Taste and Tasting

“The best kind of wine is that which is most pleasant to him who drinks it.”
                                                                                                ---- Pliny the Elder

Along came St. Patrick day 2012 and into the “cellar” I went and selected ten wines to share with my guests:  some for leisurely drinking while conversing on the patio, others for dinner later in that day.  The wines ranged in price from $17 to $120. Yes, I know. I am the Wine” Mizer”, but don’t be alarmed. I have not lost the focal point of talking about good wine for less money.   Some of these wines were indeed special.  But special wines can best be enjoyed only with special people and on special occasions.  They are the wines you save for such occasions. And despite the high cost for some of these wines, there is a “moral to this story” and it is in keeping with good wine for less money.                                                                  
                                                                            Some Wines Were Just  “Out Of This World”         
                                                                                                        From Left To Right
2005 Chateau  Larrivaux ($17) 88 pts, Bordeaux, Haut-Medoc, Cru-Bourgeois, France (Fr).
2009 Domaine Les Aphillanthes Cuvee 3 Cepages ($22) (equal blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) 91pts, Cote-du-Rhone Villages, Southern  Rhone, Fr.
2007 Emilio Moro ($22) 91pts, Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo) Ribera Del Duero, Spain
2009 d’arenberg “The Hermit Crab” ($16) (blend of 72% Viognier & 28% Marsanne), 90pts, McLaren Vale, South Australia
2008 Francis Villard Condrieu De Poncins ($65) (aka Viognier), 92pts, Rhone, Fr
2008 Puligny-Montrachet Sous LePuits ($50) Chardonnay, 92pts, Burgundy, Cote de Beaune 1st Cru, Fr.
2004 Elderton Single Vineyard Command  ($90) (not pictured) Shiraz (aka Sirah,Syrah) 95pts, Barossa Valley, Australia
2007 Errazuriz Don Maximiano “Founders Reserve” ($65) (82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc ) 94pts, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
2007 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($120) 94pts, Oakville, Napa Valley, California
2005 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes ($56) 92pts, Sauternes 1st Cru, Fr.

Now that you know some of the grapes used in the wines and the bottle prices, which wine do you think was best?  Was it the Groth?  If you answered “yes”, is that because you are familiar with Oakville Cabs (and if that is so, why are you reading Wine Mizer) or is because you think price goes along with taste?
Let me give you a more fair chance at answering the question by developing some additional background.  For the repast, I prepared a typical boiled dinner of corned beef (Wellshire Farms, organic), cabbage (organic), carrots (organic) and potatoes (red and Russian fingerling and Yukon Gold, organic), along with Irish Soda Bread.  Before dinner, we enjoyed a light cranberry cheese with almond crackers, Irish Cheddar Potato Bites and smoked, wild-caught Alaskan salmon. With the dinner, I also prepared a cabbage and cheddar gratin, and carrots grilled with marjoram. There was mustard sauce for the corned beef, and organic pears and Roquefort cheese toward the end. Later, we enjoyed coffee, chocolate and cookies (prepared by a guest).
OK, we ate a lot, I get it. But here’s the point. If you think the Groth went well with the pears ... "not so much." The Shiraz, and the Cabs were excellent with the Corned Beef.  The Sauternes with the Roquefort is something you want to enjoy someday. It is a wondrous marriage.  And the Condrieu (aka viognier) and Chardonnay with the smoked fish was delicious. 
We hear a lot about food pairing, and there is value to that. But the real point to this story is about my guest who preferred the Emilio Moro ($22) overall / to everything else.  She prefers Spanish wine, and can identify the style immediately.  I admire this person because she is unabashedly unapologetic. It doesn’t matter to her whether the Emilio Moro cost less than other wines. And it doesn’t matter that it is aged 12 months in French and American oak barrels. The Errazuriz Don Maximiano, by the way, spends 20 months in oak. And guess what? It doesn’t matter either if you prefer something else! While knowing the details of how a particular wine is made is maybe something you can use to impress someone, what’s the point in impressing anyone other than your own taste buds?  (Unless it is in knowing enough about wines so that you can offer your guests a wine you know they will enjoy). 
The details of how a wine is made does matter because that and other details impact what you will pay for the wine.  And, for many people, the process of making wine is interesting. But when it comes to drinking wine, what ultimately matters is what tastes good for you, and taste is personal. Tastes can be developed and expanded, but never wrong.  And even should your preferences remain as they are, it’s not a problem as far as I’m concerned.  There are as of yet no wine police to come and arrest you for going with your preference.   
Emilio Moro offers notes of cedar to the nose. It is a light, modern fruity style of wine and offers tastes of licorice, blackberry and black cherry. And at $22, it is a good buy.  It is also widely available.  
As for the Groth, the Errazuriz Don Maximiano, and the Elderton Single Vineyard Command, these were my top three for the evening.  But I won’t rank them, or even go into a description of the wines’ profiles because in my economic world, they are also likely to be my last three.  For routine consumption, I am very happy with a Cotes du Rhone (Domaine Les Aphillanthes Cuvee 3 Cepages) at only $22.  It presents balanced, dark fruit with light tannins and notes of olive and mushroom and black pepper.  It also carries the endorsement (along with the Emilo Moro) of being affordable.
No one is suggesting you find a wine and drink that wine only. What I am suggesting is that you enjoy what you enjoy, offer no apology, and never let the wine-snobs bully you.
P.S. A good book to learn about some good tasting, and low-cost wine is The Wine Trials by Robin Goldstein.  It’s about $15 in paperback and an interesting read.

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