # 5
Colour: Medium lemon with green highlights.
Aromas: Citrus and tropical fruits and hint of peppercorns.
Palate: Dry, light-medium body, medium acidity, pineapple, gooseberries, black pepper and oak towards finish.
My take on the wine’s provenance: South Australia
Reason: Distinct tropical fruits, acidity level and oak that was reminiscent of the South Australian style.
What it turned out actually: Lindeman’s Premier Selection 2013, South Australia.
Confidence restored encore.
Wine # 6
Colour: Medium lemon with green reflections.
Aromas: Citrus, dairy and brioche.
Palate: Appeared off dry first but quickly developed to dry, light body, low-medium acidity, buttery, oaky,
My take on the wine’s provenance: California.
Reason: Dairy and buttery character indicative of malolactic fermentation. Moderate acidity and oak treatment suggesting warm weather and new world respectively).
What it turned out actually: San Simone 2012, Friuli, Italy.
Ah there! This was the wine I brought. My palate certainly requires more pixels on the American and Italian fronts.
Wine # 7
Colour: Deep lemon with green highlights.
Aromas: Very expressive nose of tropical fruits and mixed pastry shop aromas.
Palate: Dry, light-medium body, medium acidity, mineral, alcoholic finish.
My take on the wine’s provenance: Chile.
Reason: Looked like a typical warm weather new world unoaked Chardonnay.
What it turned out actually: Norton Chardonnay 2013 Mendoza, Argentina.
A saving grace, since the wine came from the other side of the Andes.
Wine # 8
Colour: Light lemon
Aromas: Citrus and stone fruits
Palate: Dry, light body, crisp acidity, spice, mineral, long finish.
My take on the wine’s provenance: South America.
Reason: Again a new world like feel without oak treatment. The taste looked familiar of the region as well.
What it turned out actually: Cosecha Tarapaca 2014, Chile .
I had played safe by specifying the region rather than a country and it seemed to work. But no wishing away the practice required to distinguish between wines from the two countries.
The reality check complete , we finally settled down to enjoy the respective wines that each one of us liked.
Lessons learnt and conclusions drawn until the next rendezvous.