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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Technical Tank Tasting

Last Friday 4th December we organized an informal tasting of all our 2010 wines with a bunch of wine-lovers, including some experienced tasters, again at La Cave du Petit.

    pending: photo 1 (have misfiled photos of tasting)

The purpose was partly social, ie to spend a pleasant evening talking about and drinking wine in good company; the purpose was also partly technical, in that I was hoping to get some feedback on the wines in general and specifically on which wines would be suitable for oaking and which best drunk unoaked, and also opinions on any possible interesting blends of varieties.

So a few days before I bottled one bottle of each wine straight from the tanks.

   pending: photo 2 (have misfiled photos of tasting)

Also, to make things more interesting, I made a special label for each bottle with a number on it, and was only going to reveal the variety at the end of the tasting. I thought it would be more fun that way and make everyone think more while they were tasting!

Here's what we tasted:

1. Airén. Normal fermentation; our 'flagship' wine that we've been making every year since we started 8 years ago

2. Airén. Carbonic maceration; an experiment

3. Airén. On skins; an experiment (orange wine)

4. Tempranillo; grapes bought in from organic neighbour

5. Tempranillo; our own; our other 'flagship' wine that we've been making for 6 years

6. Graciano; grapes bought in from organic neighbour

7. Shiraz; grapes bought in from organic neighbour

8. Petit Verdot; grapes bought in from organic neighbour

9. Garnacha; grapes bought in from organic neighbour

Why so many grapes bought in? Several reasons: firstly, we were bored making only Tempranillo and Airén year after year, and we wanted to experiment and try new varieties. Life is short! One thing leads to another! So we may or may not do buy in grapes again next year. We are feeling our way forward. We need to expand our production while maintaining quality, and buying in grapes was a way that we wanted to try. We've also taken on a second vineyard this year which we'll be managing ourselves, which is another way. We'll try anything once!

   pending: photo 3 (have misfiled photos of tasting)

   pending: photo 4 (have misfiled photos of tasting)

Conclusions? Feedback? Well, things didn't quite work out the way I'd visualized them playing out. I'd imagined that we'd all taste the first wine, then that each person would comment one at a time, and that I'd have time to write it down; then onto the second wine, etc. Then I'd summarize my notes and post a beautiful tasting note post. How naive! And me living in Spain for 15 years! What happened of course was that everyone started talking at once, split off into little groups of 2 or 3, wandered off to talk on their cell-phone, to change the music, to go to the toilet, to get something to eat, etc; then we tasted the bottles out of order and started making blends in our own little groups, and generally being chaotic, and having 3 conversations at once across the room! Basically, we had small party as opposed to a tasting, and of course a great time was had by all!

    pending: photo 5 (have misfiles photos of tasting)

The minimum, lowest-comon-denominator feedback I've been able to synthesize after 3 hours of partying and tasting (with no written notes whatsoever) was this:

Whites: Airéns (1) and (2) can be drunk now, but Airén (3) needs more time. Some liked Airén (1) because it's slightly pétillant, and is very fruity in the nose and mouth, and with a surprisingly long finish. Others didn't like it because they thought it lacking in acidity and that it had too much residual sugar.

Reds: None are ready to be drunk now. The one closest to being ready and which most people though would be good drunk young and unoaked was the Tempranillo (4). The only other consensus with a majority was that the Garnacha (9) would also be fine unoaked as it was the most distinctive.

So, now what? Well, nothing, for the time being! We're just going to let all the wines sit there over the winter, to settle and to evolve, and in February or March we'll have another tasting party and maybe decide what to do after that!

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