Wines 1 and 2 - Sauvignons from the Loire and Marlborough
The first comparison was a 2007 Menetou-Salon from Morogues and a 2010 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from Wither Hills. Menetou-Salon is an appellation right next to Sancerre, which is generally much better value than its more famous neighbour. The example from Morogues was a lovely wine. The nose was elegant but well pronounced, with hints of gooseberry and green apples. It was beautifully crisp in the mouth and really long. A subtle and elegant wine that you could polish off with no problem at all with a crottin. Mmm, maybe I'll do that tonight in fact.
By contrast the Wither Hills Sauvignon was fairly typical Marlborough in-your-face Sauvignon. Not necessarily a good or bad thing, but certainly pungent. It had a really pronounced gooseberry nose with all the usual herbaceous and vegetal associations. It was certainly a good example and served well as a demonstration of the contrast in styles between the Loire and Marlborough. However, I think everyone in the room (13 including me) agreed the Menetou-Salon was a finer wine.
Wines 3 and 4 - Chablis and Mid-Level Chardonnay from Chile
The next pairing compared a 2008 Chablis from Bouchard Ainé & Fils and a 2009 Rayuela Chardonnay from the independent producer Viu Manent. Chablis is always a really hard wine to taste. It's not something you really want on its own; rather with a plate of oysters or some other light, fresh, tangy dish. It's very mineral and quite often doesn't put forward any particular fruit flavours at all, perhaps a bit of lemon or green apple. Anyway, it was a good wine with decent minerality and excellent crisp acidity. Not a hint of oak, very lean and quite typical. Not to be drunk on its own!
The Rayuela Chardonnay was chosen as it's only very lightly oaked. The comparison just showed what a chameleon Chardonnay is and how it gives such different wines depending on climate, soil and wine-making practices. Simple but pleasant riper amoras in the nose, everyone ended up thinking more of this wine than perhaps we all expected. It was fairly crisp, had reasonable depth of flavour and was certainly moreish. A good example of a decent wine you could happily drink in a bar with or without food, in stark contrast to the Chablis.
Wines 5 and 6 - Côte Chalonnaise Premiere Cru and High-End Chardonnay from Chile
The final two wines compared a 2007 Rully 1er Cru La Pucelle from the enigmatic Paul Jacqueson against a 2007 Matetic EQ Chardonnay. I've had plenty of previous experience with the Rully, having bought a case of it from M. Jacqueson last year. It's a terrific wine. Quite a lot of oak on the nose but beautifully integrated into the wine which had plenty of depth to handle the oak. Nothing angular about it. You could sit there sniffing the rich, full and pronounced aroma for ages without even needing to taste it. A lovely nose. Fortunately the palette was just as good; bags of fairly ripe fruit, but not tropical, with crisp acidity and a long, long finish. Complex and delicious. One to have with a fish pie I reckon.
This was a hard wine to follow but the Matetic EQ Chardonnay did a pretty good job. It split opinion in the room with some loving it but others finding it too alcholic (14.5%), which did stick out a bit in the nose as well as the palatte. However, it was clearly a high quality wine, with interesting, pronounced aromas and flavours combined with plenty of stuffing. Certainly not insipid! I really liked it but I must say that I'm more likely to stick with the Chalonnaise for now.
So one session down, which I believe was very successful. Hopefully lots was learned as we tackled a couple of regions of France. The notes to go with it will help too, putting it all in place. The next session will be looking at Gamay from Beaujolais and Pinot Noir from Burgundy and New Zealand. I can't wait.