WanderCurtis Wine

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Blind Tasting, an exploration of Bordeaux Varietals. Can you tell Cabernet Sauvignon from Cabernet Franc or Merlot?

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Stuart’s challenge this week was blind reds, Bordeaux varietals predominant, a blend but had to be >65% of one of the main current Bordeaux varietals – Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, excluding Malbec, any age and from anywhere.

We would have to draw upon our favourite tome ‘Beyond Flavour’ by Nick Jackson MW and remind ourselves of some key distinguishing features of the varietals.

Cabernet Sauvignon has medium to high levels of fine grained tightly knit tannins, always felt on the gums not the tongue. (Hole in the middle of palate) The sleek tannin structure is linear with a strong sense of direction enhanced by good retention of acidity.

Merlot’s fine grained tannins are also felt on the gums but they are fruit wrapped and can sometimes feel a bit sticky/clayey.

They are so richly fruited that the tannins are often less obtrusive in Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon. Furthermore the feel of the tannins can lead to a more square sensation rather than the linearity of Cabernet Sauvignon. Also there is no hole in the mid palate as Merlot has such rich ripe fruit concentration. As opposed to Cabernet Sauvignon it can quickly lose its acidity and require acidification.

Cabernet Francs grainy stalky moderate tannins are also felt on the gums. It preserves its acidity well and has savoury red fruits and obvious pyrazines with a strong herbaceous streak.

Carmenere is described as green on green

Malbec has intense colourmay display high ‘lockjaw tannins’ especially at the angle of the jaw, with sweet fruit ending dry.

Petit Verdot is  often perfumed with floral violet notes

The natural woody cedar flavours of the Bordeaux varietals enable them to blend so well with oak maturation also allowing gentle oxidation.

We had initially explored this theme a few months ago (including Malbec) tasting notes  below.

Blind tasting Bordeaux varietals January 2021

Kiran’s wine

Musty, leather, earthy, cedar, perfume, boot polish, menthol.

Complex nose, very fine resolved tannins, powdery, not at angle of jaw, sweetness, black fruit medium + acid Med + Savoury persistent drying tannins. Delicious complex savoury balanced wine

We thought 15 to 20 years old as mainly tertiary notes no particular pyrazines and suggested a Malbec.

2006 Jean-Luc Baldes Clos Triguedina ‘Probus’, Cahors, France 100% Malbec

Adam’s wine

Green pepper, herbs, black currant leaf.

Herbaceous green pointing to S America for Stu re green and herbaceous

Stu getting lockjaw tannins

Marked acidity with our mouth’s still watering.

The greenness and acidity pointed us to Cabernet Franc, though not particularly red fruited.

Cabernet  Franc Valdivieso 2015 chile

Stuart’s

Bell pepper, pyrazines, floral hint of volatile acidity, dried lilies, red fruits  some cassis, woody cedar and savoury.

Lovely balance and  length with complexity resolved tannins horseshoe profile

We felt this must be old world.

Grand Puy Lacoste 2000

75% Cabernet Sauvignon 20% Merlot 5% Petit Verdot

Blind tasting Bordeaux varietals April 19th 2021

Kiran’s wine

Medium to deep garnet clearly showing some age, on the nose  Kiran detected baked plums and milk chocolate , Stu – Spices plum compote possible strawberry.

Adam got more spiced wood  cedar also an oxidative nose, finishes a little Savoury/salty no pyrazine of note

On the palate soft resolved tannins very fine powdery dusty gum tannins mainly, medium plus acidity.

We were pretty certain this was a Merlot dominant right bank Bordeaux of probably premier cru level St Emillion of about 15 to 20 years old

2007 Sophia Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay New Zealand

Merlot dominated Cabernet Franc Petit Verdot blend

This surprised us, though Hawkes Bay is pretty much as close as you can get for this style in the New world and I’m sure Steve Smith MW who we’ve done many tastings with will be delighted to know the outcome of our blind tasting thoughts.

I visited Craggy Range last year and saw the dedicated winery built just for Sophia.

Stu’s wine

Initially charred smoky charcoals cloves spices herbaceous

Smooth soft ripe tannins sweetness.

Full lush perfumed nose, black pepper, incense, sandalwood, young cedar sap from tree

Juicy fruity  slightly sticky feel in the mouth

Kiran gets green pepper pyrazine no one mentioned fruit.

Fresh pour some green pepper stalky

Lavished with oak

Delicious aromatic

Reminds me of Pomerol for no more a reason than I really loved it, an Emotional memory of previous Pomerols often shared with Stuart

Château Feytit clinet 2005 Pomerol

(95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc)

Adams wine

Sweet fruit, strawberry plum fruit forward blackberry

Spiciness, Smoky cloves barrel

Stu got Jammy baked fruit

Stu sure dried fruit warm climate and found raisins

Tannin on the gums drying medium plus acidity

Guidealberto Tenuta San Guido IGT 2015

Cabernet Sauvignon dominated cab Merlot blend from the famous Sassicaia winery in Bolgheri.

Learning points

Focusing on tannins is invaluable. Merlots certainly felt sweeter fruit wrapped and sticker

New Zealand and other New world regions with age can very closely resemble the old world. If in doubt lack of any pyrazines(herbaceous bell pepper blackcurrant leaf cassis notes) unlikely to be Bordeaux

Pyrazines are more often found with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc less so with Merlot which has lusher fruitier spectrum with softer tannins and no hole in the palate

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