Italian Reds Smackdown – 9 Italian Red Wines Blind Tasted

I can hardly believe it, but our community wine tasting club – The Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”) is entering its fifth year, and going stronger than ever. Our most recent gathering had an Italian theme.  Since we’ve previously tasted Chianti, and Barbera those were not options.  But with over 500 different Italian grape varieties, including at least 10 major grape varieties, there were still plenty of options. We settled any Italian Reds, and folks were encouraged think beyond Sangiovese!

Our tastings alway start with a “Happy Hour” where we get a chance to catch up with each other, and grab a bite to eat (we do a themed potluck).  Since we had an Italian theme, there was plenty of Italian food (click to enlarge)

Here’s how our blind-tasting went down:

  • Italian red priced between $15-$25
  • Maximum of 9 bottles tasted
  • There were 19 tasters, with a diverse range of experience with wine
  • Tasters are required to score all wines
  • Both average and median scores are calculated.  The winner determined by highest median score.  Average score used as tie breaker.

photo 1 (10)

We had a nice selection of wines that showcased some of the diversity of Italian wines. Geographically speaking, Tuscany was the most well represented, but there were also wines representing Veneto, Piedmont, Sicily, and Campania.  From a grape variety standpoint, Sangiovese was the most well represented, but we also had wines made from Aglianico, Corvino, Corvino blends, Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah.

The wines tasted were:

  • 2010 Poderi Foglia Aglianico Gallucio Concarosso (Aglianico) – $20
  • 2010 Montechiara Amarone della Valpolicella (Corvino Blend) – $25
  • 2011 Luisi Barbera d’Asti (Barbera) – ($17)
  • 2007 Rubbia al Colle Toscana IGT (61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 9% Syrah) – ($13)
  • 2012 Rocche di Cusa Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab + Nero D’Avola) – ($15)
  • 2009 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva (Sangiovese) – ($19)
  • 2009 Castello Banfi Chianti Classico (Sangiovese) – $17)
  • 2010 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT (Corvino Blend) – ($21)
  • 2011 Straccali Chianti Classico (Sangiovese) – ($21)

The wines were scored based on 4 criteria (aroma, body, taste, and finish) - each on a scale of 1-5 (1-low; 5-high). Therefore minimum score = 4 point and maximum = 20 points

Italian Wine night score Sheet

Image courtesy of Jojo Ong

The Winner:

Italian wine night winner

Photo courtesy of Jojo Ong

With a median score of 13.5pts

The runners-up were and scores in descending order were:

  • 2012 Rocche di Cusa Cabernet Sauvignon (12.5 pts)
  • 2011 Straccali Chianti Classico (12.3 pts)
  • 2010 Montechiara Amarone della Valpolicella  (12.0 pts)
  • 2011 Luisi Barbera d’Asti (11 pts)
  • 2010 Poderi Foglia Aglianico Gallucio Concarosso (10 pts)
  • 2010 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT (10 pts)
  • 2009 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva (10 pts)
  • 2009 Castello Banfi Chianti Classico (9.8 pts)

Blind tastings are always fun, and there’s almost always a surprise of some sort.  More often than not, it’s a $10 wine beating our a $25 wine.  Not only did the lowest priced wine, but it was made from a blend of mostly (91%) Bordeaux grape varieties – definitely non-traditional Italian grapes.

Likewise for the second place wine, which was the second lowest price and made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon.

I think the obvious answer is that our tasters prefer the “New World”, rather than “Old World” style wines.  Speaking from personal experience the more rustically styled Italian wine can take some getting used to.

Regardless of which style one prefers, I think everyone found a wine or two they really enjoyed, and got a chance to try something new (it was my first Amarone, and Aglianico) while expanding their wine knowledge.  And isn’t that what a wine tasting club experience is all about?

Wines of Chile Smackdown – 8 Chilean Reds Blind Tasted!

The theme for the most recent gathering of the Pacific Point Wine Club (“PPWTC” was “Wines of Chile”.  The PPWTC is entering its third year, and going strong.  Initially we met every couple of months, but based on popular demand, we now meet every 6 weeks or so. It’s been so gratifying to see folks grow in their knowledge of wine while having fun, and making new friends.  We’ve even had  a few “field trips” , the most recent being a Bocce ball night.

So far this year we’ve focus on a geographic rather than varietal theme.  We’ve also changed how the wines for our blind-tasting were acquired.  Rather than folks bringing bottles, I’ve purchased all the bottles for the tasting. This advantage of doing it this way is that there is more consistent quality in the wines tasted, and there are no duplicates.

Wines of Chile Smackdown - 8 Chilean Reds Blind-Tasted

Chilean Wine Overview

Chile may seem like a relative newcomer to wine making, but they’ve been making wine for over 450 years!  Spanish conquistadors and missionaries brought European Vitis vinifera vines to Chile in the mid-16th century.  The vines were brought to Chile to produce wine for Catholic mass rituals.  The Spaniards found Chile to be ideal for planting grapes.  The climate allowed a perfect growing season and ripening of the fruit.  And just as important, there was no phylloxera (n the late 19th century (click here for more detailed history) Here’s more 411 on Chilean wine.

  • In 1830, Frenchman Claude Gay convinced the Chilean government to establish a state agricultural station to be called Quinta Normal Agriculture. Grape vines from Italy and France were imported to Chile.  By 1850 there were 40,000 vines, and 70 varieties of grapes.  And with the arrival of Bordeaux varieties, Chile enters the modern era of winemaking.
  • Chile has been hugely influenced by French winemaking especially Bordeaux. Prior to the outbreak of phylloxera in France, wealthy Chileans imported winemakers and vines from Bordeaux.
  • World War II marked the beginning of a decline in the Chilean wine industry  which lasted until the 1980s.
  • Chile has invested heavily said the 1980s and modernize its wine industry.  Chile has attracted many foreign collaborators and investors including Robert Mondavi of California (Caliterra), The Rothschilds of Bordeaux’s Château Lafite (Los Vacos) and Miguel Torres of Spain (Torres). These estates have either set up operations in Chile, or have formed partnerships with the best Chilean houses.
  • Chile has been the benchmark of South American quality wine although Argentina has been in the spotlight recently because of the popularity of Malbec
  • Chilean wines tend to be mostly focused on varietal wines rather than blends
  • Cabernet Sauvignon is the flagship, plus Chile produces Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that offer great value.
  • Chile’s unique combination of geography and climate make it ideal for grape growing, including lots of organic and biodynamic vineyards.
  • Chile is the only large-scale producer of wine that has never had an outbreak of phylloxera- the deadly root louse that wiped out vineyards in Europe (most notably France).
  • In 1994 Carmenere, which was thought to be Merlot, was discovered in Chile. Carmenere, an ancient Bordeaux grape variety was thought to be extinct at the time.
  • In 2010 Chile was the first South American country to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. This will undoubtedly have a positive influence on the wine industry in Chile.
Map of Chilean Wine Regions

Map of Chilean Wine Regions

The five major controlled viticultural areas of Chile, know as Denomination of Origin (“D.O.”) are:

  • Aconcagua Valley- Northerly region primarily suited to red wine production.
  • Casablanca Valley- Casablanca is a relatively cool and largely coastal region producing classy Chardonnay and world-class Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Noir is also being experimented with in this region.
  • Maipó Valley- Part of the Central Valley, Maipó, just south of Santiago, is one of Chile’s best-known and longest established quality wine regions. Some of the biggest names of the Chilean industry such as the giant Concha y Toro and Santa Rita are here. Cabernet Sauvignon is the mainstay of the region and quality is high.
  • Rapel Valley – Part of the Central Valley, Rapel is the largest of the five wine areas. It features a range of climatic conditions and soil types and grape varieties.  You will see the name Colchagua valley on Rapel bottlings, a small high-quality sub-region towards the coast.  Well known producers from this region include Carmen, Mont Gras and Cono Sur.
  • Curicó and Maule Valleys - Part of the Central Valley, the Maule Valley is separated in the northern Curicó region, and the southerly Maule. Big names here include Miguel Torres (one of the first movers and investors to see the potential in Chilean wine), and San Pedro.

The Wine Tasting

Prior to the main tasting we always have a bite to eat, and catch up.  Since it was a Wines of Chile theme I picked up some other wines to try including a Riesling, Sauvignon Blancs, and a Rosé, which I tasted prior to grabbing a bite to eat, joining the fun. My tasting notes from those wines follow:

  • 2011 Meli Riesling - Chile, Maule Valley - Very pale straw yellow-green color with faint petrol, citrus, and stone fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied and dry with crisp acidity. It shows lemon, lime, and stone fruit flavors. Medium finish. Nice value at $13 (86 pts.)
  • 2011 Carmen Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva - Chile, San Antonio Valley, Leyda Valley - Light yellow color with citrus, gooseberry and a slight grassy aroma. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, and fresh with citrus and gooseberry flavors. Medium-long finish. (87 pts.) Sample provided for review
  • 2011 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc La Gloria - Chile, Casablanca Valley - Very pale straw yellow-green color with grapefruit,and hints herbs and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, between dry and off-dry and is fresh and lively. It shows grapefruit, green apple, and a kiss spice flavors. Medium finish. Nice value at $10. (87 pts.)
  • 2011 Apaltagua Carménère - Chile, Central Valley - Pale pink color with aromatic red fruit, spice and orange blossom aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, with crisp acidity and raspberry, red cherry, and spice flavors. Medium + finish. Nice value at $12 (87 pts.)

For the main event, we blind tasted eight red wines.  Six of the wines were purchased from K&L Wine Merchantswhich has a good selection of Chilean wines.  The two other wines were samples provided by Wines of Chile.  The wines ranges in price from $9.99 to $18.99. Wines from all five major controlled viticultural areas were tasted.

There were 16 tasters.  Wines are scored on a scale of 1-5 for aroma, body, taste, and finish.  Thus, the minimum score is 4 points and the maximum is 20 points.

Wines of Chile Smackdown Hidden

The eight wines blind-tasted (listed in the order tasted) and my Cellar Tracker tasting notes follow:

  • 2010 Calcu Cabernet Franc - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
    Garnet color with red fruit and green pepper aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied with medium-acidity with ripe cherry, red currant, plum and vanilla flavors. (87 pts.) Sample provided for review.
  • 2010 Laura Hartwig Carménère Reserva - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
    Violet color with candied mixed black and red fruit, spice and green pepper aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with dusty tannins and medium+ acidity with blackberry, cassis, plum and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Errazuriz Carménère Single Vineyard - Chile, Aconcagua Valley
    Inky violet color with cherry, cassis, eucalyptus, and cedarwood aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and smooth with medium acidity and sweet tannins. It shows concentrated cassis, cherry, bittersweet chocolate flavors . Medium-long finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2011 Montes Cabernet Sauvignon Classic Series - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
    Dark garnet color with restrained cassis, green pepper, and a bit of earthy aromas. On the palate its’ medium-bodied with cassis, vanilla and a bit of mocha flavors Medium finish. A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% Merlot (85 pts.)
  • 2010 La Playa Claret Block Selection Reserve - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
    Violet color with brambly, mixed black and red fruit, and spice aromas. On the palate, its medium-bodied with medium-acid and slightly tannic. It shows black cherry, raspberry, and cassis flavors. Blend of 41% Petit Verdot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Carmenere aged for 12 months in French and American oak. (86 pts.)
  • 2010 Viña von Siebenthal Parcela #7 - Chile, Aconcagua Valley, Panquehue
    Violet color with earthy, plum and black cherry aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and smooth with well-integrated tannins and medium+ acidity. It shows plum, cherry, cassis, and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. The blend consists roughly of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot and 15% Cabernet Franc. (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Marqués de Casa Concha - Chile, Maipo Valley, Puente Alto
    Violet color with eucalyptus, red berry, green pepper and cedarwood aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, balanced with medium acidity and dusty tannins. It shows cherry, raspberry, cassis, and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. (90 pts.)

 

The envelope please…

The winner was the 2009 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Marqués de Casa Concha!

Wines of Chile

The order of finish for the runners-up were as follows:

Wines of Chile Reveal

  1.  2009 Errazuriz Carménère Single Vineyard 
  2. 2010 Viña von Siebenthal Parcela #7 
  3. 2009 Vina Falernia Fundacion Carménère Syrah Reserva
  4. 2010 Laura Hartwig Carménère Reserva 
  5. 2011 Montes Cabernet Sauvignon Classic Series
  6. 2010 La Playa Claret Block Selection Reserve
  7. 2010 Calcu Cabernet Franc

f there’s one thing I’ve learned about blind tastings is there is always a surprise or two. The  surprise for me in this tasting was that the three most expensive wines finished in 1-2-3.  That was a first for the PPWTC. I had two other take-aways. The first was no surprise, the Chilean wines, across the board offer very good value.  The second was the distinct green pepper aromas of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.

Conclusion

Our Wines of Chile night was a great success with great food, fun, fellowship and of course wine!

I’ve not had much Chilean Wine, but based on this tasting, I’m going to look for it more often. The wines offer very good value.  And there were at least three wines that would be repeat purchases for me.  If you haven’t yet discovered the wines of Chile, I encourage you to give them a try!  If you have discovered the wines of Chile…leave me a comment and let me know our favorite(s)!

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff!  Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Grenache Smackdown…10 Wines; 1 Winner!

I didn’t realize it at the time, but we reached a minor milestone for the Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC“) with meeting last week for Grenache Night.  It was our 10th meeting!

We blind tasted a group of 10 Grenaches.  We actually had 15 bottles of wine, but for the first time, we had more than one duplicate bottle.  There were 5 bottles of Sarah’s Vineyard Grenache.  From what I could gather – widely available at BevMo;-) Of the ten wines we tasted ,seven were from Spain.  The majority of Spanish Garnacha (Grenache) were from the Calatayud region in Aragón, where many believe the grape originated.  The balance were from California, all from the Central Coast.   There was a large group of 25 tasters who scored all the wines.

What I especially appreciate about our wine-tasting club is the diversity of experience.  There is a handful of what I would consider “serious” wine lovers, but the majority of the club members, core and otherwise, are more “casual” wine drinkers who like wine and I suspect drink it occasionally rather than daily.  But they want to learn more, and have a good time doing it! And that friends, is the beauty of our wine-tasting club!

The 10 wines we tasted were:

NV Don Quixote Almansa capitulo 8 (Spain-La Mancha)

NV Altovinum Calatayud Evodia (Spain-Calatayud)

2007 Bodegas San Alejandro Garnacha Catalayud Las Rocas Viñas Viejas (Spain-Calatayud)

2008 Artazuri Garnacha Navarra (Spain-Navarra )

2008 JC Cellars Ventana Grenache (California – Central Coast)

2008 Query Grenache (California – Central Coast)

2009 Bitch (Spain-Calatayud)

2009 Castillo de Monseran Garnacha Cariñena (Spain-Cariñena)

2009 Sarah’s Vineyard Grenache (California-Central Coast)

2009 Trader Joe’s Catalayud Old Vine Reserve Garnacha (Spain-Calatayud)

We  kicked off the evening with a Grenache Blanc, the white counterpart to the Grenache Noir (a.k.a. Garnacha/Grenache), the wine of the night.  Sparkling wines and whites are a great way to prepare the palate for tasting reds.

2009 Tablas Creek Grenache Blanc

Before we embarked upon the wine tasting we usually have a bite to eat -pot luck style.  We ask that folks bring dishes that will pair well with the wine being tasted, and provide them with a list of suggestions. We had some very nice dishes that paired well with Grenache including various BBQ (see pics below) and Grilled Pork, Beef Chow Fun, Chicken Pineapple Meatballs, and  Lentil Salad.

After that we got down to the business of tasting the wines.  And (drumroll please)…..and the winner, with an average score of 90pts was:

2008 JC Cellars Grenache Ventana

I find it interesting that, that’s the same score given to the JC Cellars Grenache Ventana by the iconic Robert Parker!  The JC Cellars Grenache retails for $35. For the first time in our short history, the most expensive wine was the winner!  There were two value wines that were hot of the heels of the winner with an average score of 89pts that I must mention.  In second place was the NV Altovinum Calatayud Evodia available at Whole Foods for about $8, and in third place was the 2009 Trader Joe’s Catalayud Old Vine Reserve Garnacha available for $10 at TJ’s. Either would be an inexpensive way to give Grenache a try!

Rosé Smack Down – 10 Rosés; 1 Winner

At the most recent Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club it was Dry Rosé Night.  It seems that Rosé is making a comeback, especially here in the US where the very mention of “pink” wines conjures up nightmares of sickly sweet White Zinfandels that seem more like soda than wine. No, these were dry Rosés – the kind that are so versatile with a variety of foods and are the ideal choice for when the weather turns warm, and you can’t make up you mind whether you want a white wine, or red wine.  Look to a chilled glass of refreshing food friendly Rosé!

We blind tasted a diverse group of Rosés from France, California and Italy (Spain was conspicuously missing). Not only were the Rosés from various countries, but they were from diverse locations within France, and California, along with being made from diverse grape varietals, including Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Pinot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Primitivo (labeled as Zinfandel to appeal to American consumers).  The wines were a wine array of colors from very light salmon to strawberry red.  The wines we tasted (along with information about the where the wines were from, the grapes used to make the wine, alcohol content, and price) were as follows:

2009 Chateau Rol Valentin Bordeaux Rose – France>Bordeaux; Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet France; 13.5% abv – $7

2010 Domaine de la Fouquette – France>Provence; Blend of Grenache (60%), Cinsault (30%), and Rolle (5%); 12% abv$ – $17

2010 La Grenouile Rougante -California>Napa Valley; Blend of Zinfandel (61%), and Valdiguie (39%); 12.2% abv – $15

2010 Josefina Rose  – California>Central Coast>Paso Robles; Syrah; 12.7% abv – $5

2009 Bonterra Rose - California>North Coast>Mendocino Blend of Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Carignane and just a little Grenache (Double Gold Winner 2011 SF Chronicle Competition – Dry Rose <1% residual sugar); 13.4% abv – $16

2009 F&E Ogio Zinfandel Rose - Italy>Puglia. 100% Primitivo; 12.5% abv – $5

2010 Chateau Bas - France>Provence. Blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah; 12.5% abv – $11

2009 - Toad Hollow Eye of the Toad - California>Sonoma County. Pinot Noir; 11% abv – $12

2008 Marquis de Goulaine Rosé D’Anjou La Roseraie – France>Loire Valley>Anjou-Saumur; 11% abv – $8

2009 Cellier du Rhone Rosé  – France>Provence; Grenache; 13.4% abv – $5

I made Brown rice paella for the tasting (Which I modified by substituting the same amount of fresh chorizo for dry-cured chorizo in Step #3, along with substituting about 1.5 lb of a seafood mix of shrimp, calamari, and scallops for the pound of shrimp the recipes calls for, and I also used home-made chicken broth rather than store-bought)

Brown Rice Paella with Chicken, Chorizo, Shrimp, Calamari, Scallops and Mussels

Along with the paella (which I’m pleased to report was a hit;-), we also enjoyed, spicy chicken wings, BBQ chicken wings, grilled chicken, fried calamari, home-made hummus, artichoke and jalapeno dip, fruit salad, and sundry cheese and crackers.  And as advertised, the dry Rosés paired nicely with the wide variety of food.

AND THE WINNER WAS…

The Winner...2010 Domaine de la Fouquette-Cuvee Rosee d'Aurore

For more pictures of our wonderful evening of wine, foods, and fellowship with friends, old and new, click here (Photos courtesy of Gigi Yulo Redmond, and Jojo Ong)

How To Start A Wine Tasting Club

Wine tasting club-Bottles of wines concealed for blind tastingA year ago today, on the last Friday in January, we held the first meeting our neighborhood wine tasting club, the Pacific Point Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”).  It’s been a great year, that after a slow start, has exceeded our expectations. We’ve got a great nucleus of members, which is frequently supplemented by our friends and friends of our neighbors.  The meetings are educational, food-filled, and fun.  And on top of that we’ve made new friends and found opportunities to socialize outside of the wine tasting club meetings.  By all counts a successful wine tasting club!

I’ve been reflecting on our experiences, and want to share what I think makes our wine tasting club successful.  I must confess one of the first thoughts that come to mind is how we didn’t follow many of the notions set forth by wine tasting club authorities (see links below).  I’m not suggesting those notions are not well-founded.  They just didn’t ring true for our wine tasting club, primarily because they seemed too formal.  With that caveat in mind here goes!

  1. Pick a meeting time that will maximize attendance – We meet Friday nights at 7pm, which seems to be a great night and time to meet, because folks are so busy on the weekends these days (not to mention folks like the idea of decompressing on Friday night).  So if you’re considering a wine tasting club, when you canvass your friends/neighbors, try to get  sense of what time will work best for the majority of folks (including you, especially if you’re hosting). Don’t be discouraged if you start with a small group.  Only 5 people attended our first meeting, since then we’ve had at least 12, and as many as 22.
  2. Know your audience – I think it’s helpful to know your audience. In our case, we have a mixed group.  There are a few of us for whom drinking, and tasting wine is a lifestyle, but most of the members drink wine only occasionally, and tend to stick with the ubiquitous trio of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  With that in mind, we wanted to keep the meeting relaxed, fun, and educational, without having too many formalities such as a glass for each wine sampled, setting up multiple meetings in advance, or a rigid agenda for each meeting.  But you may want more formality if the collective group has more experience.  Knowing your audience will also help to determine which wines to explore.  If the group is mixed or relatively inexperienced start with one of the aforementioned Chard/Cab/Merlot triumvirate.
  3. Have food for the meetingA huge part of the enjoyment of wine is enjoying it with food.  In fact, I think most people who have an interest in wine, but haven’t actively pursued that interest, are intimidated by not only wine, but also by wine and food pairing.  A great way to demystify wine and food pairings is to have a variety of food that pairs with the wine being tasted at the meeting. Having cheese that pairs with the wine is a great starter, but we go beyond a light snack.  With the PPWTC you could skip dinner, and just eat at the meeting. It’s a wonderful way for individuals to discover which food/wine pairings that suite their palate. We habitually share some food and conversation before we begin the blind tasting of wines.  There are many on-line resources for wine and food pairing ideas. Be resourceful and creative. For our club, it’s about communion through food and wine, not solely about the wine.
  4. A bit of education – This is where knowing your audience comes in handy.  If your audience has little or no experience, then a bit of education with their wine is a beautiful thing.  We “profile” the grape varietal we taste at our meetings.  Nothing fancy.  There’s plenty of information on the web about the characteristics of most grape varietals.  One of the primary resources I use is Professional Friends of Wine for grape profile information.  Wikipedia is also solid source of information.   Until recently, I used to handout the grape profile, but then I realized only the wine geeks (Er…that’d be me!) was really paying attention to the handout.  Whether your communicate the information via a handout, or verbally, I think it’s helpful to have some background on grape varietal, and provide information about  what aromas, and flavors to look for (For sample see; Pinot Profile).  A bit of trivia can be help keep the education interesting as well.  Keep it short – you don’t want to get between people and their wine tasting!
  5. Simple scoring – Use a simple scoring system. We use a modified version of a scoring sheet that may be downloaded from winecountrygetaways (There are two; we use the “Serious Blind Wine Tasting” version).

A few other things to remember/consider:

  • Make a spit bucket available, and have water on hand to cleanse the palate.
  • Depending on how many are in your core group, consider inviting friends of friends.
  • If you can, share the load – We alternate who hosts the meetings.
  • Limit wines tasted to 4-8, bottles.  If more than that brought for tasting, relax and drink the others after the scores are in!

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Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club Blind Tasting – Chianti

It was our wine club’s first time tasting a wine produced solely outside the US.  We tasted a nice variety of Chiantis – three from Chianti Classico, reputed to be the best Chianti, and one each from Rufina, and Chianti (the grapes were sourced from various subzones within the Chianti DOCG).  There was also a variety of vintages. Additionally, there were three “Riserva” level wines, which were aged a minimum of 24 months.  All wines were between$10 – $20.

We tasted the following five wines:

  1. 2005  Incanto Chianti Classico Riserva – $10/100% Sangiovese /13% ABV
  2. 2006 Frescobaldi Nipozzano Rufina Chianti Riserva – $17/ Blend of Sangiovese, Malavasia, Canaiolo, Merlot, and Cab/ 13.5% ABV
  3. 2007 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – $17/Almost exclusively Sangiovese/13% ABV
  4. 2007  Ruffino Aziano Chianti Classico – $13; At least 80% Sangiovese plus Canaiolo, and Merlot/13% ABV
  5. 2008 Malenchini Chianti – $11/100% Sangiovese/14% ABV

Chianti Night Blind Tasting - The Wines

And the winner was…

2005 Malenchini Chianti (purchased at Whole Foods). Click here for Cellartracker reviews.

Malenchini Chianti - The Winner!

As always seems to be the case…”The last shall be first”.  While the winner wasn’t the least expensive (It was the second least expensive), it was the least in that it was neither produced in the most prestigious Chianti Classic0 DOCG, nor was it a “Riserva” aged for at least 24 months in oak barrels.  In fact, it wasn’t even aged in oak. It was aged in stainless steel!

So if you’re looking for a good Chianti, at a good price….try a bottle!