When I was asked to put on a wine tasting event for a birthday party, I asked what format the host wanted and the average level of wine knowledge among the guests. He replied that he was open about the format but that the partygoers would have varying levels of interest and knowledge in wine (a couple of heathens not even liking wine!) Furthermore, there would be different groups within the guests, so an arrangement which got them to mix well would be preferable.
The format we agreed on was one that has worked well for me at many events in the past, and has been progressively honed over the years. I split the guests into two teams, led by the birthday boy and his wife respectively. Six wines were served blind: two sparkling, two white and two red. For each wine, the teams had to guess five aspects:
- Geographical Origin
- ABV %
- Price Band
Now, blind tasting is actually pretty difficult even for seasoned professionals, so to make things a bit more reasonable there were 5 answers to chose from for each question, for each wine. The teams could then go for more points if they were pretty sure what the wine was (e.g. choosing “Italy – Veneto” for origin and “Glera” for grape(s) if they thought it was a Prosecco) or hedging their bets.
As for the wines selected? The host is a fan of classic Bordeaux and Burgundy but wanted to try other styles, so he asked me to choose some personal favourites. I sourced them from Tesco (supermarket) and Sweeney’s wine merchants, so that if attendees liked the wines they would have a reasonable chance of finding them later.
So without further ado, here are the wines and the options for each question:
Marqués de la Concordia Cava 2013 (11.5%, €17.99 at Sweeney’s)
Both teams guessed this was a Cava and had it in the right price band. I’m not a fan of cheap Cava but this is actually a nice bottle at a pretty nice price. I’d much prefer to drink this than most budget Proseccos!
Tesco Finest Vintage Grand Cru Champagne 2007 (12.5%, €35.00 at Tesco)
Perhaps the proliferation of cheaper Champagnes at Lidl and Aldi have changed people’s preconceptions of how much Champagne costs, as both teams selected €20 – €30. The biggest Champagne brand in the world – Möet & Chandon – is usually listed at €50+…but I reckon this is far better, at a significantly lower price.
Prova Regia Arinto VR Lisboa 2014 (12.0%, €13.00 at Sweeney’s)
This is an old favourite of mine from the days of Sweeney’s regular tastings. It now comes in two versions, the above pictured Vinho Regional and a slightly more upmarket DOC. Whispers of “It’s Riesling, look at the bottle” were heard, and I can see the logic (the bottles were wrapped in foil so the silhouette was visible). Several tasters thought it didn’t taste of much at all, and I’d have to agree to a certain extent – it’s definitely worth trading up to the DOC for more flavour intensity.
McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Hunter Valley Semillon 2005 (12.0%, €19.99 at Tesco)
This was a really polarising wine, and one that totally misled tasters as to its age – most thought it a 2015 or 2014, when in fact it was from the 2005 vintage! Hunter Valley Semillon is one of the true original styles to have come from Australia. Unoaked, it is all fresh lemon in its youth, but with significant bottle age it gains toastiness and rich flavours. This is a bottle you can buy now and hide in the bottom of a wardrobe for a decade!
Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2014 (13.5%, €26.00 at Sweeney’s)
Probably the best-received wine of the evening! This is a lovely wine, and one that beats off most of the competition at anything close to the price. Its richness and spiciness (for a Pinot Noir) did lead some to think it was a Shiraz – understandable. This was the wine which people queued up to snap the label of so that they could seek it out!
Diemersfontein Pinotage 2014 (14.0%, €23.00 at Sweeney’s)
Another polarising wine, with several not sure if they liked it or not – and to be fair, it’s not for everyone. This is the “Original Coffee and Chocolate Pinotage” and I happen to like it – don’t listen to the Mochas (sorry!) Of course the grape and origin weren’t explicitly listed so they were both “other” – a bit sneaky on my part? Perhaps…
**If you are interested in having a wine tasting party or other event then please ask me for details**