A bourbon drinker’s guide to wine tasting
Wine tasting rates right up there amongst my 190 most favourite things to do.
The other 189 things involve boating, fishing, hunting and dogs. But if none of those pursuits are possible, then wine tasting is definitely my 190th choice of ways to spend an afternoon.
It's not that I don't like wine. It's just that as a bourbon and rum drinker, tasting is usually a lot more cut and dried than the palaver of the wino brigade. Really there are only three levels by which to rate beverages. Either good. Or bad. Or so much you don't care either way.
So it is with mild amusement that I hear the flowery jargon of the wine aficionados and their attempts to impress or intimidate with excessive eloquence.
On a recent wine tasting mission – a day too stormy for 189 other pursuits – I was ecstatic to discover a winemaker who has taken wine descriptions to new heights of mockery. It's so refreshing to read Strat Canning's parody of his own industry and today we share some of the pearls of prose, courtesy of Strat and Margrain Vineyard.
The following are excerpts from Margrain's cellar door tasting notes:
Sauvignon blanc 2016
This is a very expressive and sure footed wine that lunges from the glass with intoxicating intensity. Tangy tangelo, the heavy scent of Boronia on the Ides of March and a twitch of Scottish heather ramp up the senses while the malicious pungency of lily of the valley combines deceitfully with aniseed and a hint of sea salt. On top of this comes a restorative flagellation of stinging nettle, fragrant banana passionfruit and a little tightly knit lamb's wool.
Finally arrowroot and a touch of glaziers putty give the nose just enough complexity to start a scandal in a presidential election… Iced nettle tea is prevalent here too though this is tempered by the almost subliminal residual sweetness, which twists around the gentle curves of acidity before crumpling to the floor like a discarded peignoir.
Pinot Gris 2014
We are in the luxurious position of being able to give this wine exactly what it needed most –time. As with the previous vintage, it spent nine months on full yeast lees with 15 per cent of the juice having been fermented and aged in old oak. More importantly, after bottling it sat quietly in the cellar for a further 18 months. Gone is the stroppy, scatty, gangly adolescent and instead we welcome a calm, sophisticated and urbane baby-boomer just itching for some intellectual intercourse…
The palate is voluptuous to the point of obesity and so soft and slippery you may need river shoes to negotiate a crossing.
Kate Throp sales and marketing, Margrain Vineyard
Home Block Pinot Noir 2013
So 2013 was described by a winemaker friend as a ‘Goldilocks' season – not too hot, not too cold; not too dry and not too wet….Just right! Such conditions have imbued the Pinot Noir with an incredible sense of balance, harmony and togetherness. After just three months in the bottle this is not the kind of teenager who wears his cap backwards and hangs around in the town square after dark – this is the well-adjusted lad who will be found handing round the guacamole at his parent's 20th wedding anniversary…
The nose is all get up and go with potent brambly fruit reminiscent of an autumn bush-bash to a remote trout pool on the upper Tongariro… Moreish notes of salted brittle caramel chocolate combine with slightly more dangerous hints of the bilge water found in an old land-locked clinker-built kauri sailing dinghy…
The palate is as thick and full as a stockpot of boysenberry jam in a rolling boil on a cottage stovetop yet this slippery smoothness is draped over an auspiciously sinewy frame; kind of like Matthew McConaughey in a tuxedo.
Grüner Veltliner 2016 – no one was as surprised as we were by the way our customers old and new, took to this little known grape variety with the unpronounceable name. We've heard it called everything from ‘Grunter Vintner' to ‘Groovy Jetliner' but the important thing is that people were charmed by the unusual combination of grainy texture, beguiling sweetness, bounteous fruit and an acid balance which walks just a little on the wild side – and many were prepared to put their money where their mouths had just been…
Chenin Blanc 2016
Without consulting my trusty thesaurus, I am not entirely sure what the word ‘unctuous' means. However if I have ever tasted a wine that fits the word better or evokes the feeling of unctuousness more strongly, it has entirely slipped my mind.
As thick as a peanut butter Dagwood sandwich and as sweet as an overaged cherub, this wine wraps itself around you like a well-worn tyre and will not release you unscathed…
Don't be deceived by the somewhat pedestrian straw-gold hue, for while the colour may be reminiscent of the late afternoon sun in mid-winter, the wine itself is far more ebullient as it scrambles out of the glass like a Mexican jumping bean on long powerful legs.
The nose is almost brutish in its pungency with aromas of shelf ripened apples, from a time when they were wrapped in brown paper and stored in the cellar for the winter months.