Monday, April 1, 2013

In search of the missing link(s) II: Post-Mortem of a tasting

A little over a year ago I wrote a post describing a wine tasting where the objective was to identify the linkages between wines after tasting them blind. On Friday night last we revisited this quite entertaining format and the subject of this post is an analysis of the wines and the associated linkages (Please visit Steve Alcorn's blog for the tasting notes.).

The tasting was organized and hosted by Ron Siegel and was held in the basement cellar of Luma on Park, our regular haunt. The schedule called for a cocktail hour, followed by a sit-down tasting of five flights of two wines each.  A second round of five flights would be tasted concurrent with our multi-course dinner. Each flight would consist of two linked (linkage based on bottle-owners' perception) wines poured from bottles which were covered in order to conceal any identifying characteristics. These wines would be tasted by the group, analyzed and discussed, and then everyone would give their take on the wines and their linkage(s). At this point the owner of the bottles would reveal them so that the attendees could determine how deeply they wanted to slash their wrists. Attendees were expected to bring four bottles to support the two rounds of linkage tastings as well as additional bottles for "recreational" tasting.  The bottles for recreational tasting would not be "blinded."

Andres opening his wine while trying to keep it hidden

A total of 11 people participated in the event and proceedings were launched when Ron opened a bottle of NV Jacques Selosse Initiale. We examined the bottle closely looking for -- in jest -- evidence that this was not part of the haul from the recent break-in at the Selosse facility. The Champagne was accompanied by small slices of thin-crust pizza and truffle popcorn and was followed by a 2003 Georg Breur Berg Schlossberg that was opened by Andres. At around 7:00 pm we were told to take our seats so that the first round of tasting could begin.




The plan called for two rounds of blind tasting, each round to consist of five two-bottle flights. As it unfolded, our first round was continuous and orderly and was separated from the second round by a bottle of NV Billecart-Salmon in the role of "palate-rejuvenator." The second round was more extended as it wended its way around, between, and through a multi-course meal and several ancillary bottles that were opened up along the way.  We finally brought the second round to a conclusion after six flights had been tasted.




A total of 22 wines were consumed in the linkages-tasting portion of the event and a significant portion of those wines were from the decades of the '90s and 2000s. A total of eight wines each originated in those two decades. In addition, three wines each were from the decades of the '70s and '80s.

Sixty-eight percent of the linkage wines originated in France with Bordeaux and Burgundy having the greatest contribution -- 22% each of all wines and 33% each of the French contribution. Pinot Noir, Bordeaux blends, and Syrah were the dominant variety/blends on offer for the tasting.


The dominant linkages between pairs were Country of Origin (36%) and Variety/Blend (27%). The linkages were fairly widely distributed with only three types receiving multiple mentions. There were only two cases of a single-link pairing and one case of a "missing" link.



There were a number of interesting pairings and I will mention a few here that were of especial note. I opened up the proceedings with a 2006 Silex and a 2004 Cheval Blanc. The group tagged the Cheval Blanc as a Bordeaux immediately and so had their palates led astray by their brains which said that the link had to be with a white Bordeaux. My wife tagged the Silex. When the bottles were revealed, there was a lot of grumbling and questions as to what was the linkage. The obvious one was a country link and they had gotten that but they were also going after a region link. The actual link is that Cabernet Franc (the underlying variety of Cheval Blanc) and Sauvignon Blanc (the Silex variety) are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. The group did not take this linkage too kindly. They thought it was a curve ball.

Ron had the distinction of having the most ephemeral and the most complex linkage pairs. Taking the former first, he paired a 1989 Angelus with a 1970 Vega Sicilia because, he said, Vega Sicilia is sometime referred to as the Latour of Spain. This, I think, is a missing link. On the other hand, Ron also paired the 1990 Montrose and Beausejour. These wines have in common vintage, country of origin, region, variety/blend, and Parker score (100 points).

Steve's pairing of 1975 Haut-Brion and Heitz Martha's Vineyard was revealing in that it showed how some of the older Napa wines were really close in quality to the First Growths of the time. It should be noted that both of these wines were participants in the Judgement of Paris but the vintage, in both cases, was 1970.

This is a very difficult but entertaining and informative format where your conclusion after tasting the first wine could be placed in doubt after tasting the second and the public discussion of the options further muddies the water. It is, however, a format that we will continue to revisit in the future because it is a lot of fun.


©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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