how to host a wine tasting
Get your wine aficionado friends together to savor the notes of the latest natural, biodynamic and organic wines.
get guests involved
Each person should do a little research and arrive knowing a little bit about the terroir, vineyard, etc. Try these guidelines:
• single grape / in a certain price range: The same grape from different areas can vary widely in taste.
• single grape / money is no object: Taste the difference between an expensive bottle and a one that doesn’t break the bank. When I was doing a 10-week wine course with a known sommelier, he would sometimes sneak an inexpensive wine into the tasting, which often turned out to be the favorite.
• one country or region / bring your favorite bottle: Learn more about what your friends enjoy, and why. Narrow the choice to either white, red, rose, or sparkling.
• bring something unusual: Find a sparkling red, something from a country not known for making wine, a blend of 4 or more grapes, or a limited edition.
use your senses
I love the idea of doing blind tastings. Cover each bottle in a pretty sack, or decant the wine in wide pitchers, ceramic jugs, or, of course, decanters designed to do the job.
My wine tasting note cards include a list of “hints” that will help you describe what you are tasting. Download them here (click on cards above to enlarge) and print them out to use at your next tasting.
from Chile: At an organic tasting, I came across these three winners. Aresti: 2010 Equilibrio Sauvignon Blanc, Curico Valley. Miguel Torres: 2010 Las Mulas Sauvignon Blanc, Central Valley. Matetic: 2009 Corralillo Chardonnay, San Antonio Valley.
from South Africa: Reyneke produces all their wines organically and biodynamically. A triple treat: the 2007 Reserve Red, Shiraz/Cab; the 2009 Capstone Stellenbosch, Shiraz/Cab/Merlot; and the 2007 Cornerstone, Cab/Merlot/Shiraz. Chenin Blancs are delightfully light: Fleur du Cap 2009; Raats 2010 Original Chenin; and the 2009 Mulderbosch.
from Austria: The exciting white: Grüner Veltliner. Try the Loimer 2010 Kamptal; Wimmer-Czerny 2010 Fumberg, Wagram; Nikolaihof Wachau 2008 Im Weingebirge; also great: Ploder-Rosenberg 2008 Eruption Kraft Aus der Erde Chardonnay and the 2010 Linea Sauvignon Blanc; Wieninger 2008 Gemischter Satz Nussberg Alte Reben.
from France: Bila-Haut 2009 Blanc Côtes du Roussillon. This wine stands out with its lovely citrus aromas and smoky notes.
mixed bag: At a recent natural wine tasting hosted by W. R. Tish, founder of nywinesalon.com, I got to taste a wide variety of natural wines. (If you live in NYC you should attend one of his tastings, which are casual, entertaining, yet highly informative.) My favorites: the Montesecondo 2007 Chianti Classico, and the Bucklin 2008 Bambino Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel. Tish’s favorite organic producers include Leflaive in Burgundy, M. Chapoutier in the Rhone, Brick House in Oregon, Alvaro Palacios in Spain and Benziger, Coturri and Robert Sinskey in California.
it’s only natural
For more help in picking wine, get a copy of Alice Feiring’s entertaining new book Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally. Alice Feiring is an award-winning food and wine journalist whose latest passion is finding wines without any of the 200 government-approved additives (which can include animal proteins, oak chips, sulfurs, preservatives, and Mega Purple—a brand of concentrated wine color). She’s tasted wine around the globe, and believes in “Just grape. Nothing added, nothing taken away.” Read excerpts from the book at alicefeiring.com. Alice recommends: 2009 Coturri Testa Vineyard Carignane: Rich, meaty and delicious, from an icon of American natural winemaking. 2008 Bodegas Carballo La Palma Listan Blanco. A silky and savory wine from the volcanic soils of the Canary Islands. A touch of high toned aroma, just the safe side of cider. 2010 Puzelat, Le Telquel. Gamay is one of the most underrated grapes in the world, and this earthy expression is delicious. 2009 Arnot-Roberts Green Island Vineyard Chardonnay, North Coast, USA. Bored with California chardonnay? Try an edgy one from cool California climate and little manipulation.
This article first appeared in the November December 2011 issue of Organic Spa Magazine.