Dolcetto in the Streets, Shiraz in the Sheets: A Threesome Blind Tasting

With World Cup 2018 finally under way, a lot has been put to the test both on the field and outside of it. The underdogs are ploughing their way through the group stage, bringing fame to their name, which is, as a result, sparking up extra interest for this beautiful game called football. The blind tasting held at Praelum Wine Bistro pulled a similar parallel with three “teams”– France, Italy and South Africa – fighting for the jewel in the crown.

As with many competitions, there are a lot of theories surrounding them. Some of them are utter bollocks, others prove a point. If you’re in this trade, you’re probably familiar with that guy you meet a house party and his classic line – “I saw this video on Youtube where experts couldn’t recognize the difference between a cheap and expensive wine. SO WINE TASTING IS BULLSHIT FOR SNOBS!!1” I never understood why people are so aggressive when it comes to wine. Yes, there is a lot of snobbery in our circles, but there is way more fun and never-ending room for discussion. The ultimate validation for that is a spot on blind tasting held on a hot, sunny afternoon with 20 people coming together from all spheres of life and engaging in a fun activity. Reasons are different. I met this guy who works as an accountant and is part of a French tasting group. He came to refresh his memory of Bordeaux. Another gentleman was from a logistics team who came to meet people of similar interests and support his favourite wine bar. I came to practice my detection skills for the final WSET Diploma exam coming up in a few months. Tasted nine wines, got six right (we had to guess the country). Below are my notes and a more detailed explanation on the process of this particular blind tasting.

FLIGHT 1

Wine A

A dirty nose of overripe strawberry, Mediterranean spices, white truffle and black olives. A bit sweet with medium acidity that doesn’t really support the whole structure. Light-bodied, low tannins, short finish. Nothing memorable. Off the bat, I guessed South African Pinot. Nope. A Shiraz-Cinsault-Grenache blend awarded 90 points by Bob Parker. Mkay.

My guess: Stellenbosch Pinot Noir
Was really: AA Badenhorst Secateurs Red Blend 2015

Wine B

Beautiful violet colour, so translucent, you’d think it’s freshly squeezed blueberry juice (can blueberries be squeezed, I have no idea?). The fruit is crying for attention here – blackcurrant, sweet cherry, strawberry bubble gum, rose syrup and hints of Turkish delight. Spice-fruit combo in the mouth with a refreshing acidity, but not too expressed. Thinking between Dolcetto and Gamay, but decided on Dolcetto because of the medium acidity and tannins.

My guess: Dolcetto from Piemonte
Was really: Pecchenino ‘San Luigi’ Dolcetto 2016

Wine C

I loved this all the way – complex nose of all kinds of black fruit, cranberry, dark cherry, rosemary, thyme and white pepper. Heavily old school on the palate which can never ever ever ever be mistaken for some sweet fruit bomb from the Southern Hemisphere. When blind tasting, it is important to make logical conclusions about quality. Think about the style, the acidity/alcohol levels, the aromas. Don’t blindly follow “Cabernet tastes like green pepper and blackberry”. Think about the wine as a whole and consider EVERYTHING. Just like when you eat a camembert-honey-mushroom burger. You try to figure out why in the world somebody would combine those flavours and make such an awesome meal. For me, the turning point of this Syrah was the medium acidity, high alcohol and this prominent rustic tone which is a trademark of the Rhone.

My guess: Rhone Syrah
Was really: Domaine Vincent Paris St Joseph 2015

FLIGHT 2

Wine A

Thick ruby red. Deep nose of dark fruit, sweet spices (cloves & cinnamon baaaby) and cedar. Palate is Bordeaux 101 with its refined taste, finely pronounced tannins, juicy acidity and a long finish. Rich and fine, mhmmmm.

My guess: Bordeaux blend
Was really: Chateau Reynon 2013

Wine B

Again, thick dark red in the glass. Sweet bramble combined with green pepper and a lick of wet soil both on the nose and on the palate. Punching acidity and a damn high alcohol (guessed 15%, it was actually 14%). A bit unbalanced and hot approaching the finish. Some elements remind me of Old World, while the high extract and sweetness turn me straight towards South African Cab Sauv.

My guess: Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa
Was really: Remhoogte Aspect Merlot 2015

Wine C

Red fruit, herbs and dark chocolate – that’s the name of the game here. Medium body, such a bright and beautiful acidity that just strings through the whole wine, decent finish. Italy is obvious, but I was in a dilemma between Chianti Classico and Montepulciano. Went for Chianti because it showed much more complexity than the latter.

My guess: Chianti Classico
Was really: San Giusto Chianti Classico Riserva 2013

FLIGHT 3

Wine A

Quite closed on the nose (opened up at the end of the tasting, two hours later). The palate offers a bazooka of tannins, fruit and spice. Very wobbly structure with the alcohol just piercing through my brain cells and burning everything from within. This was my least favourite from the batch, because the sappiness and lack of balance was just too much to handle.

My guess: South African Shiraz
Was really: Tabarrini Montefalco Sagrantino 2011

Wine B

Lots of green pepper coming out, displaying either a New World style or overly modern Bordeaux. The spice and alcohol strangely mash together on the palate, creating a bunch of unnecessary friction that puts off any hint of enjoyment. Abruptly short finish. Maybe food would make it much more entertaining or a day of decanting?

My guess: Super Tuscan
Was really: Chateau Cos d’Estournel ‘Les Pagodes de Cos’ 2014

Wine C

This was the biggest rollercoaster of the tasting and caused much excitement. One minute it was New World Cabernet, the next Languedoc Syrah. It was a gorgeously warm wine with everything balanced to the bone. Loads of blackberry, plum, dried fig, anise and sage. If I was to pick one wine I’d buy a case of from this tasting, this would be the one. YUM!

My guess: Languedoc Syrah
Was really: Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve 2013

So there you have it, folks. A three-round tasting of some awesome (and some not so awesome) wines on a chill Saturday afternoon. If there is a petition to sign for the organization of more events like these, please reach out. For the millionth time, I realized that I suck at guessing some regions and styles, but there’s nothing that a full plate of delicious cheeses and meats afterwards won’t fix. I’m glad that I’m brought back to the level of an optimistic open-minded explorer once again. As funny as it may sound, it is an absolute necessity for an avid student and taster of wine to leave his ego at the door and go through this disappointment, realization and folly. In the end, it’s “just” wine.

Written by Aleksandar Draganić.

A WSET certified grape juice drinker, professional glass polisher and uncanny cuisine explorer. Find me at @grapenomad

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