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
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.
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.
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.
75% Cabernet Sauvignon 20% Merlot 5% Petit Verdot
Blind tasting Bordeaux varietals April 19th 2021
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
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.
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
Reminds me of Pomerol for no more a reason than I really loved it, an Emotional memory of previous Pomerols often shared with Stuart
(95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc)
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
Cabernet Sauvignon dominated cab Merlot blend from the famous Sassicaia winery in Bolgheri.
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