Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: Not every tasting produces a winner
Charles Saunders of the Wine Society in Nashua once told me the story of a spectacular wine experience he had.
He had been invited, with a small group of wine lovers, to a pour of a high-end wine more than 100 years old. Everyone gathered around the person pouring, their glasses close at hand. The bottle was opened and each person quickly received a pour.
Charlie said the wine was spectacular - for 12 seconds. Old wine can be very fragile, and that was all the time it took for the influx of oxygen to kill it. Knowing the risk, they all managed to get their sip in before it expired. But I bet none of them would have wanted to pay top dollar for the bottle, knowing it had 12 seconds of life in it.
You win some, you lose some.
I picked up two bottles of wine this weekend with the thought of writing about them both - taste them, try them with dinner and see what turned up. So the first one was the 2005 Austin Hope Syrah, Paso Robles, Calif. ($45.39, 15.5% abv). On opening, it was a deep purple color with a black core, with a medium-intensity nose and a mix of aromas, black fruit and earth, the latter signaling that it had been developing in the bottle. On the first sip, it was dry, with medium-plus tannin, medium-plus well-integrated alcohol, medium-plus body and blackberry, red currant and plum flavors. It went more toward the vegetal on the finish.
Now, when I try a wine for you, I do a first taste on opening, and then usually let it sit for a bit to see how it opens up. Some north-central Italian wines, for example, need to be opened up a day before you want to drink them, such is their complexity and strength. So, I went back to the Syrah about five minutes later - and it had died. All the fruit was gone, all that was left was vegetal aromas and flavors. I'm sure the more recent vintages are more lively, but the 2005 has seen its day.
When I pick up an unknown wine, I often pick up a second one just in case - and this was the case. So I turned to the Spann Vineyards 2009 Mo Zin ($20.29, 14.5% abv), a blend of 63% Zinfandel, 27% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah. All of these grapes produce dark wine, and Mourvedre is well known for producing pitch-black color, so I was expecting something dark. It was only a medium intensity hue, purple/ruby in the glass. The nose was of medium intensity too, with some bramble fruit, red fruit and hints of black fruit. It was dry on the palate, of medium acidity, medium-minus tannin, and lighter body than expected, with a flavor profile that leaned more toward red fruit, and hints of black. Acceptable quality, balanced, ready to drink now. It made an OK companion to breaded steak. 84 points.
So, don't feel too bad if you take the plunge on a new wine and find yourself disappointed. It happens to the best of us. Just make sure you have a fallback selection up your sleeve.
Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at firstname.lastname@example.org.