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Wine Tasting - Southern Rhone

In October, we started the first of what we hope will be an ongoing series of wine tasting parties with a small group of six couples interested in wine but with varying levels of wine knowledge. The group was formed with the following guidelines:

We will have a blind tasting and casual dinner roughly every other month so that we rotate through the entire group once a year. The host couple may, at their discretion, invite more people to join the fun. The evening's host selects the theme for the evening such as: "Napa Cabernet under $50", "Single vineyard Pinot Noir from Oregon", "'Second wines' of Bordeaux", "Australian Shiraz over $30", or whatever. Each couple brings one bottle that fits the theme. The labels are hidden with paper bags so that this becomes a blind tasting. Everyone tastes each wine before dinner and selects their top three wines so we can have a consensus favorite. At dinner, we can finish the tasting wines or raid the host's cellar assuming, of course, that the host consents. And we should have fun doing this.

Two books that we've used to guide our efforts are:

How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson The Wine-Tasting Class Notebook: Expertise in 12 Tastings by Judy Ridgway

In our first gathering, we started with a tasting of wines from the Southern Rhone. The wines were opened roughly thirty minutes before tasting and were not decanted. The wines were tasted blind. We gave each member of the party a simple scorecard so that they could simply note their #1 favorite, their #2 favorite, and their #3 favorite as well as any notes that would help them keep track of the wines that they liked. The table below lists the wines in order of the consensus favorites. There were two clear favorites of this group that were way out in front.

Winery Vintage #1 #2 #3 Total Parker Comments
Domaine de Caillou "Quartz" ?? 6 3   24 NR Peach, cherry, blackberry flavors. Full-bodied and smooth with a long finish - it was very yummy.
Beaucastel 1992 5 4 1 24 NR Love the depth. Lots of fruity, berry-like flavors - brambly. More subtle and refined with a very long finish.
Raspail-Ay 1998   3 3.5 9.5 90 I liked the first second or two, then it was over. Tannic, woody, oaky.
Marcoux 1996   2 3 6 NR Some hints of cherry flavor and peppery mouth-feel but not very complex. Light but oaky/woody.
Guigal 1998 1   1 4 89 Too oaky (pine?) - I didn't like the aftertaste. Short finish.
Hermitage 1995     3.5 3.5 90 I liked the first taste but then it was too oaky. Spicy, peppery with hints of leather. A little earthy or musty.
Domaine St. Anne 1998       0 88 Tasted fairly flat - not deep enough flavor. Acid and sourness. Not very intense or complex.

The consensus ranking was determined by 3 points for each #1 listing, 2 points for #2, and 1 point for #3. Any ties are broken by the number of #1 votes, etc.

Following the tasting, we sat down to dinner with the remaining wine from the tasting. The dinner was coordinated around a somewhat traditional cuisine of Southern France in order to complement the wines. In addition to the wines from the tasting, our gracious host also opened a 1984 Vieux Telegraphe that he had found in his cellar.

bulletWild mushroom soup with toasted cheese crostini
bulletLamb with carmelized turnips, honey and sage sauce
bulletBibb lettuce, apples, blue cheese, etc.
bulletPear and rum souffle

Next tasting - red wines of Piedmont!

Click here to give us some ideas!


Other Wine Tastings

bulletDuckhorn Vertical from the 1980s
bulletWines from the Southern Rhone
bulletRed Wines of Piedmont
bulletMature California Cabernets -- 1990 and older
bulletCalifornia cabernet maturity comparisons
bulletSouth American Red Wines
bullet Red Wines of Washington State
bullet Anything with Sangiovese


Wine Enthusiast - Ultimate wine accessories site! The Wine Enthusiast is a great source of glassware, serving and preservation systems, in addition to self-contained wine cellars and other wine storage options. If you're not sure what you need, the company offers a list of 'Recommended' items that cover a wide range of needs through their home page.

Wine glasses, decanters and more: Many choices are available including Riedel and Spiegelau crystal stemware and decanters. Plus, there are many products to clean and care for your glassware.   


Serving and preserve your wine, from the most elegant decanters to chillers, coasters, drip savers and more. When we want wine by the glass (when we don't think we'll finish a bottle), we use the WineKeeper which automatically fills the bottle with nitrogen to preserve the wine.
Corkscrews Corkscrews and cork pullers are essential tools. Wine Enthusiast has a wide variety of devices including the traditional Laguiole corkscrew to the smooth Rabbit Corkscrew leverpull types. Storing your wine doesn't have to be difficult. Wine Enthusiast offers everything from free standing wine cellars to wine racks and cooling systems that can be installed in a closet or a corner of the basement.   
Finally, for great deals, don't forget to check out the clearance items and the Wine Cellar Outlet Store areas.


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