Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Big Blind is Over

Ah, the pleasures and pains of blind tasting. I can still feel them.

I've actually returned to home turf now, but I originally started this posting three days ago, mid-way through the fourth and final day of Nebbiolo Prima. The last of the morning blind tasting sessions had just ended and I got a good start on putting the following thoughts in place; however, a lack of spare time and even greater lack of consistent Internet access made it impossible for me to finish until now. In any event, there's no mistaking it: the practice of tasting 75-85 Nebbiolo-based wines per/day, whether from Roero, Barbaresco or Barolo, is painful. Literally painful. I think I lost about half of my gums over the course of the four days of Nebbiolo Prima. Probably a meaningful percentage of my tooth enamel, too.

Blind tasting in such a large, intense scope is entirely different from sitting down with a few friends and a few wines and really getting to know them. It's possible to get a big picture take on a vintage and on the differences and consistencies (or lack thereof) from village to village. Trying to really understand any one, much less each, wine, though, really is impossible. It astounds me that some people actually were assigning points on a 100-point scale to these wines. Impossible. Points aside, the best I could do was try to give an honest and personally meaningful reaction to each wine I tasted, to jot down a few notes on each, and to keep a short list of the handful of wines that most interested or inspired me on each day.

One of the positive outcomes of an important albeit mostly complicated, painful and unpredictable format like this is the possibility of discovering new wines. Wines that you or I may have otherwise not considered or even come across. Such was the case on days three and four of the event, when the wines I'd selected as most complete and personally compelling both came from producers with which I had previously been unfamiliar. The 2006 Barolo "Rocche" from Monchiero and 2006 Barolo "Serralunga" from Palladino were both fantastic wines — balanced and elegant, drinkable yet ageworthy, and expressive of both place and character. Does this mean that I can now wholeheartedly endorse the wines of these two producers? No, but it certainly means that I'll be on the lookout for these and any other wines they both produce, for further investigation and with the hope of similar results.

One of the true pleasures of such a format is that it can also provide an occasional reassurance that you're not fooling yourself into thinking you like something (as opposed to actually liking it). Though I can't say that I identified the 2006 Barolo "Cerretta" of Sergio Germano blind, I can say that it was on my short list of favorite wines from our final day of tasting (which was devoted entirely to the Baroli of Monforte d'Alba and Serralunga d'Alba). It's a wine I've enjoyed year in and out for the last decade, and my reaction to it on the day was a pleasing reassurance that a true wine lover never tastes entirely in the blind.


Anonymous said...

Great post! Will be getting something up later today too.

Meanwhile, just beginning to feel the insides of my mouth again.


David McDuff said...

My mouth's still in recovery mode too, Wolfgang. And I have a dentist appointment tomorrow.... Don't know what I was thinking when I scheduled that one.

croosadabilia. said...

i was feeling the ettore germano as well... good stuff!

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