The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2014

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54  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2014 B lind tasting often begs the question: "How blind does it have to be?" Purists might say "double-blind or nothing," while naysayers can't even be troubled with the practice. Like most wine competition models, this column takes the centrist position and usually tastes single-blind, knowing the variety or like group of wines and the vintage. When needs must, we cast off the mask, but in a very specific context: one without the undue influ- ence of a tête-à-tête with the winemaker, photos of labels or multiple courses of food pairings. In all fairness, it's possible to approximate blind tasting during trade events if you're admittedly unfamiliar with the producers and you ignore the labels. When you're milling around with dozens of other tasters, you're not being subject to any pref- erential treatment beyond common courtesy, so the influence of the person who's pouring is negligible. That describes the scenario at Bubbles at Boxing Room, a tasting of nine importers who convened at San Francisco's Boxing Room to present about 50 Champagnes and other sparkling wines. The tasting was organized by the Absinthe Group's Arlequin Wine Merchant, which retails many of the wines, and was curated by Wine Director Ian Becker and his staff. "We think the Southern Louisiana–inspired cuisine at Boxing Room is a perfect fit for spar- kling," said Becker who recognizes the virtues of pairing acid-driven wines and salty dishes like fried chicken. Becker's lineup was diverse and designed to drive interest in sparkling for the holidays, "There's a lot of bang for the buck with these wines, and we wanted to mix it up." The bonus for straying from the fold was a bonanza of quality for value and some pristine oysters on half shell that made for an ideal palate refresher. Very few of the wines underperformed for their price points, which leveled the playing field between méthode champenoise and other sparkling production methods. Two thirds of the wines tasted exceeded their value in quality, and all but a few achieved that harmonious threshold where quality, style and price are aligned. Your challenge is to match the tasting note—which includes the variety or varieties as a clue—to the region of origin. Esoteric Bubbles The Reveal: 1. Domaine de l'Ecu Brut "La Divina" NV, Loire, $23; 2. Vajra Spumante Rose "N.S. Della Neve," Piedmont, $38; 3. Philippe Tessier Crémant de Loire NV, Loire, $22; 4. Pere Mata Cava "Reserva Familia" Brut NV, Penedès, $28; 5. Falkenstein 2011 Riesling Sekt "Sonnenberg," Mosel, $33; 6. Avinyó Cava "Reserva" NV, Penedès, $17; 7. Tissot Crémant du Jura "Indigene" NV, Jura, $32; 8. Királyudvar 2009 Furmint Brut "Peszgo" Tokaji, $31; 9. Eric Rodez Champagne "Cuvée des Crayères" NV, $44; 10. Chanrion "Effervescence" NV, Beaujolais, $25. Regions: Beaujolais ❱ Champagne ❱ Germany ❱ Tokaji ❱ Jura ❱ Loire ❱ Penedès ❱ 1. Salty minerality, leesy baked apple, almonds and citrus fruits with fine, lively bubbles; 30% Folle Blanche, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Melon de Bourgogne, 20% Cabernet Franc. 2. Salmon-colored, delicate, leesy aromas of strawberry and roses with generous tannins and acidity; 50% Nebbiolo, 50% Pinot Noir. 3. Brut nature-style with acacia, white flowers and round, weighty flavors of tart apple and pear; 50% Chardonnay, 50 % Orbois/ Menu Pineau. 4. Freshly-baked bread, toasted nuts, clean apple and lemon flavors with chalky minerality; 45% Macabeu, 40% Xarel-lo, 15% Parellada with 20% barrel-aged reserve wine. 5. Salty, steely minerality, distinct notes of petrol and precise acidity and tiny, active bubbles; 100% Riesling Winzersekt. 6. White flowers, honeyed stone fruit and orange aromas with lively, ripe apple, pear and toast flavors; Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel-lo. 7. Lime zest and leesy green fruits with chalky almost salty and herbaceous flavors and dense mousse; Arbois, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Poulsard, Savignin. 8. Waxy notes of lily and honey-glazed brioche, active with ripe lemon and stone fruit flavors; Furmint, Hárslevelü. 9. Pronounced aromas of white flowers, blood orange and toasted brioche with earthy, raspberry flavors; 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir. 10. Delicate aromas of fraise des bois and earthy minerality with crisp strawberry and cherry flavors; 100% Gamay Noir.

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