My (Somewhat Tardy) Tasting Party 03/19/12
Four wines. Nine people. Five people with whom I remembered to discuss the four wines. Put them all together and what do you get? The tasting that took place at my apartment on Saturday (well, a Saturday, anyway…sorry for the delay) much to the chagrin of neighbors everywhere. By which I mean, the neighbors in my immediate vicinity.
While my last tasting had featured wines I’d received from Inter Beaujolais, this time I chose the theme myself. This gave me the chance to highlight a wider range of grapes than Gamay, Gamay, Gamay and Gamay, but it did entail the notable drawback of costing me a lot of money. But I wasn’t doing this for my guests; I wasn’t even doing it for me. This was all about the wine.
I decided to frame the tasting in the form of two miniature competitions, as it were: Riesling vs Riesling, and Italy vs Italy. If those two rounds don’t seem exactly parallel, that’s probably because they aren’t. But go ahead and try to guess how much I care. Go on.
If you guessed “at all,” I’m sorry, but you’re not a very good guesser. You know what always cheers me up though? Wine! Especially when it’s good.
Here’s some good wine.
I love Riesling. Despite its steadily-climbing popularity, which is generally a deal breaker for me, Riesling is one of those grapes I find myself coming back to time and time again. It also happened to be a favorite of most of my guests, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with an itinerary that was 50% Riesling.
The opening round pitted the Schloss Saarstein Serriger Schloss Saarsteiner Riesling Auslese 2003 against the Trimbach Riesling 2009 – Alsatian Riesling versus Mosel Riesling – for the ultimate battle between France and Germany, two nations which, to the best of my knowledge, have never had any real conflict historically.
We started with the Trimbach Riesling, mostly because Alsace comes before Mosel (and France before Germany) alphabetically. One of the Alsace’s most lauded producers, Trimbach consistently releases elegant wines, many of which are under $20 ; this one was $19. As a dry Riesling, it had me excited from the get-go, as that is my preferred style for the grape. Most grapes, really.
In the glass, this poured a very clear straw color, giving off subtle aromas of lemon, peach, and after breathing, a tropical note somewhat reminiscent of papaya. Dry and crisp on the palate, this paired perfectly with goat cheese, which I happened to be serving, because I am an awesome host.
The Schloss Saarsteiner Riesling ($16) was off-dry, and therefore sweeter than I usually like, but it made up for it in a number of ways. First of all, coming from 2003, this was quite a bit older than the Trimbach Riesling (and indeed, more or less every other Riesling for sale at the PA state store I frequent). It also exhibited that distinctive, at times controversial characteristic of German Riesling typically described as gasoline or petrol.
This was a bit darker than the Trimbach, a sign of its age, and had a more powerful nose of key lime, gasoline and a hint of pear. The palate was pure electricity: citrus notes with crackling acidity and even a touch of effervescence. I don’t know if any of you remember that filesharing site Limewire, but this wine tasted exactly like whatever a Limewire actually is.
My personal verdict awards Trimbach thumbs up, Schloss Saarstein , and of course that’s the only opinion that really counts.
But I suppose I’ll share my guests’ thoughts too, in the interest of thoroughness or something. To protect their privacy, however, I will be using their actual names, which no one will be expecting:
Alexi gave the Trimbach 8/10, preferring it to the Schloss Saarstein, not being a fan of the residual sugar on the latter, which he gave a 7.5. I can respect that, even if I don’t agree with it.
Mike favored the Riesling from Mosel, having been similarly captivated by its electric inclinations. He gave it a 9.5, while the Trimbach earned 6.5, perhaps seeming a bit bland by comparison.
Pete‘s scores diverged from mine more than anyone else’s, and he awarded the Trimbach a “solid 6.” The Schloss Saarstein netted 7.5, however, which is a much better score in Pete’s book than mine.
Which of course brings us to Saul, who awarded the Trimbach “8 – scratch that, 7,” and then a solid 9 to the Schloss Saarstein.
The white portion of our tasting complete, it was time to move to the reds. And if there’s one thing you should know about my affinity for Italian reds, it’s that I have a huge affinity for Italian reds – Nebbiolo specifically, but by no means exclusively.
And Nebbio-lo and behold! There was no Nebbiolo at my tasting, mostly for cost-related reasons. So what did I pour? The De Forville Dolcetto d’Alba 2010, and the Macarico Aglianico Del Vulture 2004 – a funny, fulminating little wine you may remember from when I reviewed it a year ago.
Dolcetto is regarded a mostly simple, easy-drinking wine, but it does come from the same place Nebbiolo does: Piedmont (also known as Piemonte), where it’s known as the region’s “little sweetie.” But that doesn’t mean it’s sweet, per se; this wine had notably less residual sugar than the Schloss Saarstein Riesling, for example, and would still be classified as dry.
In the glass the De Forville Dolcetto ($18) appeared as a mostly-opaque maroon, with youthful purple edges. The nose told a relatively trite tale of cherry, a dash of blackberry, and perhaps a flicker of almond and vanilla. The palate confirmed what we’d all been thinking: this wine was certainly drinkable, but a definite step down from the first two selections. It just wasn’t all that interesting.
And then there was Aglianico. Oh, Aglianico. I could try to describe with mere words, sure, but why even bother when a movie trailer can say so much more?
The most expensive wine of the lot, the Macarico Aglianico cost me $25.50 (pre-tax), but it was well worth it. In the glass it poured lighter than the Dolcetto, with an orange hue around the rim to signify of its age. The nose gave way to a panoply of aromas that left me unable to decide which I should utter first – I eventually settled on graphite! (exclamation point included), which I followed with black cherry, red pepper, and a gamey pungence that coalesced to prove beyond all doubt that the best wines contain notes of animal, vegetable, and mineral. And fruit.
Powerful yet complex, the wine reminded me why I became an Aglianico fan in the first place (that reason being this exact Aglianico, if you’d care to take a gander back in time). But what did my guests think?
Alexi didn’t really care for the Dolcetto, giving it 6/10, but enjoyed the Aglianico, noting that the previous wines had been “more on one side of the spectrum,” a nod to the Aglianico’s complexity. He awarded it a 9 first, then 8.5, stating it wasn’t his favorite. But 8.5 was still his highest score, so I don’t really know what to make of that.
Mike also slapped the Dolcetto with a 6/10, and then gave the Aglianico an 8.5. It should also be mentioned that Mike is the only fellow graduate of Cornell’s Intro to Wines, making his opinion infinitely more valid than my other three friends’. Sorry guys.
Pete gave the Dolcetto a 4 in a stunningly brutal display of honesty. When asked about the Aglianico, he simply declared, “I shall give it an 8.” Jack Black himself could not have delivered the line better – if only his rating had been more accurate.
Saul gave the Dolcetto a “Meh,” while the Aglianico received a “Hey Pete, did you see that movie Scott Pilgrim?” While the movie was explosive, I still think that’s a bit of a stretch, Saul.
As for me, I award the Dolcetto thumbs up, and the Aglianico (again).
So what did I learn from this tasting experience? First off, my friends are a lot meaner than I am to wines they don’t particularly care for; you might have noticed that they don’t quite adhere to my “5 thumbs up is the lowest rating possible” rule. And then I learned some stuff about desecrating cemeteries and tampering with forces beyond my ken and such, but that’s tangentially related to wine tasting, at best.