Ever tasted wine blind? No I don’t mean blind drunk…cmon, it’s all about responsible drinking. I’m talking about tasting wine without knowing where it comes from.
Quite often many people associate the quality of a wine with the price tag. What you really should be doing is letting your taste buds do the talking, not your wallet.
You may recall in a previous post that I was off to a Shiraz wine tasting night. That Shiraz wine tasting night was in fact a Shiraz challenge, which was held at Armadale cellars – a quaint wine cellar nestled in inner Melbourne.
This challenge does what the name suggests, and challenges your taste buds to pick the correct Shiraz wine label you’re tasting. The best bit, a Penfolds Grange was hidden in the mix for you to try and pick!
The challenge was hosted by Phil, the founder and owner of Armadale cellars. Phil’s energy and enthusiastic approach to wine was infectious. He took all of the superior snob out of wine and made it something that everyone could relate to.
Before starting the challenge, Phil stated that it was like a ‘Miss Universe of Shiraz’ – all great, fabulous and unique wines, with one standout winner. Phil set us the challenge to nominate at the end which Shiraz would make our top three ‘Miss Universe of Shiraz’.
To kick the night off, each of the 20 guests were greeted with a glass of sparkling Shiraz. Phil then put the challenge to us early and requested for us to guess where the sparkling Shiraz hailed from. Knowing that Victoria is strong in the sparkling Shiraz game, I called out ‘The Grampians’ as the region. ‘Correct!’. Phil revealed that the sparkling Shiraz hailed from Best Wines. It was a brilliant sparkling Shiraz, smooth, crisp and not overly sweet. It now tops my fave sparkling Shiraz’s.
Question – What is the plural word for Shiraz? As Jane from Fabulous Wine Ladies Society puts it, it’s ‘Shirazeses’
Let the challenge begin
In front of me sat 12 wine glasses filled with tastings of Shiraz. Alongside the glasses was a list of the wines in alphabetical order that ranged in price from $60 to $100, right up to $850 – the price of the Penfolds Grange.
Before we got into the challenge, Phil took us through some key things to look out for when tasting, including the climate where each wine hailed from.
With each different climate, the flavours and aromas of the wine change.
- Cool climate wines exhibit characteristics of red berry, white pepper and herbal notes
- Warm climate wines exhibit characteristics of blue fruits like blueberries, ripe red berries, black pepper and herbal notes.
- Hot climate wines exhibit characteristics of darker berries such as black currents, black fruits, plum, licorice, black pepper and olives.
Alongside these flavours also comes secondary flavours, such as oak characteristics, where younger wines can tend to take on a more oak flavour.
After we had a good understanding what to be on the look out for, the tastings began.
The wines were randomly placed, and were not in any order of price or region. This made the challenge even more interesting and exciting. What we did know, however, was that the grange was hidden in the last set of the 4 tasting glasses.
I must admit, while I’m not blessed with the finest palette, I am training the taste buds to be more receptive. This involves tasting many different wine varietals that hail from different climates, and regions. By tasting an array of different wines, the taste buds become more attuned to picking up on different flavours of fruits, spices, and other fun flavours like licorice, toffee and mint. Alongside picking up on flavours of a wine, the colour is also another key factor of knowing where a wine hails from; a lighter colour indicates a cool climate region, while a deeper colour indicates a warmer region.
After a lot of analysing wine colour, sniffing aromas, and sipping each wine, you will be pleased to know that out of the first 8 wines, I managed to get 3 right.
Much wine, very hard!
Bring on the Penfolds Grange
When it came to tasting the last 4 glasses, it was known that the grange was sitting amongst them. Going through and taking quick sips, I could instantly taste that glass #3 held the almighty grange.
It tasted like a very well-aged and matured wine. Vanillian notes made it smooth on the palate, and didn’t leave an acidic after taste in your mouth. While it was pleasant to drink, it didn’t rock my world. In fact, there were other wines in the tasting that rocked my world. My top three in the ‘Miss Universe of Shiraz’ were:
- Paradgim Hill Col’s Block 2013 (Cool climate Shiraz)
- Hently Farm The Beast 2014 (Hot climate Shiraz)
- Bendigo Pondolowie (Warm-Hot climate Shiraz)
In the end, I ended up getting 7 out of 12 correct! That’s a pass in a teachers book!
Once the challenge had finished, we were served up delicious lamb pies with a side salad from local baker Phillipas.
For anyone who loves their Shiraz, or is simply wanting to develop their skills and knowledge in wine, this is a fantastic way to do it. It’s challenging and fun, and the Armadale Cellars crew make you feel very welcomed.
Not only do they do Shiraz wine tasting challenges, but they also do a Champagne wine tasting challenge. In this challenge, they hide a glass of Dom Perignon in the mix. Now this is one sparkly wine challenge that I’d love to try!
Until next time winos,