So I’m taking a Zoom-enabled advanced, blind tasting class from a Master of Wine (from whom I’ve taken many classes). The topic tonight was distinguishing blends from single varietal wines with the focus on Bordeaux and Rhone-style blends. They could be from anywhere in the world.
Wine #1 was clearly a Bordeaux blend, probably Left Bank. [It was in fact Chateau Peymartin 2014 from St. Julien. That was easy.] Wine #2 was obviously new world with confected berry pie fruit, sage, full bodied with a plump midpalate and robust alcohol, substantial new American oak, and supple but ample tannins. A tough call, it could be Merlot, but my guess was a GSM from Paso Robles because of the confected fruit indicating Grenache and the herbal notes consistent with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. [Nope. It was a Ramey Claret from California’s North Coast with 50% Cabernet]
Then I came to wine #3. It had black cherry aromas, but they were muted and not very generous. An intriguing, briny green olive thing was going on in the background and there were black pepper notes and baked earth. The midpalate was thin, even a bit watery. It was clearly low in alcohol and showed little evidence of overt oak. The tannins were fine grained but persistent. The acidity was medium plus—very mouthwatering.
So where are we with wine #3? I thought immediately old world. But it lacked the power of Cabernet or the plump midpalate of Merlot. There was little evidence of wood and the stony minerality was missing so it is probably not Bordeaux. So it must be a Rhone wine. It lacked the alcohol, garrique notes, and generous spirit of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. So my conclusion was generic Côtes de Rhône, probably from the cooler part of the valley to the North.
So what did wine #3 turn out to be.?
She threw in a Merlot from Napa’s Frog’s Leap Winery!
This is a total curve ball. Frog’s Leap makes the only California Merlot I know of with alcohol below 13.5%. They are famous for making the most restrained wines west of the Mississippi River. It is the most atypical Napa wine on the market.
So why, in a class on blind tasting, would you include the most atypical wine you could find? Blind tasting is all about typicity. Without typicity you’re just making wild guesses.
I only missed by about 6,000 miles.
These Master of Wine folks sure like to mess with your mind.