Today's post is a guest post by my friend, and fellow Wino League fantasy baseball team owner, Mike Fifer.
So you think you know your wine?? Been sipping and tasting wine for some time now? Some of you even blogging about your experiences? You think you know your varietals by just sniffing and tasting? Ever put yourself to a real test??
A couple of weeks ago, I put my palette to the test. The results were about what I expected — I did not have high expectations– but the experience was a lot of fun and very interesting.
Lisa Ribaudo, Director of Wine Operations and a Certified Sommelier for the Andiamo Restaurant Group here in Michigan organized a "Name that Grape" event involving 10 wines — 10 different varietals. Your challenge: Name the varietal AND where the wine was produced. I gathered small group of “wine know-it-alls” and we put our palettes and our egos to the test!
On the outside patio of Andiamo in Dearborn, Michigan, we gathered on a perfect evening to meet our wines. This was a strolling wine tasting so each participant was given a glass and could approach the bar at their convenience. At the bar sat 10 well covered bottles. Lisa gave us a minimal amount of information on each wine. . . just enough to get us started on our "test". Wines #1 through #4 were white wines. #6 through #10 were red.
My "strategy" was simple. . . use all of my limited wine tasting experience to try to determine what I was tasting and then take my best shot at the locale from which it came. I thought Lisa would stick to the 'usual' varietals and not go too far outside the norm (i.e a Torrontes or Lemberger), so I concentrated on those varietals as a basis for my answers.
I have been sampling wines for several years now but I am by no means an "expert". I am a consumer and not at all part of the wine industry, so my experience with wine is limited by my ability to seek out and try new varietals, the educational opportunities n which I engage and the wine experiences that I have amassed over the past several years.
We had roughly 2 hours to sniff, taste, and discuss the 10 wines presented to us. Yes, “cheating" off your friends was allowed but competition amongst my wine buiddies was fierce. It was a grueling and exhausting experience. The pressure was intense.
At the end of the two hours, it was time for the answers to be revealed. How did I do? Well, before the big reveal, I thought I had nailed the white varietals. They seemed, to me, relatively easy to identify. The reds on the other hand, were difficult to distinguish. I tried to look for certain characteristics to help me along. For instance, the first red had fresh bright red fruit flavors with a hint of dirt– but, I noted that I could see my fingers through the wine in the glass–must be Pinot Noir I thought.
Before she revealed the wines and regions, Lisa asked if anyone thought they had gotten all of the wines correct. A few brave 'brown-nosers' thought they had– not so much. Lisa gave them and "atta-boy" and sent them back to their seats (I did not have the ego or the courage to be ridiculed by Lisa, so I did not show her my answers).
Giving myself one point for the varietal and one point for the region, here is my scorecard:
1. Pinot Grigio (Italy)– 2 points!
2. Chardonnay (California)– 2 points!
3. Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)– 2 points!
4. Late Harvest Riesling (Michigan)– 2 points! (Not many thought it was from Michigan)
5. Pinot Noir (Burgundy) — 1 point (I was wrong on the region)
6. Merlot (California)– 0 points (I swore it was Tempranillo from Spain!)
7. Shiraz (Australia)– 0 points (How did I miss that?)
8. Zinfandel (California)– 1 point (Got the region, but thought it might be Petit Syrah)
9. Cabernet Sauvignon (California)– 2 points!!
10. Malbec (Argentina)– 0 points (My taste buds told me 'Zin')
12 out of 20 points. "F"! Well not really.
This was a great exercise in testing my "knowledge" of wine. Actually, I scored about where I thought I would. I was really surprised at how well I knew the white wine varietals (I nailed the Michigan Late Harvest Riesling!). I was even more surprised at how tough the red wines were to distinguish.
I would highly recommend this test for all of you wine bloggers and enthusiasts. If any wine professionals are reading this and have the ability to host one of these events, I would also recommend you do so. It was enlightening, educational and humbling for me as for the friends I attended with. Most importantly, though, it was a lot of fun. Based upon my results, I have a great deal of studying to do. . . so I am off to "cram" for my next exam. Cheers!!