wine column for week of Nov 26

People new to the world of wine often find the process of wine appreciation quite daunting, even scary. In reality, wine tasting is a subjective process: what appeals to one person’s palate will not appeal to another’s.

A joint tasting organised between the Macau and Hong Kong wine societies this past weekend highlighted the delights of wine appreciation, and demonstrated how subjective the process can be.

About 50 wine experts blind tasted a dozen Portuguese wines, all red. Each person scored the wines and results were tallied into a spreadsheet. The wines and results were revealed over dinner, with much discussion and debate.

Almost all of the wines were from the 2007 and 2008 vintages, with one wine from 2005, 2006 and 2009.

The subjective individual nature can be found in the results. A colleague judged one wine as her favourite, yet I ranked it as my least preferred. The wine I thought the best, she put as her least favourite.

This demonstrates the importance of using panels to judge wine, the theory being that the combined result will be fairer than any individual preference.

Yet some people have better palates than others, or more experience of judging wines, or know more about wines from specific regions than others. Surely their opinions should be given more credibility than the group? It is a fascinating and relevant question.

It is interesting here to consider the algorithm that Google uses with their search technology. The technology is a secret but it is known that Google somehow weights the opinions of certain organisations ahead of others, taking into consideration the greater knowledge or experience mentioned in the previous paragraph.

It is the equivalent of asking who is the smartest person in a particular field, and valuing the opinions of people who are acknowledged experts in that area.

How Google does that is a trade secret, but its success demonstrates the power of their approach.

Wines for the joint tasting in Macau were from the Douro, Alentejo and Terras do Sado regions of Portugal. The Douro wines were the most preferred, though they were also the most available in the tasting.

Most popular wines selected by the group was the 2007 Quinta da Touriga-Cha from the Douro, followed by the 2006 Quinta do Portocarro Cavalo Maluco from Terras do Sado region, with equal third place going to the 2009 Poeira and the 2008 Curriculum Vitae, both from the Douro region.

Most wines seemed much younger than I expected, based on their bright purple colours in the glass and the high levels of tannin. I thought most were probably from the 2010 vintage.

All of the wines ranged from good to very good. None could be faulted. The quality of all wines is a tribute to the successful evolution of Portuguese wines. In the past two to three decades the country’s winemakers have moved from a focus on making port to producing elegant dry table wines that will get better and better with time.

This is not to downgrade Portuguese ports. The evening concluded with a tasting of seven tawny ports and one vintage. The tawny ports were 10 and 20 years old. Regular readers of this column will know I have written about ports in the past, and rejoice in the beauty of these wines. They can last for decades, even more than a century.

The 2007 Ferreira vintage port was a delight. Vintage ports are only declared in special years, and 2007 has been designated one of those years. This port is almost black, tastes of sweet plums and fruitcake, and has a power and texture that means it will last for decades.

If you have relatives born in 2007, buy a case of this port and keep it for some special occasion such as their 21st birthday. Or their 50th birthday.

Also delightful was the 20-year-old Taylor’s tawny port. It tastes like a liquid form of toffee and treacle, and pairs wonderfully with aged or highly flavoured cheeses such as blue varieties like Stilton or blue brie. The memory makes me salivate.

* Published in China Post, 29 November 2012, page 10. Find a link here.

Categories: Not home, wine

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