After a couple of weeks off we're almost all back together. Two members have just taken new positions with new projects that will be opening quickly in the next couple of weeks. Exciting time for them, but now is not the time for them to be studying! So, it was a smallish group today. Ben, our tasting coach was able to join us and brought a pair of classic white wines for us to blind.
The first wine presented a powerful nose with plenty of viscosity and a deep gold color. Aromas and flavors were driven by peach skins and stone fruits. The wine was dry, the big round ripe flavors were offset by both the high acidity and high alcohol (always an unusual combination.) The initial call was Alsatian Riesling which made sense except for the fact that there was none of the petrol character which is such a signature of wines made from this grape. I thought it might be a Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay, either Melville or Brewer Clifton. Alsatian Pinot Gris was also suggested but the wine seemed too powerful to my thinking. BUT that's what it was. Rotenberg Pinot Gris from Zind Humbrecht. Which explains the power, the intensity and everything else. The Rotenberg vineyard is high on the slopes, near the forests and produces small, intensely flavored berries. The wine is aged on the lees for 18 months in 40 year old barrels. Not your typical Italian Pinot Grigio! Now I feel better about my call.
The second white wine was a Sauvignon Blanc. Period. End of story. Classic notes of grapefruit zest, lime zest with just a proper kiss of funk and screaming pyrazines. The question was one of origin. The high acidity and steely funk pointed to Sancerre. New Zealand sauvignon typically has more tropical fruit which obscures the mineral flavors and a California wine would typically show more melon and grassy characteristics. And Sancerre it was.
Yes, yes, yes. I know that there is a lot of talk that there is no chemical basis for ascribing different soil, rock and mineral attributes to wine. BUT those are scientific meanings of the word. Flavor descriptors are the language of wine. There are no more raspberries, blackberries or shoe leather in wine than limestone or chalk. Yet there are flavor components which we describe with those terms. Different words have different meanings in different contexts. Is there a better word to describe the flavors we ascribe to minerals and soil types? I remember tasting Fritz Haag's Brauneberg Riesling and touching pieces of red slate from the vineyard. The nuances of the 'mineral' flavor were very different from the Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling from Robert Eymael who had brought pieces of blue and grey slate from that vineyard. Say what you say, mean what you mean. If meaning is conveyed, GREAT SUCCESS!