Conducting a Wine Tasting

I had the fun opportunity to conduct a wine tasting at a local club for an Engagement Wine Shower.  Our club florist, who I have had the pleasure to get to know very well in the last three years, asked me to participate as part of the entertainment for the wine-themed shower in which she was designing, and I was very excited to partake.  My role in the event was to entertain the guests by talking about the wines available at the reception, and to educate the guests on the aromas, flavors, and textures of the wines.  With my manager's blessings (it was a Saturday night) and awesome advice, I had a fantastic and very successful time.

When I contacted the person hosting the shower, I discovered that she had already picked out the wines for the event.  I had expected that I would be able to bring some wines from the club with which I was already familiar, but this was an opportunity to learn about some new wines.  I also learned that the wines she had purchased were also very good... value wines.  However, despite my concerns of cheap wines with cheap tasting notes, these wines were actually filled with a variety of flavors and scents that made them perfect for such an education: Lalande Chardonnay, 2009; Domaine de Pouy 2009 (60% Ugni Blanc, 40% Colombard); Paul Jaboulet Aine, Parallele 45, Rhone, 2007; and Chateau Roc de Segur, Bordeaux, 2009.

As I prepared for the tasting, I gathered some items that would help define tasting notes for the guests' senses: red apple, green apple, plum, raspberries, blackberries, lemons, limes, grapefruit, cherries, green pepper, rosemary, thyme, cocoa, and soil.  When I arrived at the club, I cut a few slices from each item and placed each of the samples in a separate wine glass, so that when the guest experienced each wine, they could correlate the appropriate scents and flavors of the samples.  For example, the first wine tasted was Domaine de Pouy, which had a faint grapefruit scent, which could easily be identified with the grapefruit sample.  The last wine tasted, Chateau Roc de Segur, was blended with Cabernet Franc, and had a great green pepper flavor in the mid to back palate, again that could be recognized with the sample of green pepper.

I also brought a few house and banquet wines from our club to compare the profiles from other parts of the world, including 14 Hands Merlot from Washington State, Penfold's Koonunga Hill Shiraz from Australia, Casamatta Sangiovese from Tuscany, and New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  The Merlot provided a more silky, fruit-forward palate.  The Shiraz provided a more robust flavor to contrast the Rhone and the Bordeaux.  The Sangiovese gave a completely different nose profile than the French reds.  And the Sauv Blanc described New Zealand's light, crisp profile compared to the creamy palates of the two French whites.

First, Lalande Chardonnay, 2009: the nose was a tad oaky and buttery, with white flower aromas.  The palate is silky, with slight butter, solid apple, and a clean finish.  Lalande's style for their '09 Chard is to age the wine with 1/3 production in new oak, 1/3 in one-year oak, and 1/3 in two-year oak.  This allows the Chardonnay to not be overly oaky, and give a unique characteristic to the wine.

Domaine de Pouy, 2009: the Ugni and Colombard varietals are actually the grapes used in Armagnac and Cognac production.  As a country wine of Gascogne, de Pouy is a very refreshing, quaffable wine.  On the nose, I first detected a Sauvignon Blanc-like scent... faint grapefruit and a touch of papaya.  The palate is creamy with notes of lime and apple juice, and continues it's aromatic presence throughout the taste.  This is a wonderful, inexpensive wine for small family gatherings or large events as a cocktail wine.

Paul Joaboulet Aine, Parallele 45, Rhone, 2007: the first aroma was of sweet sawdust, then a further swirl released the Grenache scents of caramel and red fruits.  The palate was full of cherries, strawberry, and had a cocoa presence on the back palate.  Also a good cocktail wine.

Chateau Roc de Segur, Bordeaux, 2009: the nose began with a sickly-sweet, earthy aroma, with plum and other stone fruit notes.  It coats the tongue and is very berry-forward, with a huge presence green pepper on the mid-palate, and an earthy finish.  While I think the wine could benefit from some time in the decanter, I was surprised that it was more approachable right out of the bottle than I first imagined.  Don't expect Lafite, but if in the market for a 2009 Bordeaux under $10, don't overlook the Roc de Segur.

In all, I had a fantastic time showcasing some interesting wines, while educating the guests of the reception who not only were able to take a bit of wine knowledge home with them, but also had the chance to be actively involved in wine entertainment.  Cheers!

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