Manila's finest importer of French wine from the less popular appellations issued a challenge a few weeks back boasting that his new Northern Rhone wines could beat any Syrah available in the Philippine market with a price of about USD 28.00 or less. Two other importers took up the challenge, one specializing in US wines and one with a range of wines from Oz, NZ and South Africa. I was invited to join the tasting panel that would judge the wines blind and see if the French really did stand up to the New World. The three importers were also part of the tasting panel. 10 wines were presented: 4 French and 6 New World.
#1 Pale. Good, ripe nose. Sweet and a bit spicy. Very good.
#2 Very dark. Good nose with lots of chocolate. A bit earthy. Soft, sweet. Beautiful wine.
#3 Good medium color. Not much on the nose. Slightly earthy. Nutty, some citrus. Very nice with some acid lift. Tannic.
#4 Good, medium color. Chocolate nose. Very smoky. Full bodied. Very dry. Excellent.
#5 Good color. Not much of a nose. Somewhat metallic flavor. Gentle. A bit of candy. Just OK.
#6 Good color. Smoke. Sweet fruit. Ripe. Good flavor of dried fruits. Full bodied, dry, complex.
#7 Spicy nose but not much else. Very dry, soft, fruity, medium bodied. Quite good but doesn't taste like Syrah.
#8 Very dark. Nice nose. Mint. Very sweet but in a good way. Ripe. Still tannic.
#9 Black wine. Good complex nose. Some mint. Sweet and full bodied. Tannic. Perhaps a touch too much oak but still, really good stuff.
#10 Lots of alcohol. Tannic. Good flavor but a bit short. Drying, alcoholic finish.
We were told to rank only our top 5 choices. My top starting with the best: 6, 8, 9, 4, 5.
The group's ranking starting with the best: 8, 6, 9, 4, 10.
The wines from best to worst according to the overall ranking of the group were:
#8 Glaetzer The Bishops Barossa Shiraz 2004
#6 Duo Syrah Sta. Barbara California 2003
#9 Woodstock The Stocks Shiraz McLaren Vale 2002
#4 Waterford Syrah Stellenbosch South Africa 2003
#10 Summerland Syrah Paso Robles 2003
#5 Domaine Cheze St. Joseph 2004 (The only French wine in my top 5)
#7 Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage 2004
#1 Domaine Cheze Syrah VdP 2004
#3 Seyssuel Couloure VdP 2004
#2 Raka Western Cape Syrah South AFrica 2004
The French took a beating in this particular tasting. I asked the importer of the French wines (who was French) what his top wines were and he admitted that his top 2 were New World. He seemed to be quite humbled by the results but was a good sport and graciously accepted defeat.
Dinner was served after the judging and more wines were served:
Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2004 - I generally don't like white Rhones but this was quite good. Very gentle and easy to drink. Went well with the veal cutlet in a mushroom sauce.
Rasteau Soumade Violettes 1998 - Very dark. Had a nose like a jackfruit which is something I've never before encountered in a wine. Still young. Spicy. Drinking very well.
Rasteau Soumade Violettes 1999 - Also very dark. Muted nose. Very full bodied, tannic. Closed. Not ready. Needs a few years to open up.
A good experience for everyone. Other tastings planned are for a Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois tasting and a Bordeaux tasting of wines from minor areas such as Moulis, Listrac, Fronsac etc.