Sunday, 25 September 2011

Blind tasting with a twist

Prior to Le Grand Day of Indulgence, we had a fantastic blind tasting dinner at Crown Wine Cellars with Michel Bettane, Thierry Desseauve (two highly respected French wine critics) and Pierre Lurton, director of Chateau Cheval Blanc and d’Yquem. Every guest brought a bottle or two from their own collection and these were split into flights, each of which might or might not contain one or more bottle of Cheval Blanc. The challenge for the Frenchmen and the guests was to decide if there was any Cheval Blanc in each flight and, if so, how many bottles and what vintage. It was the most entertaining blind tasting game I have ever played.

Flight 1: The experts correctly picked one Cheval Blanc but the wrong vintage (1970 instead of 1971), and there was indeed a Cheval Blanc 1970 in the flight that they didn’t pick. The other two were Leoville-Las-Cases 1970 and Latour 1970. Pierre was quite shocked that he couldn’t pick the 1970!

Flight 2: Cheval Blanc 1982 was correctly identified. The others in the line up were Leovile Poyferre 1978, Vega Sicilia 1981, Beychevelle 1989 and Vega Sicilia 1991.

Flight 3: Everyone picked Wine No. 3—wrongly. The flight was Phelps Insignia 1994, Vega Sicilia 1995 and Angelus 1993. No Cheval Blanc.

Flight 4: Cheval Blanc 1996, Gaja Barbaresco 1998, Cheval Blanc 2001 and Angelus 2003 magnum. Again only one of the two Cheval Blancs was correctly identified. Michel cheekily said he preferred the last wine (the Angelus) without asserting that it was a Cheval Blanc.

All wines were of superb quality and I found it really difficult to pick the Cheval Blanc, and impossible to identify the rest. We had to rely on the subtle differences of style, tannin texture, and American/French oak characters. Nevertheless, it was inspiring and we can all use this as a reference for designing our own blind tasting games. How about an international Cabernet line up and pick the Margaret River, or everyone brings a bottle and each has to pick his own? Or, even more creative, pick the odd one out?

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