The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2011

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Page 20 of 128

STEVEN SPURRIER'S LETTER FROM LONDON The Judgement of PHOTO: DECANTER t the end of October I found myself in Moscow at the invitation of the Moscow International Wine Expo (MIWE) to chair two blind tastings, one of Chardonnay the other of Cabernet Sauvignon–based blends, under the banner The Judgement of Moscow. The MIWE, the city's first ever wine fair, had three aims: to create an interesting and profes- sional show and business floor for the wine indus- try in Russia, to proclaim wine as an inherent part of world culture and to spread around Russia the idea of moderate high-quality wine consumption. The modern wine market was born in Russia just two decades ago, and now the country ranks in the top ten of global wine sales. At the lower end, consumers still like wine with high residual sugar, but overall preference is shifting to drier wines. Good quality wine remains a luxury item, with only one fifth of the 143 million population being able to afford it. Ten years ago, more than four bottles out of five came from ex-Soviet countries; in 2010, the ratio was less than one in five. Interest in wine is increas- ing, and a survey this year showed that the taste of the wine, a recognisable brand and value for money are the three important choice cues for purchase, similar to other more mature wine markets. Eleonora Scholes, a Russian wine writer and critic now based at Italy's Lake Como and one of the members of my tasting panel, told me that, "For the question of wine preferences, Russians drink mostly European wines, linking them with sophistication and prestige. French and Italian wines are particularly strong; Bordeaux and Tuscany are equally loved. Early on, people wanted to drink conspicuously and only top labels, but fortunately this is behind us now. New World wines are not particularly popular amongst fine wine drinkers." This last quote may well be true, but in the two blind tastings, with a sophisticated audience of almost 100 tasters at each, the results showed differently. Some weeks before, I had been sent the availability of wines in the "super-premium" category—$25 and much more—and asked to select ten Chardonnays and ten Cabernets. The availability of the former showed the preference for France and Italy, while in the latter there was more choice. My panel consisted of three male and three female judges, all deeply involved in parts of 20 / the tasting panel / december 201 1 A Moscow the wine trade. The wines were served in random order in Riedel glasses and were judged on the Decanter 20-point scale. The rankings of the panel were added up and divided by 7, while I asked the audience to rank their top five wines allotting 5 points the first and 1 to the fifth, their result being in descending number of points. Here are the results, with the panel's joint ranking first, my own second and that of the audience third. CHARDONNAY 1/5/6 – Concha y Toro 2008 "Amelia", Chile 2/8/2 – Shaw & Smith 2007 M3, Australia 3/1/1 – Fontaine-Gagnard 2009 Chassagne- Montrachet, France 4/2/8 – Te Mata 2009 "Elston," Hawkes Bay, New Zealand 5/6/10 – Hubert Lamy 2008 Bourgogne Blanc "Les Chataigniers," France 6/7/9 – J-J Vincent 2009 Pouilly-Fuissé "Marie- Antoinette," France 7/4/7 –Jean-Marc Brochard 2009 Chablis 1er Cru Montmains, France 8/3/5 –Lamelle-Ferragamo 2008 Il Borro Toscana IGT, Italy 9/9/3 – Catena Zapata 2008 "Alta," Argentina 10/10/4 – Vie di Romans 2008 "Isonzo," Friuli, Italy No real agreement, except on wine number 3. CABERNET SAUVIGNON AND BLENDS 1/3/3 – Petaluma 2007 Coonawarra, Australia 2/1=/2 - Te Mata 2007 "Coleraine," Hawkes Bay, New Zealand 3=/4/1 – Poggio al Tesoro 2007 "Sondraia," Toscana IGT, Italy 3=/5=/6 – Robert Mondavi 2006 Napa, California 5/7/7 –Simonsig 2008 "Tiara," Stellenbosch, South Africa 6/8/5 – Charles Melton 2007 Barossa, Australia 7=/5=/4 – Catena Zapata 2007 "Alta," Chile 7=/1=/8 – Montes 2008 "Alpha," Chile 9/10/9 – Ch. La Bécasse 2008 Pauillac, France 10/9/10 – La Dame de Montrose 2007 St-Estèphe, France Close agreement here on the top three and the bottom two. Perhaps the Russians are getting a taste for New World wines, especially the reds.

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