Here’s a novel idea: drinking wine for the sheer enjoyment of it. Imagine that! No structured formula to follow, no marks deducted for saying a red is “garnet” instead of “ruby”, no stress of having to memorize varietals, winemaking styles, DOCs, DOCGs, AOCs, ABCs, M&Ms, and the rest. That pretty much sums up my first tasting post-Algonquin, and my first outing as a member of the National Capital Sommelier Guild: I get to just enjoy wine again.
Tonight was a perfect segue from classroom to social setting, with people drinking just because they wanted to. The Guild booked the front room of Divino Wine Studio on Preston, where Antonio Mauriello (my instructor from Old World Wines) and his staff served up a parade of scrumptious munchies while we sipped our way through 17 different wines.
The aforementioned Mr. Dupont, a former Guild president and our “guest speaker” for the evening, shared his thoughts, his wine, and a few entertaining anecdotes about each of the selections from his cellar. Between his storytelling and the abundant conviviality at the table, the whole evening seemed more like a laid-back party than a lecture (cuz I’ve had enough of those to last me a while, thanks!)
I’ll admit to feeling somewhat out of my league at first, as the majority of members obviously had years of wine-drinking experience on me. There was a lot of reverent discourse about Bordeaux, Burgundy, old-school California and the like; I got the impression Canadian wines would get a cool reception from the crowd, unless it was an Osoyoos Larose or something. Ah well, I’ll have them all converted by the end of the year.
The first two flights were accompanied by prosciutto-stuffed fried olives, a trio of crostini, polenta caponata and zucchini parmigiana. The white wines were dominated by the Domaine Weinbach Clos des Capucines 1998 Gewurztraminer from Alsace. Practically a dessert wine, with its honey, apricot and cinnamon aromas, but not slick or cloying. I’m sure it’s impossible to find now, but my goodness, it was lovely.
As we moved from white to red, something interesting came to me: I’m not crazy about old wines. I just don’t like the taste. Granted, not every old wine is past its prime; the Brunier and Fils Vieux Télégraphe 1995 Chateauneuf-du-Pape was the height of elegance and luxury, with soft tannins and a smooth finish. But the 1997 Prodigy Shiraz from Katnook Estate (Coonawarra, Australia) smelled like a freshly opened tin of anchovies. Apparently, this is what old shiraz is supposed to smell like. Yikes.
Is there a point to aging shiraz so long that the fruit it’s famous for is lost? It didn’t stand a chance against the other one in my books, a 2007 Eileen Hardy that was bold, spicy and peppery, with big fruit and campfire smoke on the nose and palate. So anchovies in my wine just isn’t my bag. Neither are old Rieslings that reek of gasoline.
(I did, in fact, get past the petrol nose on some 10- year-old Rieslings to find a wonderful wine in my glass: both from the Mosel region of Germany, a 1999 Weingut Joh Jos Prüm Spätlese filled with sweet apple and citrus, and a 1997 Dr Loosen that was all caramel, smoke and coconut.)
Speaking of sweet, the best of the night’s fortified wines was the Gunderloch Vertriebgesellschaft Nackenheim 2001 Riesling Auslese. The name alone is a mouthful; the wine itself is divine: mineral, honey, slightly effervescent, with even more honey and apple pie on the finish. Better than the ’88 Sauternes (which smelled like latex paint … what gives?) and likely a good match with peanut satay chicken. The wines, along with two ports, were served with a tray of five different cheeses, salty crostini and a spiced pear compote.
My initial hesitation faded fast as we all chatted about aromas and flavours, bickered over who was going to get the last stuffed olive, and exchanged what’s-your-day-job conversation. Regardless of background, age or wealth, good wine is a universal constant that brings everyone together.
And I don’t even have to take notes. wOOt!