To the non-initiate, the world of wine can be a nerve-wracking place. The bewildering range that faces you in the supermarket aisle, when all you’re thinking is that you want a “quaffable red to go with supper tonight”. To ask the question how much our expectation about a bottle of wine are driven by the label, the Label Project recently got in contact to challenge us to a blind taste test.
To emphasise the nature of the challenge, we received a copy of The Hunger Games, and a note asking us whether we judged a book by its cover. We also received three bottles, two red and one white, together with clues for each bottle. The first bottle was white in a burgundy bottle, with varietal clues of 1) Hints of honeydew melon aromas, 2) A palate of lemon pith and 3) Underlying creamy texture, and regional clues of Regional Clues:a) It lies between two other major and much older wine regions. b) Its macro climate is cool but within the region there are many varied topographies, soils and mesoclimates. And c) It is famous for its fruit produce include cherries, pears and apples. The final clues were three vials each containing an aroma.
The second bottle – a red in a Bordeaux bottle – came with chocolate squares as the clue, and varietal clues: 1) Spicy aroma of rich fruit cake.2) Rich berry flavours with a hint of dark chocolate.3)Velvety textures. The regional clues were: a) Altitude of the region ranges from around 250-400 metres (approx 800-1300 feet) above sea level. b) In general, winters are cool and wet but summer days are warm, dry and sunny here. c) It is very popular with wine tourists.
Finally, the third bottle’s clues were some pictures of red soil, and varietal clues 1) Leafy aromas with a hint of mint. 2) Ripe cassis flavours. 3) A firm structure with good persistence on the palate. The Regional Clues were that a) The terrain is completely flat. b) Its subsoil is an ancient marine bed. And c) It has maritime influenced climate.
What was interesting was how the lack of label forced us to focus on the contents of the bottle; the bottles were labeled “Produce of Australia”, as required by law, but it was quite possible that the grapes had been grown elsewhere. What I can say is that we enjoyed each bottle, even though we didn’t really know what the wine was.
We were unsuccessful with our guesses; it was revealed that all three bottles were Jacob’s Creek Reserve: 1) 2011 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills 2) 2009 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz, Barossa and 3) 2009 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
For those of us in the UK, the BBC reminded us the other day that Australian wine has been one of the great success stories in the world of wine over the past thirty years or so, massively increasing its wine exports with equal increases in quality. These three bottles showed that, especially when we were unsure as to what we were drinking, the quality of wines was very good, and certainly enjoyable.
Many thanks to Jacob’s Creek for asking me to be part of this experience and for my wine.