Wine tastings. Probably one of my favorite activities. I enjoy the diversity of the offerings, getting to try new wines and sometimes even extraordinary ones.
Some people are intimidated by tastings they get overwhelmed by the whole process and by what they perceive as pomp & ceremony. Here’s the simple truth: tasting events are about figuring out if you like or don’t like a wine. That is all. It’s about your taste buds.
So don’t worry about your swirling technique, about the sound to make as you taste it, about whether you should spit or swallow. Just take your time and take a sip, taste the wine and then pour out the rest into the bucket located on the table. Yes, pour the rest out. I know, I know, it may seem insane to toss wine but generally a tasting pour is 2oz. Thirteen of those add up to a bottle of wine. If you are at a tasting event where each table is pouring six or so wines that adds up quickly.
That’s the other thing, don’t feel obligated to taste every wine on a table. If you are unsure about which wine to taste just ask the person pouring for their favorite or if they recommend 2 or 3 from their selection.
Here are some notes from my two most recent events:
Bordeaux Under One Roof
An event aimed at promoting wines from the Bordeaux region of France, home to some legendary wines, was held on the 61st floor of the Empire State Building. So it was evening of amazing wines and views. Added bonus was that my friend Jill came with me which was great because we were able to compare our impressions.
There were 26 tables each pouring on average six wines. That’s over 150 wines. I tasted about a third before I called it a night. Now you see why I recommend not drinking every pour.
Here are a few notes on my favorites:
Chateau Simard, 2001 Saint Emilion
A merlot/cab sauvignon blend with rich plum notes and earthy minerals. Fun fact I learned – the producers hold onto this wine a few years longer, releasing it when it’s mellowed out.
Chateau Ferran, 2009 Pessac-Leognan
A merlot/cab sauvignon blend from the Medoc area which is a rockier soil area of Bordeaux. I made only one note on this: Yum.
Chateau La Faviere, 2009 Bordeaux Superieur
Blending merlot/cab sauvignon and cab franc. Red fruit notes.
Chateau Berliquet, 2004 Saint Emilion Grand Cru
A merlot/cab franc blend with notes of licorice and a chocolatey smooth finish. A favorite of my night, I drew a heart around this in my notes and went back for more. Twice.
PJ Wine’s Grand Tasting.
PJ Wine is an amazing wine store located in Inwood. They are known for carrying a vast array of wines all very well priced and covering everything from the mainstream to the rare and covetable. Once a year they host a huge extravaganza of a wine tasting featuring hundreds of wines, this year they had upwards of 350 wines of which a few are extremely rare and over 30 years old. Yes, it was overwhelming.
I’m listing here a few of my favorites of the rarer wines of the night. Tasting notes are supplemented by the handout notes from the evening. For those who are wondering, no I did not spit or pour away any of these, I savored them.
2004 Muga Prado Enea
Tempranillo blend from La Rioja region of Spain. Notes of boysenberry, dark chocolate and violets. Long finish. A wine that you just want to.
2000 Château Margaux
A legendary wine from Bordeaux. Elegant and complex. Tasting a wine like this gives you an inkling of why making wine is an art form (at least in my mind).
1990 Léoville-Las Cases
Notes of black currants and wet stones. Surprisingly refreshing and vivid for a wine that’s 25 years old. This wine is said to reach maturity between now and 2035. That’s one of the things I love about wine it ages.
1982 La Rioja Alta “890”
I’ll just describe is as gorgeous. The pros write of it: reveals a lead pencil charcoal smoke, hot bricks, cedar, strawberry, cherry, fruitcake-scented nose that is one of the most complex aromatic profiles anyone could suck in past their olfactory senses.
1978 Vina Real Gran Reserva
A Rioja that blends dried fruits, hints of leather and cedar. A wine from my birth year. May be my birthday present to myself next year.
1947 CVNE Imperial Rioja
It was surreal to taste a wine 65 years old. It was delicious. Complex, dark and spicy.
There were also some rare wines that I tried and did not like. Such as the 2009 Opus One and 2009 Sassicaia. Proof that wine tastings really are about “like”, “dislike”.