Returning To Weekly Practice Tasting - An Exercise In Contrast...

After a 5-week break from our regular weekly practice tasting, I suggested we slowly get back in the swing of things.  We tasted straightforward wines open label.  The focus here was on contrasting each one and clearly identifying the elements that make them so different from each other.


And so we tasted for the whites:

1- Aotea Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2011

2- 42 Degree South Tasmania Chardonnay 2010

3- Rijk's Touch Of Oak South Africa Chenin Blanc 2010

4- Eden Springs High Eden Riesling 2010

Comparing them for similarities, of course, all 4 wines are white.  But all 4 are also similar in their structure and fruit maturation which suggest they are from cool climates.  The sauvignon, is dry, crisp & lean with 12% alcohol, clearly cool climate in structure.  its aromatics display an intensely pungent nose, also with citrus fruit and grass and a touch of exotic fruit all of which suggest fairly long ripening.  Taken together structure & aromatic spectrum reinforce cool climate origin.  The chardonnay at 13% is dry, crisp, and with aromas of stone fruits, citrus, acacia, and minerals has a rather wide aromatic spectrum, even if quite subtle & restrained.  Together with its weighty & creamy texture while complete absence of oak suggest high quality fruit from long period of maturity and reinforce a cool, or at least, temperate climate origin. The chenin blanc, as the other 2, displays cool climate characteristics with a crisp acidity, medium alcohol at 13.5%, and as well, a wide aromatic complexity with well defined apples, citrus, and pears, wet wool and slightly earthy fruit character.  The riesling, although very ripe showing exotic fruits, citrus, much beeswax and peach,  is dry, crisp and medium in alcohol at 12%.  This level of ripeness while maintaining dryness and a rather lowish alcohol can only come from a very long and slow ripening of the grapes in a cool or temperate climate.  Perhaps from high altitude environment.

Contrasting them, we learn much:

The sauvignon blanc is the leanest & crispest of the 4.  Clearly from a cool climate but also clearly from a high acid grape such as sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, or riesling can naturally be as well as they are in this flight.  The nose is undeniably aromatic with intensity and is clearly pungent & grassy even if it also displays a touch of passion fruit, minerals, and clearly lemony character.  Unmistakable aromatics for the variety.  The chenin is rather more "earthy" in character with clear apple & pear notes as well as citrus fruit.  However its aromatics are more subtle and restrained than the other 2. Its texture is broader than the riesling and the sauvignon perhaps from its oak treatment which it displays in harmony and stands it apart since riesling and sauvignon blanc are rarely treated to oak (except sauvignon in California and Bordeaux where the character of oak can sometimes be more evident).  The riesling is clearly aromatic but oriented towards the exotic fruits, the floral notes, peaches, and beeswax with unmistakable notes of "petrol".  Together with its crisp acidity, this aromatic signature confirms its character.

Even though it had no oak treatment, the chardonnay is the heaviest of the 4.  Not so much from its alcohol level but certainly from its mouthfeel and general creamy/oily texture.  Similarly to the chenin, it is clearly not an aromatic grape, displaying only subtle & restrained aromatics.  

Comparing quality, it could be said that all 4 wines are very good.  Each show a very clear sense of their variety and origin.  Each are very well made from clean, healthy, and ripe fruits displaying a wide range of lovely aromas.  The length of mid-palate as well as the after-taste of all 4 wines are pretty long with the sauvignon being especially crispy, minerally and intense while the riesling being particularly ripe and exotic and the chenin displaying very good integration and restrain of the oak treatment.  Very good wines.

For the reds, we have:

1- La Vicalanda Rioja Reserva 2006

2- Delaire Stellenbosh Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008

3- Château Reynella Mclaren Vale Shiraz 2010

Interesting flight to compare & contrast.

Here, all 3 wines are clearly tannic with the Rioja being especially firm on the palate.  All 3 are dark with the shiraz being opaque while the other 2 being rather deep.  The depth of color are consistent with the cabernet sauvignon & the shiraz.  However, it surprises for the Rioja.  This could suggest the use of 100% tempranillo and, take together with the very firm tannins of the wine, leads one to think of an extended period of maceration. 

The acidity of the Rioja, together with its strawberry and red cherry notes put it apart fro the rather black berry fruits of the cabernet and the shiraz.  Further, the Rioja displays clear empyreumatic notes suggesting a much longer period under oak, or at least a style made under controlled oxidative conditions.  This is consistent with Rioja.  The wine is dark, with generous vanilla, and spices, it's mouthfeel broad and round suggesting use of new barrels for maturation.  In fact, the dryness of the tannic mouthfeel could also support this as the tannin seems to be coming from the oak as much as from the fruit.

Both the cabernet and the shiraz have smooth, silky tannins and mouthfeel.  However here the shiraz is clearly the heaviest and the smoothest of the 2.  With it's jammy fruits and brambly, floral notes, it clearly puts this wine as a shiraz from a warm region.  Its very smooth mouthfeel and generous use of what appears to be american oak supports Australia as its origin.

The cabernet is smoky and savoury in character, slightly along the lines of the Rioja.  Although, it is clearly fruit driven with plenty of cassis, darks berries, and a touch of prunes, in this way, similar to the shiraz.  Here the wine displays a very good balance of acidity & tannins versus its alcohol and fruit density.  Clearly a wine that can age for a while further and certainly one made from excellent fruit quality.  Its complexity is the widest of the 3 wines.  Added to the above, we also find slight tomato leaves, spices, and touch of green pepper.  Not unpleasant as these are integrated into the wine suggesting that some fruits were picked early for the final blend and to add complexity.  The smooth mouthfeel, firm, yet silky tannins together with its fresh acidity supports a very good quality wine.  The long length of the after-taste confirms.  The best of the 3.  By far.