On Friday, I left behind all that was German, and found myself in the sunny hills of Tuscany.
Well, not really. I have never been to Italy, so what I know of it is a figment of my imagination, a combination of words and images put there by others who have been there. Just like I have an image of New York City, Chicago, Spain, Argentina. It will be interesting to go to these places for real someday and be surprised at how much each place is or is not like how I imagined them.
But my palate did go to Italy on Friday, because it was our turn to host, at our home, a blind tasting of Tuscan red wines. We belong to a tasting group with a long history, but we are recent members. We were invited by good friends about a year ago, and with some false starts, we are attending the monthly meetings a little more regularly this year.
SCGGG stands for Southern California Grape and Gripe Group. The format of this group is once a month meetings where blind tasting is done. Yep - brown bagging. While this is, to some, the most objective way to taste wine, I have had a difficult time grasping this. When I ask myself why, I first think that it is my upbringing. Not my upbringing during childhood by my parents, but my upbringing in wine. I was brought up in the wine business very recently (so I am a baby really, maybe a toddler, or a kindergartener) by the kind folks at The Wine Country. At The Wine Country, blind tasting is not so much revered. I believe the theory is that wine is not something to be tasted blind, like some object, but something to be felt, studied not in isolation, but in context. That 10 or 20 wines shouldn't be subjected to a line-up like some criminals in a Law and Order episode, but appreciated on its own merits and peculiarities. That wine, at least fine wine, be regarded as works of art and not mathematical puzzles.
Or like, I believe Kermit Lynch or someone once said, blind tasting is to wine appreciation what strip poker is to making love........ or something like that (I should really google this one).
The point here is, from the folks that taught me 80% of what I know about wine: they don't like blind tasting, they don't like putting wines in a line-up, and they don't feel that wines show well in this way.
So I had my resistance about blind tasting. So initially, I didn't attend many of these tastings.
But I've come around a bit. I've shed some of my resistance about this form of tasting, and accepted it for what it is, without allowing this exercise to mean more than it can mean. Blind tasting is simply one way of tasting wine, to see what one prefers when one cannot see the label. Blind tasting challenges one to think about what aromas and smells one is getting from the wine, without the help of the label.
I must add, though, that SCGGG is a group of wine lovers, not wine industry folks, so the blind tasting takes place to choose what wines one subjectively prefers; the tasting is not designed to be a challenge to guess what a wine is, which is another game wine people play.
So anyway, it was our turn to host this month, and it happened to land on my busiest week ever, so Tasting #4 of the week was of Tuscan reds. Everyone brought one and we were 9. We ended up with 5 Chianti Classico, and 4 other Tuscan reds, none of which were Brunello, but 1 was a Rosso of Montalcino (baby Brunello), 1 was a Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, and 2 were super-Tuscans.
Interestingly, the top three favorites chosen by the group at large were all Chianti Classico. I actually chose as my favorite a Super-Tuscan - 2006 Il Sasso Carmignano by Mauro Vannucci but the wine came in 7th place (out of 9) overall. The overall top three winners were, in the this order 2006 Querciabella Chianti Classico, 2006 San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti Classico, and 2006 Castello dei Rampolla Chianti Classico. I did agree that the Chiantis were very nice wines indeed, especially with the sliced Italian salamis that I served alongside.
I like to draw conclusions from these blind tastings, and my conclusions were: (1) maybe Chianti Classico shows well in a line-up against other Tuscan reds, (2) maybe if you are going to buy a red wine from Tuscany to have with some delicious Italian food, choosing a Chianti Classico would not be a terrible choice in most circumstances, and (3) lighter wines, like the 2006 Dei Vino Nobile de Montepulciano will never fare as well in such tastings with more heavyweights like Chiantis, though they are lovely, elegant wines on their own.
In all, the wines were enjoyable. They were all in the $20 to $35 range, so nothing too grandiose like a $70 Brunello or anything. Which I would find a waste of money to put in a blind tasting personally anyway - I like to save those wines to go with a great meal or just by themselves, without too many peers.
So that was Friday evening! Great fun was had by all. I enjoyed it. Except that I looked tired. Because I was, and I knew I had to get up early the next morning, pack my stuff, and head out of town for tasting #5.