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Thursday, August 26, 2010

I am a founding member of a wine tasting group that has been meeting every month since 1989 (hey – we all started this in the sixth grade). The format is simple and never varies. The host for the month provides a location, stemware, and food. The group decides on a tasting theme, and everyone brings a bottle that fits. The host usually puts in a ringer, and without fail a few other members do the same. We taste the wines blind, one at a time, argue and discuss, make guesses about what they might be, cast votes on which is the ringer, and generally have a good time. Then a quick second round of tasting takes place, during which the bags are pulled and the wines revealed.

This week, in keeping with the late-breaking but lovely Seattle summer weather, the theme was Mediterranean whites. Fourteen different wines were tasted, and as usual, there was considerable disagreement among the group about the merits and flaws of many of them. I should mention that about half of us are professionally engaged in winemaking, wine selling, or (in my case) wine writing; the others are dedicated consumers. We know our subject pretty well, but that doesn’t mean we taste in formation.

On this occasion, the wines, overall, showed really well. Many were built along similar lines – fresh, leesy, unoaked, lightly grassy and herbal, with citrus rather than tropical flavors, and appealing elegance. As the bags were pulled they turned out to be mostly from Italy’s northeast – an assortment of pinot bianco, pinot grigio, Friulano (formerly tocai), and sauvignon. A couple were controversial – most especially a 2002 Edi Simčič (AY-dee SEEM-chitch) Sivi Pinot Riserva. That wine, which I adored, was a deep tawny gold, clearly maderized, but thoroughly delicious. The group split right down the middle as to whether it was over the hill or drinking beautifully in a certain style. I guessed it for a Slovenian wine (correct) but thought it might be one made in amphorae (Gravner style), which it was not.

The wine deemed best of the night, by almost unanimous accolade, was also the cheapest. A 2009 Pico Maccario Estrosa Bianco, it turned out to be a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and something called favorita, unique to the Monferrato region of Piemonte. Rich and creamy, with a splendid palate of grapefruit and lemon custard, this was the bottle you wanted to curl up with and glug down all night. A Grape Expectations import, it retails for $13.

Book-ending that lovely bottle was the least impressive wine of the night, which also turned out to be the most expensive. Sharp, sulphury, oxidized and flat in the mouth, the 2006 Marisa Cuomo Costa di Amalfi Fiorduva was a D.O.A. curiosity, with a retail price of $58.

Is there anything more soul-pleasing than an evening of fine wines, with good friends, and a finale that puts the cheapest wine on top and the most expensive wine on the bottom? I think not.


Anonymous said...

Good call.

Richard said...

I love the idea of a group of friends sharing wine as you describe. Now I just got to find some friends who love wine as much as I do.

KeithJ said...

Ah, Paul, but why the "Gravner style" for amphora-fermented wines (even thought it was not, cool for you to try to pull that in...)? Wouldn't it be Georgian-style, qvevri-fermented, giving some props to the 7,000 year old wine culture that taught Josko how to work with clay? Gaumarjos!

PaulG said...

Keith, only you would grasp the significance of qvevri-fermented! Gravner is enough of a reach for the rest of us. Thanks for chiming in!

KeithJ said...

OK, OK, fair enough then...especially because a friend who owns a tiny amphora-only winery in Georgia just sent me a Jancis Robinson review today that called one of his whites "more Gravner than anything else". So I guess that Gravner becomes the Kleenex of the category! And I will try to find the Edi Simcic, in any case.

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