When tasting wines with my wine group, I am confident of my facts. What are the qualities of Chenin Blanc, someone asks. ‘ High acidity, high yielding, climate adaptable. Its famous regions are Loire, South Africa, California and Argentina,’ I can recite without taking a breath. Oh, yes, I have mastered my 719 index cards. But when it comes to tasting, I am still learning the language.
In the Jean-Claude Bougrier Vouvray V that retails for $13, I taste pear, lemon, grapefruit and wet stone. I congratulate myself for picking up on four aromas in a chilled white. Then someone says, ‘beeswax!’ What? ‘White flower,’ someone else calls out. ‘White flower?! Which one?’ I go in for another sip. I’m just getting warmed up. Then we’re on to the Reserve that retails for around $16…’pear…grapefruit, wait, those are the same aromas, I mean words I used for the last wine. Make it pink grapefruit and something tropical. How about guava? Yes, and wet stones. It must be from France.
The Chateau Mossé Magic of JuJu at $21 is just like biting into a tart, juicy apple with a hint of almond. I like its simple, direct crispness.
$10 Spier from the Western Cape of South Africa offers up…can I say pear, yet again? Oh, yes, and…guava, wait, here’s something new…white peach. Yes, white, decidedly not a yellow peach, not at all, but the sweet, subtle fragrance of a white peach.
By the time we get to the $19 Protea, my lexicon is gaining some momentum. I’ll see your white peach and raise you some lime, make that lime zest and a flower…lets say honeysuckle. And there’s some creaminess to it. I don’t know how to describe it. I’ve heard the word ‘lanolin’ bantered around, but I don’t know what that smells like or feels like, so I’ll just say a creamy finish.
The $12 Dancing Coyote out of Clarksburg, California hit us all immediately with a strong earthy aroma, then came the wet stones and some citrus. Good, we were all smelling the same thing…and thyme I offer. No one concurs. Well, silence is acceptance. I’ll jot that down. Then out of the group come the words, ‘gun smoke.’ What?! I’m just getting the hang of the fruits, flowers, herbs and earth. Gun smoke? Like the musket fire in Market Square? Well, that one is getting stored away for a future tasting.
The $6 Sea Ridge is bitter/sweet…grapefruit skin and candied pineapple and honeysuckle with a mild oak influence. I know I’m repeating my words, but these are all Chenin Blancs after all. There must be some commonality, yet, each so different, like fingerprints all with whorls, loops and arches, but each in a different combination. The aroma prints are what make wine so endlessly fascinating.