The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2017

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108  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2017 Gustavo Rearte, Winemaker for Achaval Ferrer (the company is owned by Stoli Group USA, which also owns Arínzano), spoke about the Arínzano 2008 Gran Vino White, Pago de Arínzano, Spain. T his pretty white wine seemed familiar to us. It lent perfectly-ripe yellow apples and pears with lemon juice but added an element of butterscotch and vanillin. Bath commented, "This wine shows that winemaking is involved." The wine had seen oak—something that for white wine immediately limits the grape varieties possible. The butterscotch also spoke to malolactic fermentation, another marker for this grape. Once we narrowed in on the grape, we examined its structure for its place of origin. The acidity was high, unexpected if coming from the New World, but it also did not seem to show classic Burgundy character. THE REVEAL: Arínzano 2008 Gran Vino White, Pago de Arínzano, Spain Nestled in the northwest area of Navarra in Spain just east of Rioja, Arínzano is one of 14 Vinos de Pago (VP), referring to specific sites showing particular soil characteristics and micro- climates that distinguish them as special. The winery specializes in Tempranillo and Chardonnay and spares no cost in crafting superior wines. With cool, southerly winds breezing over the Chardonnay vineyard, the grapes retain high acidity. The richness of the body and toasty oak notes, as well as the slight age of the wine, balanced beautifully with that elevated acid. Singling out Chardonnay as the grape did not pose a huge problem with the oak and malolactic fermentation present; getting to Spain, however, was a challenge. "Think about a place where they are innovating," suggested Bath. Straddling the Old World/New World line, this Chardonnay from Spain was a stunner. The Tasting Panel decided to have a little fun at the Society of Wine Educators Annual Conference this year by hosting a blind tasting competition. With all of the hullabaloo surrounding the HBO show Game of Thrones, we drew inspiration from the phenomenon by implementing an amusing theme: Game of Wines. Led by Bob Bath, MS, and yours truly, the tasting saw attendees split into two teams—the Starks (the men) vs. the Targaryens (the women). Bath and I "coached" the room in blind tasting techniques to help guide participants in their conclusions. Each filled out a score sheet to be tallied while the wines were revealed and presented, and the winners were announced at the end of the seminar. We tasted seven wines, asking for the grape variety for each wine and the region of production for half of them. The MÁD 2015 Furmint served as our tiebreaker, as it was an extremely challenging wine. Bath aimed to simplify blind tasting through an opening presentation and explained how small determinations can whittle the world of wine down to far fewer options as a conclusion. For example, the white wine world can be broken down into non-aromatic and aromatic varieties, while the red wine world can be delineated by the expression of fruit. Is it red fruit–driven, or does it show purple and black fruits? We also examined the importance of structure in blind tasting by focusing intently on the level of acidity. This characteristic can be indicative of grape variety itself, but more so reveals the climate where the variety is produced. This led to a discussion of Old World and New World considerations, with Old World wines typically showing secondary characteristics prior to fruit and New World wines usually leading with more forward fruit. VINTNER Is Coming BLIND TASTING COMPETITION by Allyson Gorsuch / photos by Alan Weiner

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