The blind game – options wine fun at it’s best
I often wonder if the late Len Evans OBE really did come up with the ‘wine option’ game (what’s a wine options game you ask? Read this for example)? By all accounts he coined the phrase – and hence the game – but the whole concept seems like an age-old one to me. It’s principally just a wine guessing game. A wine guessing game of the best kind.
Anyway, semantics aside, wine options games are highly entertaining pursuits (and who wants to hear about semantics anyway? Who am I to argue about what Len did either? I only met him a few times at the tail end of his life. The last time I was at a dinner and he was berating everyone for not trying hard enough to push Australian wines internationally). They’re educational pursuits too, for they force you to match up nose and palate with reference points in your brain (and help to establish new ones at that).
The best part about such games though is not getting a wine right, it is getting it wrong. The more wrong the better even. It’s about being blown away by a relatively unheralded wine from a good season. About picking a cheap Cabernet as a top Bordeaux. About laughing at your own group ineptitude as you get a wine badly wrong. Again.
Friday afternoon was such an occasion. The laneway behind Bests Cellars was the venue. The crew was mainly young and talented wine peeps (with a few more grizzled types for good measure) and the environment was competitively good natured. The stage was set for some serious options action.
Wine #1 lobbed. Obviously Chardonnay. Obviously fine. Sophisticated. Well made. A lick of oak but not too much. A grapefruit lightness to it that I thought said 1er cru Chablis, with a bit of oak, from a warmer year. The acidity was right, the profile too. I was wrong…
|Rick, ex Bests Cellars crew, clasping a
stonking stumper of a Chardonnay.
Not sure about the stupid grin though
I called northern hemisphere. It was southern. I called 2009. It was 2008. I called Tumbarumba or Tasmania. It was Margaret River. I got it so wrong. Most people, however, thought it was more expensive and from overseas too (so at least I wasn’t alone).
Wine #1 was eventually revealed as the 2008 Voyager Chardonnay and what a wonderful surprise it was. Wonderful because it carried so much persistence, so much style, such style in a package that can be purchased this very moment for $32 a bottle. As it warmed up it looked a little fatter, a little less delineated and a little more nectarine and grapefruit, yet still the quality was on show. Gold medal wine at a silver medal (or less) price. 18.5/94
Righto so after that debacle I was ready to redeem myself with wine #2. I was focused. The game face was on. This wine though was worse. Worse because I don’t think it was a representative bottle. It was delivered only 24 hours before opening so I’m going to say that it was bottle shocked. Not everyone agreed…
So this wine was tricky. Peachy, broad and honeyed, the nose was Viognieresque in it’s fullness and fatness. The palate too was rich and expansive but also blunt and wobbly, the powerful fruit edged with coarse oak tannins. It looked flat and cheap and harried. I picked it as a Viognier Chardonnay blend (just for contrariness), though I probably should have gone with my first words ‘it’s a Chardonnay. A cheap one.’
|The odd Sorrenberg Chadonnay|
No one got this right though. Not until the final few stages of the options had been revealed. At least I started well…
First question – Australian or imported? Nailed that (Australia). Vintage? I picked older. ’08? It was ’10. Blend or straight variety? My blended Viognier Chardonnay pick was clearly off. It wasn’t until the regional choices ‘Hunter, Mornington, Beechworth’ (or the like. I think the Hunter wasn’t an option) that I finally got something right (by picking Beechworth).
When the covers finally came off to reveal that wine #2 was the 2010 Sorrenberg Beechworth Chardonnay there was gasps (or at least a stray ‘woah’. Maybe from me). It didn’t look right at all, or at least I don’t think it was right. Bad Diam (I think it was Diam)? As a result I’m going to call it a ‘retaste required’ (or it’s a 16/87ish wine). Interested to hear if anyone has had the same experience with this (as the 09 was very smart indeed…).
Two failures down and, like everyone, I was keen to pick up again with wine #3. Happily, this was speaking to me. In a clear voice. It was saying ‘2010 Yarra Pinot’ and I was clearly listening (I told everyone too. Have to at least get one thing right). The only challenge was to pick producer. Which I couldn’t do…
The wine itself was a gem. An archetype (of sorts). The style of wine that I’d want to make (and buy – I want some now). It was a little hazy – but still ruby red in colour – and had a nose of pithy cherries, of a hint of bark and a little meaty whole bunch briary action. That nose was intriguing actually, a nose of Pinosity but not actually fruit. More winey, not juicy (if you get my drift). What hooks you in though is that restraint. Those bubbles of nothing that make it really something.
On the palate it follows the script too – tight and sappy, yet also with enough richness to make it interesting. It is, to follow a cliché, a French wine made from Yarra fruit. And I loved it. Drank it with relish.
|The Wanderer Upper Yarra Pinot 2010
When it was revealed I wasn’t surprised. Just happy. Happy to see a good producer crafting good wines in a good vintage. All good…
Wine #3 then was the 2010 The Wanderer Upper Yarra Pinot Noir. Apparently it is almost sold out now so, all I can say is that if you like Pinot Noir, like Yarra Pinot Noir, you need to buy this wine immediately (I think straight from the winery?). Heck, if I wasn’t on a ‘no wine purchases’ self imposed black ban I would have bought some on Friday night…
For $55 you can’t go wrong with this superstar expression of Yarra Pinot (on that note, I’ve still go to try the 2010 Hoddles Creek 1er Pinot Noir which should be in the zone too). 18.9/95