Blind wine tastings can be really intimidating. Sure, you can tell the white from red. Probably the Pinot Noir from the Cabernet Sauvignon, likely even the Sauvignon Blanc from the Chardonnay. But when I see a sommelier identify the grape, the country, the region and come within striking distance of the vintage – it blows me away every time.
Remove the demands and expectations, and a blind tasting is a fun way to taste some great wines and really think about whether you like what you are drinking – with no pre-conceived notions.
For the past two years, my Maine beach buddies have brought down a special wine – $25-50. We covered them up, talked a little bit about what to expect from each – and tried to match (make that guess) the brown-bagged bottle to the label. Of course, I am the one who has spent the most time studying, reading (and tasting) wine. And I have yet to take home the trophy (not competitive at all!).
So this year we decided to mix it up a little. Our goal was to find out if price really dictates quality. We asked out favourite Portland wine merchant Jacques DeVilliers to pick five wines for us, one at $10,$20,$30, $40 and $50.
I picked up a funky blackboard tablecloth so we could jot down our comments and scores and off we went.
The five wines:
All we had to do was JUST match the wines with the price point. Did I mention they were all Cabernet Sauvignon?…AND all from the U.S? That was our first mistake.
Second mistake: let’s just say we may have been enjoying a few glasses prior to the face off. The rules were clear, so I thought – the bottles are numbered – write the number next to the chalk circle that says $10,$20,$30….you get the picture.
Let the tasting begin. Consultation, more pouring, sniffing and slurping and pouring. # 4 was the group favourite and it went fast.
An hour later and the scores were in – not only were the answers all over the place, each team used a different scoring method. It all made for a great laugh – especially after 5 glasses of wine!
So while no one took home the trophy this year, we did end up tasting some amazing wines. And we did come to a few conclusions:
- 4/5 teams identified the cheapest wine 14 Hands $12
- after $30 – it’s not so much quality difference as personal preference
- Stag’s Leap Artemis $50 is truly outstanding.
- Loved the Newton $20 and Ferrari-Carano was the favourite of one team $30
- The hands-down best from all teams was the Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Napa Valley $40
And I promised to go back to the old system next year.