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In This Issue
Our May Bordeaux tour: Room for two more!
Double-blind tasting
Gabbiano 2000 Chianti Classico ($11.99)
 Marques de Murrieta 2000 Neonato Rioja ($9.99)

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Our May Bordeaux tour:
Room for two more!

Chateau Pichon-Longueville
Château Pichon-Longueville, photographed during a May 2000 visit.
Due to a couple of late cancellations, it turns out that we have two openings in the Best of Bordeaux tour that I will be leading with Lauriann Greene and Jean-Pierre Sollin of French Wine Explorers in May.

Knowing that a number of you had expressed disappointment that this tour filled up so quickly after we announced it last autumn, I wanted Wine Advisor readers to be the first to know that we unexpectedly have room for two more participants on our May 11-17 tour of the Médoc, Graves, Saint-Emilion and Sauternes.

Lauriann and Jean-Pierre promise an unforgettable week in Bordeaux, during which we will visit and enjoy both barrel tastings and older wines from many of the region's most prestigious chateaus, including several first-growth estates! The group will stay in the historic heart of the beautiful city of Bordeaux, and enjoy gastronomic meals at highly-rated restaurants.

Because of the high level of interest in this tour, I urge you to contact French Wine Explorers without delay if you're interested. (In addition to these two openings on the May 11-17 tour, there are six spaces available on a similar Bordeaux trip July 20-26. I won't be along for that one, but you'll enjoy the leadership of Jean-Pierre and Lauriann, who are certified French Sommeliers-Conseils and experienced tour guides.)

For full information or to make a reservation, send E-mail to or call 1-877-261-1500 (toll-free in the U.S. and Canada).

Double-blind tasting

One of the best ways I know of to sharpen your wine-tasting skills is by comparative tasting, lining up two (or more) wines side by side and evaluating them together.

This "compare-and-contrast" technique makes it relatively easy to detect the differences between similar wines, and it's an enjoyable way to learn more about wine. Want to get better at recognizing the characteristics of wine grapes? Compare a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot, or put up a Chardonnay against a Pinot Grigio. Other possibilities abound: Taste a 1997 Bordeaux against a 2000, and learn something about vintage differences and the effects of time in the bottle on wine. Compare similarly priced Zinfandels from Sonoma and the Sierra Foothills, or match a Shiraz from Barossa against one from Coonawarra. You're only limited by your imagination, and maybe your budget.

Now, let's extend this concept just a little further. By tasting "blind" - having the wines poured out of your sight so you don't know what specific wine is in each glass, you can reduce the effects of prejudice and presumption. This is a great way to test a cheap wine against a more expensive cousin without being influenced by knowing which one bears the hefty price tag.

Getting to the point of today's discussion, what if you and your wife, partner or companion both want to play? In the absence of a butler (or cooperative neighbor) to do the pouring, here's an easy way to make your tasting "double-blind:"

First, peel the capsules completely off the two bottles to make it more difficult to tell them apart. Then put both bottles in paper wine bags (or wrap them in aluminum foil) to conceal the labels. If you have a penchant for neatness, you can secure the tops of the bags around the bottle neck with rubber bands or tape.

Then mark each bag with a simple code - I usually scribble a big "Y" one one and "Z" on the other - and ask your confederate, who won't know which wine is which, to pour into two glasses out of your sight, so you won't know which glass is which. Then sit down, taste and enjoy. Compare notes, speculate, make your guesses ... and then tear off the bags to see who's right.

(If you're concerned about the potential for waste involved in opening more wine than you can responsibly finish in a sitting, consider these options: Invite friends over to share. Pour the leftovers together and use the resulting "blend" for cooking. Or simply put back the corks and plan to finish the wines within the next few days, before oxidation spoils their taste.)

We did a double-blind tasting the other day to compare two relatively different Mediterranean reds: A Rioja and a Chianti of similar age and price. For technical reasons - specifically, the wines chosen proved less than typical of their styles - I won't report those tastings today. But here for your interest are my reports on another Rioja and Chianti, tasted separately. Both are approachable, affordable wines, made in a rather "New World" style with the focus on fruit.

Gabbiano Gabbiano 2000 Chianti Classico ($11.99)

Dark ruby, with a reddish-orange glint. Bing cherries and "brown" spices in an appetizing aroma that leads into a ripe and juicy fruit flavor given structure by a tasty tang of acidity, not sour but refreshing. Not overly complex and a bit on the fruity side for an "Old World" Chianti, but it offers an excellent example of the warmth and food-friendliness that makes Chianti special. U.S. importer: Beringer Blass Imports, Napa, Calif. (Feb. 4, 2003)

FOOD MATCH: Breaking the stereotype that Chianti goes only with tomato-sauced dishes (although it does so very well), it was a delight with a fricassee-style chicken and onion dish based on a Marcella Hazan recipe.

VALUE: Very good value.

WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to drink, but it should hold - if not evolve - for a year or two.

WEB LINK: Gabbiano's Italian-and-English Website is online at

Neonato Marques de Murrieta 2000 Neonato Rioja ($9.99)

Dark ruby in color, this wine appears almost black in the glass. Scents of juicy, ripe cherries and a burst of aromatic oaky vanillins are followed by full and bright, juicy cherry and vanilla flavors with sufficient acidity for balance. A crowd-pleaser, simple and easy to quaff, although it shows more fruit and less "earth" than might be expected from a a more traditional Rioja. U.S. importer: William Grant & Sons Inc., NYC. (Feb. 10, 2003)

FOOD MATCH: Excellent match with pork chops braised with sage, bay leaf and garlic.

VALUE: Reasonable value at this price, but I have seen it advertised at deep discounts in other markets.

WHEN TO DRINK: Although Rioja in general can age gracefully, this wine's exuberant fruit suggests that it will be best enjoyed while young and fresh. Drink up over the coming year.

WEB LINK: The U.S. importer offers Murrieta fact sheets, mostly in Adobe Acrobat format for downloading, at


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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2003
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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