Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Our first (official) wine tasting!

It was early June, and summer had unfortunately not arrived yet, but we were determined to have a summery sort of wine-tasting (it was this determination that had found us, hours before, in the middle of the pouring rain searching for 'Les Amis du Fromage,' but more on that later). The list sent out specified 'reds from France,' (which everyone very nicely agreed upon as Michelle and I are headed off to France soon) and 'under $20.' These two criteria were to prove more difficult than we had first thought.

Here is the list of wines we were to choose from, as provided (and described in detail) by Meg:

Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux, the South of France)
intense, heavy, blackcurranty, strong backbone

Cabernet Franc – aka Breton, Bouchy (the Loire Valley, Southwest France)
fruity, herbal, vegetal, spicy, plum, violet, strawberry, bell pepper

Gamay (Beaujolais, Burgundy/Bourgogne, the Loire Valley, Rhone Valley)
refreshing, light, candy-like cherry, raspberry, fragrant, tart

Grenache (South of France)
high-alcohol, sweet, peppery, hearty/juicy rose

Merlot (Bordeaux)
juicy, fruity, blackcurrant, black cherry, mint, herbaceous, lush mouthfeel

Pinot Noir (Burgundy/Bourgogne, the Loire Valley, Alsace)
"hauntingly beautiful with a seductive silky texture," sweet summer fruit, strawberry, truffles, game, decaying leaves (cool!)

Syrah (the Rhone Valley) *same grape as Shiraz
intense, rich, smokey, minerally, spicy, warmhearted, sweet-fruited, blackberry, raspberry

My wine to buy was Pinot Noir, and Michelle picked the Cabernet Sauvignon. And I have to say mine was much easier to find, as we were to discover. After questioning the staff of our third wine shop/liquor store, Michelle and I finally understood how Old World wines are more frequently a blend of several varietals than New World wines, and that the region of production (and sometimes even the village) is often more essential to Old World wines than varietal. This was true of Michelle's Cab Sauv, which was a blend of said varietal, Merlot and Gamay. My Pinot Noir was fairly easy to find, however (though there were about twenty Californian Pinot Noirs for every three French ones we found). Here are the wines we all ended up purchasing:

We all wrote down what we'd bought for reference purposes. Mine, as you can see, was a tiny bit more than $20 ... but Michelle's Mouton Cadet was less than $20, so it all worked out in the end. Sort of.

As there were six of us, we needed at least eighteen glasses in order to compare different wines simultaneously. We had a mismatched chorus of glasses arranged around Meg's table, which was covered in a sheet of white craft paper (which turned out to be pretty good for displaying the colour of red wine - and making notes on!). One after the other, we tried each of the six wines.

Did we figure anything out? Can we now tell which wines have more tannins, which have a lush mouthfeel, which are vegetal? I can only speak for myself, but, sadly, not yet. But I definitely feel there is something to be figured out from the comparison of flavour and colour. And we thought next time it might be a good idea to compare several bottles of the same varietal or region.

And all that waiting in the rain was worth it - Les Amis du Fromage turned out to be an amazing cheese shop, and it was stocked with many delicious-looking cheeses from around the world. And from around the sheep and goat! We must return! But meanwhile, here are some of the cheeses we chose (with help!) to pair with the various wines:

More wine and cheese, I say!


Cathie said...

Hey Gals,
I love your new fresh look - very professional. You are all inspiring, creative and fun! I so enjoy the photos - beautiful - feel like I'm there - and I'm learning new tricks and ideas too! Thanks! I am amazed that you all stay so committed to your Wednesday dining and other forays into the world of food. Oh, so many new gastronomical adventures to be had! Keep it up! Cathie (Meg's mom)

Meg said...

Yay Laura! I think this means it's time for the next one...

It was so much fun, and I swear after a few times you'll start to notice more and more of the flavours and it will just get more and more fun.

I keep thinking, I can't believe I haven't been back to that cheese shop yet. It was so amazing.

Laura said...

Thanks Cathie! And thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I'm looking forward to those gastronomical adventures too. It's fantastic to have a crew to go on them with.

Definitely time for another wine tasting, Meg. And I sense Les Amis may be in all of our immediate futures...

Thanks for the mother-daughter commenting, guys!