My Favorites From the South World Wine Society’s Five Nations Cup 2011

Wednesday, Jan 19 was the South World Wine Society’s 6th Annual Five Nations Cup.  This is a blind wine tasting and humbles everyone in attendance. Five white wines and five red wines were presented to us.

We first went through the white wines, and were told that there were a Chenin Blanc, a Pinot Gris, a Chardonnay, and 2 Sauvignon Blanc.  One of the sauvignon blanc would be young (a recent vintage), while the other sauvignon blanc would be aged (2003 in this case).  The wines would be from Australia, Chile, New Zealand, or South Africa.  We were missing a white wine from Argentina for this half of the tasting.  Our host for the evening, Mr. Paul Watkin, is past SWWS cellar master and is a manager at Icon Fine Wine and Spirits in Vancouver.   Paul let us all know some of the characteristic aromas and flavours of each of these white grapes, as well as some hints as to style of white wines produced by each of these countries.  After sipping and debating each other at our table, we all stood up and slowly each started to sit down as each wine was revealed but did not match our guess.

The first wine was the Mount Riley Pinot Gris (2008 I think) from New Zealand.  I marked this wine as pale lemon colour. Herbal, lemon a bit of lime and some lychee on the nose.  Medium body, medium acidity, grapefruit and spice flavours with a long finish.  I guessed correctly.

The second wine was the Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc (2008) from Chile. Pale but bright lemon colour in the glass. Vanilla, waxy, lemon, grassy, and gooseberry aromas. Medium body.  Citrus, slightly vegetal and slightly spicy with medium acidity.  Another correct guess!

The third wine was the Montes Alpha Chardonnay (2006) from Chile.  This one was the easiest to guess.  The fullest body, most deep lemony coloured, lots of vanilla and apple aromas and flavours.  Nice spice too.  It went really well with a smoked scalloped that was served with the wines.  3 for 3 so far.

The fourth wine was the Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc (2003) from Australia. The aged sauvignon blanc!  This wine was medium minus golden colour. Big legs on the sides of the glass.  Honeysuckle, honey, and apricot aromas. Medium minus body, smooth, lower in acidity with a dry finish.  I guessed this one was the Chenin Blanc.

The last white wine was the Graham Beck Gameskeeper Reserve Chenin Blanc (2008) from South Africa . Light lemon colour.  Smokey, apple, spice, oak, vanilla, and some earthiness on the nose. Bright fruit flavours, but also some smokiness, apple and oak.  Medium length. I originally thought this one could be the aged sauvignon blanc with some oak aging (e.g. a Fume Blanc).

So from the white wine review, I ended up in 2nd place.  Not bad considering how difficult the whites were to identify.  Hopefully the red wines would be easier.

No such luck.  Paul was going to give us 5 different Bordeaux blends.  That is much more difficult than trying to guess if a wine is a Malbec or a Merlot.  The first red was the Man O’ War Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec blend (2008) from New Zealand. I had marked it as medium red with a purple tint (from the Malbec). Cassis, red cherry, leather, mint and tomato aromas. Juicy red fruit flavour, with vanilla, spice, high acidity and medium tannins.  I guessed correctly.  I thought the high acidity would be from a cooler climate, and New Zealand would be the coolest of the 5 countries.

The second red was the Miguel Torres Cordillera (2001) from Chile. A deep core of garnet in the glass.  Some capsicum aroma, along with vanilla, dark plum and milk chocolate.  On the palate it was full bodied.  Vanilla, purple fruit and savory flavours. Medium acidity and tannins. Another correct guess.  The capsicum was my hint that it was Chilean.

The third red was the Glen Carlou Grand Classique (2005) from South Africa.  Deep garnet in colour.  Iodine and earthy aromas. Mineral, leather and firm tannins.  Quite different from all the other reds.  I guessed that one correctly too.

The fourth red wine was the Luigi Bosca Gala 2 (2005) from Argentina.  I had guessed New Zealand, then changed my mind to Australia, but in the end I found out it was Argentina.  Really hard to guess the origin of this wine.  It was medium garnet coloured.  Sweet vanilla, chocolate and dark fruit aromas.  Not overly aromatic. Medium body and medium tannins with grippy black fruit flavour.

The fifth red wine was the d’Arenberg Galvo Garage (2005) from Australia. Very dark garnet in colour.  Some capsicum, dry not overly fruity nose with some earthiness.  Vanilla, capsicum and very fruity flavours.  Firm tannins.  I guessed this one was the wine from Argentina.

I ended up in 2nd place for the red wines.  I don’t feel too bad getting 2nd place for both the red and white wines.

How did I rate these wines?

White wines in my rank of preference:

  1. Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc (2003) Australia
  2. Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc (2008) Chile
  3. Mt. Riley Pinot Gris (2008) New Zealand
  4. Montes Alpha Chardonnay (2006) Chile
  5. Graham Beck Gameskeeper Reserve Chenin Blanc (2008) South Africa

Red wines in my rank of preference:

  1. Miguel Torres Cordillera (2001) Chile
  2. Man O’ War Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec blend (2008) New Zealand
  3. Luigi Bosca Gala 2 (2005) Argentina
  4. d’Arenberg Galvo Garage (2005) Australia
  5. Glen Carlou Grand Classique (2005) South Africa

One thing that you may notice is that my first choice in both the red and white wines were the OLDEST wines.  Don’t think that you have to drink a wine as soon as you buy it.  Especially true for red wines, and some white wines.  Many of these wines will be available only in private wine shops.  Hope you can get a chance to try some of them. Enjoy!

South World Wine Society’s Season Kickoff Tasting Notes

Yesterday was the season kickoff for the South World Wine Society here in Vancouver, BC. It was held in conjunction with the new Legacy Liquor Store located at 1633 Manitoba Street. Wines from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa were being poured. It was a walk-about event and had appetizers to nibble along with your southern hemisphere sips.

There were some interesting wines this evening.  I had not heard of the Juno wines before from South Africa.  South African wines tend to be a bit of Old and New World wine styles mixed together, and to go well with food, at least in my past experience.  The Juno Sauvignon Blanc 2009 was medium lemon in colour.  It had very distinctive aromas of asparagus and green peas.  On the palate it had high acidity with asparagus flavour and also some wet slate (or dustiness as another person I spoke to described it).  The Juno Shiraz 2009 was deep garnet in colour.  Vanilla and plum on the nose.  Medium plus in body with vanilla and plum flavours.  Firm dry tannic finish with the flavour of pencil leads lingering on your tongue.

New Zealand also consistently puts out a flavourful Sauvignon Blanc. For this evening it was the Babich Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from the Marlborough region.  This wine was medium lemon in colour with a green tinge. Lots of gooseberry aroma on the nose.  High acid on the palate but a bit of roundness so it wasn’t harsh.  Gooseberry flavour with a hint of cinnamon. Herbal finish with a medium length.  Maybe enjoy with some fresh oysters.

My favourite wine of the night was Vina Maipo Syrah from Chile.  It is 85% Syrah with 15% Carmenere.  Deep purple in colour.  An interesting nose with vanilla, rubber and purple fruit.  Dry tannins.  Blueberries show up mid-palate, and cherries on the finish.  A bit of pepper and vanilla.  It has good tannic structure for the fruit to hang.  I don’t have the price, but I believe it is < $20.

The other red I enjoyed was the Vina Maipo Carmenere. This is 90% Carmenere and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Also a deep purple colour in the glass.  Vanilla, dark ripe plums and chocolate on the nose.  Full body with ripe black fruit, vanilla and peppery flavours.  Round mouth feel with medium length.  I preferred the Syrah over the Carmenere as it had a bit more structure to the wine.  The Carmenere is a softer wine, but also quite nice.

All these wines are available from the Legacy Liquor Store, which opens on Nov 24, 2010.  Please drop by to visit the store, and also as important, please come out to the South World Wine Society’s next event, which is their 5 Nations Cup, a blind wine tasting, to be held in January 2011. Enjoy!

5 Nations Cup Results

A little over 2 weeks ago the South World Wine Society had their annual 5 Nations Cup. This is a blind tasting, where a white and red wine is tasted from each of Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa. The members and guests of the event rate the wines without knowing which country each wine is from.

Everyone loves Australian wines. They have been #2 in sales after BC VQA wine lately, but they were #1 in BC for quite a while before that. People on the other hand have viewed Chilean and Argentinean wines as being somehow cheap and cheerful wines. This tasting proved to people the exact opposite. The favourite WHITE and RED wine for the evening was from Chile. Argentina’s red wine came in second place. The Aussie red and white wines ended up in last place!

So, if you haven’t tried a Chilean wine, maybe now is the time to go to your favorite bottle shop and picking up one or two? If you want to see which wines were tasted and their rankings, go to http://www.southworldwine.com and scroll down to the middle of the page.

And lastly a few Chilean wines you may want to buy and try:

Novas Organic Carmenere Cabernet, Chile, 2004, $16.99
Montes Alpha Chardonnay, Chile, 2006, $26.85
Viu Manent Malbec Reserva, Chile, 2005 (private stores)
Matetic “EQ” Sauvignon Blanc, Chile, 2005 (private stores)

Enjoy!