Had dinner with friends last night at restaurant Joseph where I always return with great pleasure, especially with the same people from last evening. Our group of 10 had many persons from the West part of the country that were just visiting Bucharest. I was asked to make the wine selection for the night, which I did, and I proposed to serve them blind. My initiative was warmly welcomed so preparations had to be done: put foil on all bottles in a back room in the restaurant before all guests arrived.
What is nice about blind tastings is that it really gives a feeling of humbleness as you are put to test your knowledge and face your ego, but on the other hand it is good that is pushes one to pay attention to the wine, considerably more than if you would be just drinking the wine for dinner knowing what you taste. Unfortunately for me, I was the only one that knew what was in the glass. Each wine was revealed as it was served after discussions and last drops were poured. You would want to give everybody the chance to re-taste the wine as much as they wanted as long as it still was something left in the bottle. Then came the reckoning. And it came hard in a few cases.
There was a wine-food pairing made based on my vague inputs but very well mastered by one of the participants, Laci, and executed by chef Joseph Hadad.
First wine was Champagne Egly-Ouriet VP Grand Cru from a producer I adore. Some people said possibly Cava, some said definitely Champagne. Made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from Grand Cru parcels, this is kept for 78 months on the lees, and this bottle was disgorged January 2015. Medium yellow color it was served from white wine glasses that did not help the bubbles stay. Intense aromatics of citrus fruit, marzipan and yeast, it explodes in the mouth with youthfulness, tannin, citrus fruits and great acidity. Very tense, but well focused and robust. (94/100)
First white wine was a sudden addition and not put on the initial list. Some were mocking and said Liliac Sauv Blanc. It was not but we had fun. It means Liliac is doing a great marketing job if people talk about it.
2014 Gaia Thalassitis is a 100% Assyrtiko from Santorini, Greece that exudes freshness. Very pale yellow color, the nose is a mix of lemons, smoke and schist. Sharp acidity and really bone dry, medium plus bodied, with chalky minerality finish. Very interesting wine and clear value for its price. (89/100)
Next white wine was on the menu and it was announced as a barrel aged wine. I informed that I was interested only for the region, country or grape variety. For each wine I informed if it was a single variety or a blend.
Just 2 barrels of Puligny-Montrached 1er Cru ‘La Garenne’ are produced by Henri Prudhon every year, which is usually aged 15 to 18 months in old wood. The 2010 Henri Prudhon Puligny-Montrached 1er Cru ‘La Garenne’ is a wine that needs to be served closer to 16 degrees than cold in order to open up and stir your senses. Medium yellow color it has a shy nose initially that does not really change much during the night. However the taste reveals its true essence and origin, through its vibrant stone fruit, tropical fruits and exotic oak flavors. Medium plus long, fresh and not entirely open yet. (91/100)
From all the wines I prepared for dinner, the first red of the night was the one I was eager to get reactions from. 2007 Stirbey Novac Art Deco was praised as an International wine. Great job Oliver Bauer !
Some people ventured to order 4 cases each of this wine if it was Romanian (mocking was part of the game this evening). Bottom line: it stood great next to the other red wines. Color was medium ruby color. Nose is quite intense with mature red fruit, spices and herbs, palate is supple, mellow tannin, bright acidity, and good lingering intensity. It is a wine of charm and elegance. A smart buy. (91/100)
Novac was served back to back with 2011 Robert Chevillon Nuits Saint Georges ‘Les Roncieres’, a Pinot Noir from 52 years old vines. Color is almost opaque ruby red. Nose has more intensity with fresh red cherry and red currant, stems and black tea. Fuller palate, smooth tannin, intense red cherry fruit, herbs and spices, medium finish. There was one lady that chose it as the Wine of the night and I can understand why: it is just flowing well in the mouth with its weightlessness. (92/100)
I have to point that pairing with beef tartar (with roasted pine seeds and lemon confit) is a brilliant match both for Novac and Pinot Noir. It leaves the refined aromas of these 2 delicate varietals to take center stage. One person said Novac in spite of others reluctance to that. More interesting some people said Merlot for Chevillon Nuits Saint Georges. Back to school !
Next wine is an absolute stunning discovery for me. If all Crianza ages like this, I am sucker for it. Many people said 7-8 years old Bordeaux. We had Spain nominated by the same person that confidently stated Merlot for Nuits Saint Georges, after I mentioned it is a single variety. So I have to give him some credit back.
2001 Pesquera Crianza from Alejandro Fernandez is a symphony in the glass. For me it is the epitome of a well maturing wine that has everything you would want and one would expect: fresh red fruit, smoke, spices and beginning to show complex tertiary aromas of saddle leather and tobacco. Supple but full palate, fresh, open and so expressive on the taste, with a medium plus finish that lingers well. A total pleasure to drink today, and no worries to keep it for another 5 years at least. (93/100)
2010 Domaine du Pegau ‘Cuvee Reservee’ Chateauneuf du pape was recognized as a Chateauneuf du pape, and even as a Pegau. Kudos to those people that identify it like that. I opened this wine 14 hours in advance at home and double decanted it early in the morning. It never felt harder to restrain myself from tasting a wine as it happen at 8:00 in the morning.
Its aromas are intoxicating. Very complex and profound nose where ripe red and black fruits meet Pegau funk, animal fur, olive tapenade and Asian spices. Full, intense and powerful on the palate, it has layers of flavors with a distinct savoury long and lingering finish, and a massive structure of polished tannin. (96/100)
Pairing with Osso Buco veal tajines with vegetables root, mashed potatoes and roasted garlic is a match made in haven.
2012 Aalto PS is a killer wine. It comes from 60-100 years old vines of Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero and it is aged in new French Allier oak for 24 months. An opaque dark red garnet color. Very intense and complex aromas of ripe and over ripe black fruit mixed with chocolate, spices and vanilla change with time into prunes, rum and sour cherries, a profile closer to an Amarone. Very dense and powerful mouth, high tannin that is well polished and smooth, animating these thick layers of ripe blackberries, cranberries and chocolate flakes. Long and intense finish. Massively structured wine that seems to posses all the attributes to become great. (95/100)
Black Angus rib steak was the perfect dish to accompany this thick and concentrated Tempranillo: bold flavors on both sides.
Dessert was the culminating dish of a lovely dinner. And what a dessert.
What did we learn: blind tastings can be very animated, stir interesting discussions and can move the focus of other conversations back to wines; it is also a great way to push one to think and analyze wine and become better at tasting it. After all, competitiveness is something we all have it in us, we just have to embrace it.