Thursday, April 12, 2007

RSVP Inaugural EAT Winetasting

This marks the first EAT weblog posting for RSVP. RSVP is an irregular group of Victoria wine-fanciers dedicated to systematic wine-tasting under real-world conditions. Wines for review are generally to be sampled 6-10 at a time, and structured around a meal. The idea is to give readers a sense of how wines they’ll likely be able to purchase themselves will perform under the conditions that they’ll most often be consuming them.

Analysis will be real-world in nature as well: As convenient as a point system appears to be, it’s too often an abstraction shorn of any useful context for an individual consumer (Nothing is quite so disappointing as wine you bought because somebody, somewhere gave it 90 points, but that you ended up not really liking.) So the analytic language will be evocative and inexact; where we’ll try to be precise is in forecasting prices.

This merely reflects that for the real-world consumer, the difference between $19.99 and $12.99 is more au point than the difference between 85 and 87 points; that 90-point wine that disappoints at $20.- may prove a lot more bearable at $13-. Wines will be ranked in order of precedence against each other; as in the real world, the ones that come out on top are usually going to be the best combination of taste and price. Also, if a winery is going to put it’s own tasting notes onto a bottle, we’re going to hold them to the test as well. (Which is only fair, actually: if the maker of a $10.99 bottle claims that there’ll be gobs of ripe tropical fruit on the nose and there isn’t, he needs to have his nose rubbed in gobs of something.)

Anyway, on to business.

April 10 tasting

Three reds and three whites were sampled, with a meal whose main course was chicken cooked with tarragon.

Wine Peller Private Reserve Chardonnay 2005
From Okanagan VQA
Price $16.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol content 14%

We discovered a wine of light body and color, with an alcohol content carrying a pretense not followed up in the flavor. Label claims of ‘round creaminess’ and ‘richly complex intense aromas’ were judged inflated at best, and downright inflammatory at worst. Miscellaneous impressions included some intrusive acidity; a hot finish; a reticence in expressing any real Chardonnay character (the Philosophy grad in this week’s group); notes of banana-skins on the nose; and a fair consensus that any other fruit-impressions that made it to the palate weren’t nearly ripe enough. Overall: No great enthusiasm; too expensive for what was there.

Wine Mt. Boucherie Estate Collection Chardonnay 2004
From Okanagan VQA
Price $13.90
Alcohol content 13%

Wine is unoaked. Body found to be light but nicely balanced; everything on the nose and palate was turned up a notch from the previous wine. Label claims of pear and ripe apple borne out in experience; label claim of citrus upgraded by panel to notes of grapefruit. (Label exhortation to ‘enjoy with friends and family’ was found hard to argue with.) Worked very nicely with the main entrĂ©e. Consensus was that the wine represented good value for the price.

Wine Rodney Strong Sonoma County Chardonnay 2005
From Sonoma, California
Price $23.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol content 13.8%

Medium body and light color. Miscellaneous impressions included: a big California nose with floral notes and hints of citrus; some ripe red apple on the tongue; smoky, well-integrated oak in the fruit that gets bigger as the bottle goes on—marginally too big? This was the biggest chard of the bunch; fortunately not ham-handed as many in this pretense and price-range often are. You might flinch a tiny bit at the price.

Wine Chakana Syrah 2005
From Argentina
Price $14.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol content 13.6%

Pleasant surprise of the evening: a new-world Syrah that goes for a French, rather than new-world feel, and aims for finesse more than muscle—like Brad Pitt with his shirt off rather than Schwarzenegger. Miscellaneous impressions included: hints of pin-cherry and chocolate, and a nose that the youngest and least-varnished taster among us referred to as ‘stinky but smooth’. Some argument over the tannins, (one found them intrusive; others thought them nicely-integrated) which probably comes down more to an argument over whether it should be stuffed into the cellar for a couple more years—although at this price, ageability is strictly a nice bonus. This is a wine where people wrote down its name.

Wine Rodney Strong Sonoma Merlot 2002
From Sonoma, California
Price $24.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol content 13.8%

An entry largely lost in the shuffle between its two red companions; consensus was that it was definitely ready-to-drink; decently-made; nicely-balanced with good fruit, good tannins and notes of vanilla, and….forgettable. Price didn’t help.

Wine Jackson Triggs Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet-Shiraz 2004
From Okanagan VQA
Price $26.99
Alcohol content 14.1%

60/40 Cab-Shiraz blend. The most expensive wine sampled; potentially the one with the most future. Big body; big fruit; pretty good tannins to match mean a few years in the bottle will likely add some sophistication to the muscle. Maker’s claims of ‘blackcurrant and plum’ backed up by a fruit-punch to the palate; mint somewhat harder to find—if you even cared to try. Least well-matched to the meal; so big and expressive that you’d better chase down a wild boar or some raw mutton to keep up. Too young (although not green) for one panelist, who’d rather put it in the cellar for about 5 years, and then taste it against a comparably-priced Bordeaux.

Final Rankings

Reds Chakana Syrah; JT Cab-Shiraz; Rodney Strong Merlot
Whites Mt. Boucherie Chard; Rodney Strong; Peller Estate Chard
Best Buy Chakana Syrah

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