Vol. 1, No. 15, April 26, 1999
© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
Compare and contrast
I really hated those assignments.
But maturity brings mellowness, and after many years I've developed a certain affection for the compare-and-contrast technique ... when the topic is wine.
Seriously, I've found almost no better way to sharpen your palate quickly than to put two glasses of wine on the same table for a side-by-side tasting. I find that the process of comparing and contrasting -- consciously taking written notes of the ways in which the wines are alike and in which they're different -- fixes their aromas and flavors and overall style in my memory better than any other technique.
If you're concerned about the extravagance of opening two bottles at a time, consider having friends over to share in the fun; use what's left as cooking wine; or hang on to the leftovers and use them for dinner on the following day. Or as a compromise, have the wines on separate nights -- as I did with the two Barberas below -- but take detailed notes and do your best to hold the first wine in your mind until you get around to the second.
Have you tried this? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know if you've got any comparative-tasting tips or tricks. And, as always, please don't hesitate to drop us a line if you'd like to comment on our topics and tasting notes, suggest a topic for a future bulletin, or just talk about wine.
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The dark-blue glass bottle seemed a little ominous, but the contents were a revelation, showing why South Africa has a considerable reputation for producing dry Chenin Blanc (a grape that the locals sometimes call "Steen"). Pale greenish-gold in color, it boasts an appetizing fresh melon scent; crisp, tart and just barely off-dry flavors follow the nose and dry out completely in a long, fresh-fruit finish. U.S. importer: Whyte Wine Corp., Indianapolis. (April 15, 1999)
FOOD MATCH: Cantonese shrimp with lobster sauce made a surprisingly good match.
Hogue Cellars 1997 Columbia Valley (Washington) Chenin Blanc ($7.49)
Very dark reddish-purple. Plum and spice aromas, almost like a plum pudding. Full, juicy fruit, forward and jamlike, over a sturdy acidic framework. Dark fruit and spice and astringent but palatable tannins linger in a long finish. Balance and structure make it the better of the two Barberas. U.S. importer: Pellegrini Brothers Wines Inc., South San Francisco, Calif. (April 23, 1999)
FOOD MATCH: A delight with a simple, aromatic Madagascar-style chicken dish, breasts and thighs sauteed with quantities of ginger and garlic.
Boeger 1994 El Dorado (California) Vineyard Select Barbera ($14.99)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with oven-fried chicken.
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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.
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