“Why then the world’s mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.”
William Shakespeare, from The Merry Wives of Windsor.
With April being Earth Month, and with us all stuck at home, why not take a jaunt around the world via white wines?
And why not try to find ones that are sustainable, organic, or earth friendly?
And why not see which one pairs best with oysters?
AND Why not do it as a blind tasting? With seven white wines from the Northern Hemisphere? To help prepare to compete in the US Wine Tasting Open and the the World Wine Tasting Championship in France?
After making the US Wine Team in July 2019, team mate Sue Hill and I upped our blind tasting game as much as we could. We already taste hundreds of wines most months (pre-CoVID 19), taking notes on dozens of them for blog posts I would write, but we weren’t really thinking about them BLIND.
Motivated to make the 2020 team and travel to Bordeaux in October for the World Wine tasting Championship, I pulled out a bunch of white wines, ones that I thought would REALLY challenge us but also be AWESOME with oysters which I had a lot of because COVID-19 was reducing demand so I got a great deal. I put them in the fridge and I gave my teen instructions on pouring one at a time into a jar and marking the bottle with a sharpie. We poured from the jar into our own glasses and gave them a go trying to figure out the grape, the region, and more as well as determining which ones go with what, especially what pairs well with oysters!
But we have recently learned that the US Open, where we came in second with a score of 91 to make the team, will NOT be held in 2020 due to Covid-19. Read more about the 2019 US Open here.
Instead, organizers will select four people for the team from those who are interested and who have been on the team during the past three years who would be willing to foot their own expenses; last year our travel to France and two nights accommodations, meals, and the competition were paid for. Out of the 10 people possible which included the four of us from last year, the third place team from 2019, the fourth place team and a team from the previous year, I’m not sure how many said yes or how they will determine the team.
Tasting procedure: we tasted all seven wines blind, then we each tasted each wine with an oyster, then we tasted the wines once more with a dinner of calamari with lemon caper sauce on a bed of nasturtium pesto. As I expected, a seven wines went really well with the food pairings.
This would prove to be QUITE A CHALLENGE.
Blind Wine # 1: Visit ITALY
2018 Botromagno “Gravina” Bianco DOP Puglia
12.5% alcohol SRP $19
60% Greco, and 40% Malvasia
sample; imported/distributed by Winebow
They say: “In 1991, the D’Agostino family merged with the local cooperative winery creating Botromagno in Puglia. This was the first successful example of a privately-owned winery partnering with more than 100 local grape growers. Botromagno focuses not only on the quality of the wines, but the environment and protecting the health of their consumers as well. The winery plants one acre of trees per year to make up for their CO2 emissions.”
The is all about the mouthfeel and the florals. Love this wine– a winner all around.
Color: Pale yellow, pale lemon yellow
Nose: Florals, green, a bit of petrol, fennel, licorice,
Palate: Fennel, licorice, very light, tart lemon, herbal, fennel, Ricola type thing going on. Sweet tart, lemon tart, bright acidity, no tannins, cool on the finish, minty cool like a cough drop, no oak elements, there is a purity to the fruit.
This is a really fantastic wine. Goes to show what you can do in a cooperative when people work together and pool their resources and fruit.
Pairing: Excited to try this with oysters, fantastic with the fennel sausage, that fennel, herbal quality in the wine pairs perfectly with the fennel in the sausage. Not so fabulous with the herbed brie, great with the sundried tomato goat cheese, nice with the black peppercorn cheddar, not fabulous with a brie.
At first with the oysters you experience tart and tangy, but when you go back to the wine there is a lovely sweetness. The finish is richness.
With our meal the wine was incredible, the rich creaminess of the sauce and the lemon capers, are so fantastic with the wine. It livens and brightens it up. Sue’s favorite with this wine was the fennel salami.
Varietal – Greco, Malvasia. We guessed Vermentino or Gruner. The floral should have hinted it has Malvasia.
Country – Italy, Germany Austria, Slovenia were all guesses; I was pretty sure it was Austria or Italy.
Region – Puglia – we thought north Italy
Vintage – 2018 – we did not guess
Maker – Gravina
Thankfully, I don’t think they would choose a wine like this one for the World Wine Tasting competition as it’s a blend of two rather unusual grapes.
Blind Wine #2 Visit SPAIN
2018 Granbazan Albarino Rias Baixas Galicia
Read more about Albarino with a bunch of pairings in “All Aboard for Albarino!”
Color: Very pale gold, with a platinum rim
Nose: Floral, and grassy, kiwi, peachy white stone fruit, nectarine, gardenia
Palate: Bright acidity, viscous mouthfeel, tart finish, then minerals, salinity, there is a nice body to the wine. Great cocktail wine. White stone fruit and stone at the beach, or a stone that is tumbling coming from the river to the sea.
Pairing: Fantastic with the oysters, sweet, juicy, acidic, lemon, lovely, and then there is a creaminess, liked the creamy brie, good with the peppercorn cheddar, and the fennel salami. Fantastic with the Sun-dried tomato basil chèvre, Fabulous with the calamari and capers with nastirsum pesto over pasta. The spicy element in the nastirshum goes so well with the wine.
Varietal – Albarino; we guessed Vermentino because of the acidity and salinity but the stone fruit might have directed us to Albarino. We did write down Albarino but then changed.
Country – Spain ( we guessed Italy because of the acidity)
Region – Rias Baixas
Vintage – 2018
Maker – Granbazan
This wine could totally show up and we should know it by now! We should stick with our gut instinct!
Blind Wine #3 – 2016 Visit FRANCE!
Domaine De La Fruitiere – Muscadet Severe & Maine
100% Melon de Bourgogne
After spending a week in the Loire, we really “get” the wines from this region and it was clear right away to both of us where this wine was from.
Color: Pale lemon, with a light green tinge, lemon gold, yellow lime,
Nose: French funk, limestone, flint, silex, sulphur
Palate: Silky salinity, river moss, grassiness, racey acidity, very clean, no oak, just the fruit, the mouthfeel is creamy (due to the sur lie, which we found out later to be true)
Pairing: This is a classic wine to pair with oysters and here’s why: the wine brings out the ocean in the oyster, with the pesto it was great, maybe it is the power of suggestion, but there is a melon flavor that comes out between the oyster and the wine.
With the oyster there is a nice richness that comes out in both that is not there without one another.
Sue found it to be very melon when the two come together. The capers in the calamari brings out such a nice sweetness in the wine If you were to toss a bit of Beurre Blanc over the top you would be in heaven…
Varietal – Melon De Bourgogne ( Sue guessed Sauv Blanc, but I knew it wasn’t that because I set up the wines and I was really sure it was this wine).
Country – France (We guessed that)
Region – Loire Valley (We guessed that)
Vintage – 2016
Maker – Domaine De La Fruitier
We need to do a tasting to compare this grape with Sauv blanc form the Loire.
What happened to wine #4 you may wonder? I had open a bottle of Braquetto d’Aqui (read more about it in this blog post paired with Sue’s grandma’s cookies and the RECIPE!). When my son poured it, he had already numbered the bottle (smart kid) and he then he said “Weren’t these all supposed to be white wines?” While this was a big mistake which threw us off quite a bit at the end when we tried to match up the wines with our notes, it was an honest mistake and I should have taken that bottle out of the fridge for him so we wouldn’t have this mix-up.
Blind Wine #5 Visit Slovenia!
Crnko Jarenincan Staverska
11.5% alcohol SRP $17
purchased at Wine House LA
Color: Super pale lemon, platinum gold
Nose: Floral, tuber rose, white flower, honey, honeysuckle, bee pollen
Palate: Florals and fruit up front, lemon drop finish, as well as saline, viscous oily mouthfeel, alcohol seems kind of high, tangerine oil on the finish,
Pairing: this wine comes from being ho- hum, to being a contender with oysters. Sue liked it with the herbal brie. It went well with the fennel sausage. It was also great with the tomato basil goat cheese. Fabulous with the nastirshum pesto bringing out a lovely sweet creaminess to the wine. It loves the caper lemon sauce. The two together really brings the wine alive. The pesto brings out the sweet and fruit in the wine.
Varietal – We thought this was a Viognier. There is an interesting mouthfeel, but it’s a blend fo three grapes. When I selected it for this challenge, I thought that Jarenincan was a grape of Slovenia! Turns out it’s a blend of three grapes including
Country – Slovenia (We couldn’t decide)
Region – (We didn’t know)
Vintage – 2017
Maker – Crnko
Read more here.
Blind Wine #6 Visit OREGON in the US!
Camron Hughes – Lot 631 – Pinot Gris – Willamette Valley
Color: The palest of lemon lime
Nose: sweet, floral, very expressive, florals, herbs, cat pee, sour grass,
Palate: – Taste young and fruity, sweet tart, cotton candy, but not a lot of acidity. Easy drinking, pool side sipper, Tastes commercial. high production, you cannot taste love in this wine. Wine by the glass at a restaurant wine. It is not harsh, there aren’t any flaws. It just does not stand out amongst the others.
Pairing: Memorable pairing with the oyster! According to Sue there was a rich creaminess when the two meet paths. I really liked it with Sue’s focciacia bread. The peppery quality in the wine really likes the pepper cheddar cheese, making this a great match. With our Calamari meal, this wine was just ho hum. It was not bad. It was not bitter, but it did not dance. Sue tasted it with the the herbal brie. This wine wants cream and herbs. It makes the wine wake up. It needs the creaminess to make it pop.
Varietal – Pinot Gris ( We guessed Sauv Blanc)
Country – USA (We guessed USA)
Region – Oregon (We guessed Northern California, Napa Valley)
Vintage – 2017
Maker – Cameron Hughes
Blind Wine #7: Visit California!
2019 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley
Color: Palest of yellow, pale lemon,
Nose: Grass and ocean for Sue, not a lot of fruit. There is a light sulphuric funk on the nose. Sue really loved the nose on this wine when we went back to it. Very bright and refreshing – just what I want a man’s cologne to be like, bright acidic, driftwood on the beach.
Palate: Tart lemon and sulphur, interesting mouthfeel, saline finish, oily viscousness in the front of the palate, tart lemon,
Pairing: Super yummy with the oyster. The wine and the oyster are clean and pure together. The food and the wine elevated each other. Loves creaminess. Great with the creamy herbal brie. Nice with the fennel salami. Lovely with the capers and olive oil in the pesto.
Varietal – Sauvignon Blanc (We didn’t know)
Country – USA – (We guessed Old World)
Region – Napa Valley – (We didn’t know)
Vintage – 2019
Maker – Charles Krug
I’m embarrassed. We should have gotten this wine correct. But we were nearing the end of tasting. And stress.
Blind Wine #8 Visit AUSTRIA!
2018 Loimer Lois – Gruer Veltliner – Kamptal
sample imported/distributed by Winebow; SRP $17
Organic and farmed biodynamically, sustainable, perfect for Earth Day and Earth Month toasts!
Fred Loimer is a founding member of Respekt, a certifying body for biodynamic viticulture in Austria which “seeks to produce the highest quality wines by treating their vineyards as their own ecosystems, where everything in nature is linked. At Loimer, grapevines live amongst many other plants, and specific vine-growing tasks are based on the rhythms and cycles of the earth, sun, moon, stars and planets.”
Color: Platinum, gold, very pale
Nose: super floral, smells sweet on the nose, peach, peach blossom, nectarine, peach,
Palate: tart, super acidic, sweet grass up front, salinity on the finish, easy drinking, light refreshing, poolside sipper, lime, key lime, gun metal finish, steel.
Pairing: OYSTERS!! This wine was also great with the calamari. Fantastic with the salad and the foccia bread. Fennel salami all at the way, peppercorn cheddar. This wine likes pepper spice and licorice, fennel spice.
Varietal – We thought Gruner Veltliner but maybe pinot gris from Italy.
Country – Austria (We thought USA)
Region – Kamptal (We thought Oregon)
Vintage – 2018
Maker – Loimer Lois
These were some really similar and challenging wines, but still, I’m surprised we didn’t do better. White wines are tough! These were also ALL northern hemisphere wines; if we’d had a NZ Sauvignon blanc that would have been obvious and we seem to be able to ID South African wines well. We were also stressed with trying to do this blind by ourselves with the minimal help of the teen plus so many distracting concerns and fears about the state of the COVID-19 world.
But honestly, in terms of judging, they were all GREAT with oysters!
If we do this again, we are going to have to come up with a scoring system. There are competitions for this so we should be able to find out how the professionals do it! Now wouldn’t that be an awesome job for me!
Which white wine would you choose when the world is your oyster?