The Challenge was laid down on the UK
wine-pages.com forum, by Keith Prothero, a firm
advocate of Cape wines:
Well, we can't let that sort of challenge go un-met! But
above all, it sounded a really fun evening.
Ok guys pissed off as I am by all you smart
tasting note experts I wish to offer a challenge.
I propose to buy 6 white wines and 16 reds (each to
have a minimum of 40% cab) and to organise a blind
tasting at LeT . The wines will cost no more than
£25 and no less than £20 and be available through
Wine searcher in the UK now.
The challenge for you is to identify the country of
origin,the varietals in the wine and the producer.
At the improbably early time of 18:30 on Friday 3rd
September 2004, a dozen of us assembled at the back of
Brasserie Trouvaille in Upper St, N1
which also provided some good food and noticeably good,
unobtrusive service. Keith was a great host, keeping us
all in check and on time with good humour, while at the
same time filling in his complex score sheet: we were
marking the wines; Keith was marking us.
All wines were, of course, served blind, and apart from
the reds all containing Cabernet Sauvignon (ringers
excepted), we didn't have a clue what we were in for.
Wines were unveiled once the sheets had been passed to
Keith. I don't have full details of all the wines, as I
forgot to keep grabbing the bottles once they were
revealed. I also don't have my notes for Wine Number 1,
so that's from memory.
1998 Brauneberger Juffer (don't think it was
Sonnenuhr) Riesling (can't remember if it turned
out to be Auslese or Spätlese), Fritz Haag, Mosel,
This was immediately obvious as a Mosel Riesling, with
smokey apples and petrol on the nose. On the palate it
revealed itself as an Auslese. I thought with quite a
bit of age, and I actually put it (I think) in the mid
1980s. I was very surprised to find it was 1998 from
Fritz Haag, whose wines I find need longer than other
producers before they are at the best.
I think I gave this 7/10
2002, Gravitas Chardonnay, St Arnaud, Marlborough,
A mid gold. A musky rich sweet nose with a bit of scent.
Very full and ripe. Very full-on and 'in-yer-face'.
Lacks finesse for me. Lot of oak.
(I guessed at it being a Semillon Chardonnay, from the
New World, and when pushed, the musky scents and less
familiar style made me wonder about South Africa.)
1998, Gewurztraminer Cuvée Des Seigneurs De
Ribeaupierre, Trimbach, Alsace 13%?
Sweet grapey nose - must be muscat. Powerful, with the
weight of gewurztraminer, almost heading towards
vendages tardives levels. On the palate, it becomes
clear that it's gewurz - and a very big one. Lots of
ripeness and power. Very big and very long. Yet very
hard on the finish. Needs a bit of time yet to knit
(I guessed at an Alsace gewurztraminer from 2002 and
wondered about Rolly Gassman, but now realise that would
have to be wrong, mainly because I don't think he'd have
released this wine already. Clearly wasn't Zind
Humbrecht - I don't know why I didn't think of Trimbach
- so obvious when you know!)
1999 Prieure de St Jean de Bebian, Coteaux du
Languedoc (I think that's what this was ...)
A deep brassy gold. Very dry oxidised nose, slightly
raisined fruit. On the palate too, it's in a very
oxidised style with lots of ripe fruit, yet very very
dry. This is almost identical to a 1994 Welschriesling
Spätlese Trocken Eselsbiss from Willi Opitz that I
included in a couple of tastings I ran over the summer,
so I have to say it's that, although the bottle shape is
6+ (+?) - it's growing on me.
(Well I was wrong, which makes me think that this might
have been a bad bottle and it wasn't meant to be in this
oxidised style. Nowhere near on the grapes either: it's
really Grenache Blanc, Clairette and that well-kown
2002 Palladius, Eben Sadie, South Africa (Viognier,
Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc)
Buttery oak. A very pleasing attack. Full and round with
quite a lot of weight. Acidic streak on finish. Heavy
(My guesses range between South America and South
Africa, but it really doesn't seem to be a very South
African style. I guessed at it being largely Chardonnay
from 2000, which was wrong on another two counts ...)
1999 Niepoort, Redoma branco
A restrained, elegant nose - lightly oaked buttery fruit
with a more scented, citrussy, herby notes. Not opening
up much, even with a bit of time. On the palate, soft
and quite full, with a bit of power, yet still the
impression is that it's not quite giving all it might.
Nice use of oak.
(My guesses took me to Spain, and I wondered about
Burgundy, Bordeaux, Languedoc, but in the end gave in. I
guesses at a French 1997 chardonnay dominated wine.
2000 Cabernet/Merlot, Catena, Argentina
Ripe fruit, quite a sweet nose. Very attractive nose.
Soft, ripe fruit on the palate with a lot of tannin and
some heat and spice. Tannic finish.
(I guessed at a 2003 Cab with some cab franc in it, from
Chile. Hundreds, rather than thousands of miles out.
Still seems a very young 2000'er, and clearly needs lots
more time yet.)
1996, Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon, Grant Burge
13.5% (a blend of grapes from the Barossa and Coonawarra)
Looks like quink. Bloody hell, what a nose - fantastic.
Very sweet cherry and blackcurrant, but also some
Benylin. Good mouthfeel. But then as it stays on the
palate, it starts to let itself down a bit. There's
something really unusual and a bit weird about this.
Lots of tannins on the finish.
(I guessed at it being a 1999 Australian, definitely not
Margaret River, with something odd mixed into a
predominantly Cab Sauv wine.)
1994 Jean Leon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Penedes, Spain
Slightly unpleasant nose reminiscent of the full range
of smells of a gents toilet (I won't elaborate). A sour
harsh palate. Savage tannins, especially on the finish.
Verging on DNPIM (=do not put in mouth)
(Guessed at something foul from South Africa in 2002).
2000 Las Casas del Toqui Cabernet Sauvignon
Soft elegant nose. Exceedingly ripe. Very mouth coating,
high alcohol. Sweetish. A bit mouth-twanging. From
somewhere hot, probably USA, but not California. For me,
uni-dimensional and unsatisfying. Parker quite likely
will like it, but I'm not sure I do.
(Guessing it comes from hot climate, probably USA, but
no California. 2000 vintage?)
1994 Ch. Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac
Initially an odd nose, but the oddness quickly blows
off. Interesting touch of scent and coffee. Quite light
on the palate, with a pleasing fresh acidity that
counters some good ripish fruit. Nice depth and lots of
character. Rather elegant. I find this really very
(I guessed at 1994, possibly 1995 Bordeaux, but haven't
had Mouton before, so couldn't get closer. That's my
2000 Boisset/Pisano, Uruguay Cabernet Sauvignon,
Fresh, forward, concentrated fruit. (Having trouble
reading my writing here ...) Forward, ??, pushy attack
which immediately fills to a very very spicy oak. Very
raw and aggressive. Very clumsy. Reminds me of a lesser
(I took a stab in the dark and guessed at a Basque wine
2001 De Toren Fusion V, South Africa
Strong cabernet sauvignon nose, but a bit reticent. Some
leather comes forward. Ripe, soft and full. Good
structure. Slightly bitter after (this had better not
have pinotage in it ...)
(I guessed at a 2000 straight cabernet from someone like
Planeta in Sicily, although the bottle shape was
NV, Caballo Loco Number Six, Valdivieso, Chile
Dense almost impenetrable black fruit on the nose. Deep,
black inky attack. Powerful stuff. Big tingle on the
tongue after from some acid, but I don't notice it
elsewhere in the wine. Seems a touch overblown.
(I guessed at a 2002 Californian cab.)
1989 Ch Musar, Lebanon
Earthy, slightly bretty with lots of volatile acidity.
Overwhelmingly volatile. But on the palate, it's light
and remarkably fresh tasting. Interesting and old. And a
(Goodness knows how I failed to identify this - that's a
pretty classic Musar note! I was looking at Southern
Rhone around about 1984/85)
2001 Caro, Domaine Baron de Rothschild (Lafite) and
Nicolas Catena, Mendoza, Argentina 13.5%
Wines were starting to come a bit quicker now, and this
one puzzled me. A rather herby nose. Very luscious
mouthfeel. But a bit simple.
(guessing at Tuscany, 98/99)
2000 Rust En Vrede, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Very closed nose. Very sweet, velvety attack. Rich and
very concentrated. Overdone. Made to be impressive, but
I find it distinctly unimpressive. Can't say I like this
much. Interestingly chocolately aftertaste. Unstructured
(I guessed at a 1999 CabSauv/Shiraz blend from South
Africa. The actual blend is 58% CabSauv; 33% Shiraz; 9%
1997 Ch. Calon Ségur
1999 Yarra Yerring Dry Red Wine No. 1, Cabernet
Immediately attractive, forward nose. Very sweet nose.
Very attractive. Sweet. Really forward and attractive.
Just a bit too much (something I can't read, but a very
short word!) and a bit unsatisfying
(I initially thought of a Tuscan Cab Sauv, but changed
my mind to Moss Wood 1996.)
2001 Mas de Daumas Gassac, VdP de l'Herault 13%
Very dark. Bizarre, unpleasant nose. Faulty.
1997 Ch Pichon Longueville
Mercaptans and deep black fruit on the nose with a
certain greenness. Light, fresh, attractive. Far too
young. Quite interesting. Soft tannins. A certain
rubberiness on the palate.
(I guessed at a lesser chateau from Bordeaux in 1997,
with some cab franc in the mix)
1997 Mezzopane, San Polo, IGT Toscana, Italy
13.5% (a blend of Sangiovese and CabSauv)
Fascinating nose, lots of brett and black plums. Also a
green hedgerow raw streak to the nose. Very odd palate.
Very green. Heavy tannins.
(I was too slow forming a guess at this one, as the
bottle had been revealed while I was still wondering at
the wine's oddness!)
1999 Ravenswood Cabernet Sauvignon, Hollick,
Bretty mercaptans onthe nose. Very sweet, rich attack.
But then it stays pretty much on one level. Nice enough
fruit. Good enough structure. Absolutely fine. Very well
made. But very dull.
(I guessed at a Barossa Cab/Shiraz from 1999)
2001 Veltevrede Cape Muscat 15.5%
A nice little sticky to finish.
Pot pourri nose with lots of rose petal. Sweet, fresh
attack. Hugely scented, exceedingly pleasant, quite
muscatty. Really unusual flavours. Quite a savage acidic
bite towards the finish, but given the sweetness, it's
actually quite a pleasant bite.
And then to save Keith from having to take a full bottle
home, we attacked his reserve wine (still blind).
2001 Steytler Kaapzicht Estate Vision, Stellenbosch
14.5% (50% CabSauv; 40% Pinotage; 10% Merlot)
A ripe cabernet sauvignon nose. Eugh on the palate. Very
odd. Rather unpleasant. Really astringent - this must
have some pinotage in it, surely?
Phew. Great night.
Many thanks to Keith for the idea and the organisation
and to everyone for their splendid company.