Tonight I went to a wine tasting at my local wine cellar. They marketed it as wines of the world, saying they were showing off the best 9 wines the staff had tasted in the past year. The cost was $US 80 + tax. I always forget about the tax. 😎
We began with a French 2002 blanc de blancs from one of the best champagne houses, which retails at $US 70. It was lean and lemony, and a beautiful wine. But my neighbour’s blanc de blancs in Australia was almost as good, for a fraction of the price. We then had a 2004 rousanne from North Yuba in California, retailing at $US 32. It had tropical fruit and apricot aromas but I found it hot — too much alcohol.
Next in the batting order was a 1994 Felsina chianti classico from Beradenga in Italy, for $US 34. Given its age, it was still bright ruby red rather than brown tinged. The tannin lingered but much of the fruit had disappeared. Verdict: Ordinary. Australia has so many better wines that are much cheaper. I sound like such a chauvinist!
Next came a 1999 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino reserve sangiovese from Italy, selling at $US 110. It had a superb nose of mint and bbq wood. Dark cherry colour. The silky tannins integrated nicely with the fruit. But it had a slightly bitter aftertaste. Disappointing, given the price. But second tasting, at the end of the night, I found it a better wine. Perhaps my palate had awoken. Still have reservations, given the price.
Wine number 5 was the 2004 La Spinetta Barbaresco Valeirano, costing $US 130. I liked it for its vibrant colours, luscious berry flavours, and silky tannins. A well-integrated wine. But the price was too high, compared with what one could get for that same amount of money in Australia. It had an aftertaste of bitter almonds. I marked it as worth trying again.
Best red wine of the night for me was number 6, the 2004 Woodward Canyon cabernet sauvignon from the Columbia Valley in Washington state. A relative bargain at $US 45. Dark cherry colours, almost brooding in its intensity. It smelled of violets and mint. The tannins were tight and lingering. But it’s too young. Think wine infanticide. Drink in a decade from bottling. Again a slight aftertaste of bitter almonds which was not unpleasant. How’s that for a double negative?
I tasted it an hour later and it was even more powerful, with caramel notes and pungent cassis aromas. Beautiful integration of fruit and tannins.
Wine number 7 was an old vines zinfandel, the Klinker Brick Old Ghost 2005, from Lodi near the Central Coast between SF and LA. Costs $US 39. Rustic, with a minty and strawberry nose. Vibrant colour. The high alcohol made it taste hot. OK but risible compared with a decent Aussie shiraz from the Barossa.
Wines 8 and 9 were the pick of the night. The 2006 Donnhoff Norheimer Dellchen auslese riesling auslese, from Nabe in Germany, was $US 60 for a 375ml bottle. It was worth the wait. Though pale in colour it had an intensity of flavours and taste that was quite overwhelming. The fruit and acid balanced well. The combination of lemon and honeyaromas was exhilerating. Memories of sherbet lemon sweets from my childhood. The flavours lingered. But we only got a tiny taste. If I had the cash I’d buy the 1.5 litre bottle for $US 275. And drink it in 20 years.
Best of all was the 1996 Royal Tokaji Mezes Maly 6 puttonyos from Mad in Hungary, selling at $US 120 a 500ml bottle. I was told it was from one of the best two vineyards in Hungary. It was magical: Old leathery honey and malt and lemon and ripe apricot. Think of a premier cru sauterne, and double the flavour intensity. Its age meant it was dark gold. Yet the wine glistened in the glass. Our host offered some designer chocolate sprinkled with salt, a magnificent combination. Apparently the wine is made from muscat grapes. Who would have thought something so wonderful would come from such a relatively ordinary grape?
Ah the joys of Californial!