Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; a Studied Tasting

Clos de La Vieille Eglise, 2008Part of the studies for any wine certification (really, the fun part) is the tastings. The various certification programs have made a science out of the tastings, completely deductive, not unlike playing the game Clue. If the fruit is ripe and the aromas are coconut, vanilla and baking spice, the wine is new world. If the ripe fruit is black like plum or black currant and there is a savory thyme or rosemary aroma, then it is a new world Cabernet Sauvignon. If the ripe fruit is red like raspberry or red currant and there is a mint or eucalyptus aroma then it is a new world Merlot. Old world Cabs have the same black fruit but that fruit is tart rather than ripe. The savory herbs are there along with fennel, pepper or mushroom. Old world Merlots are tart red fruits also with mint or eucalyptus along with olive and maybe some mushroom. Easy, right?

The first wine we tasted had both raspberry and black currant. I’ll need more clues. The fruit was definitely ripe, not tart at all. There were some herb aromas, but also, vanilla. The ripeness of the fruit and the oak told me it must be a new world wine. I was torn on the grape, but because the tannins were more velvety, I went with Merlot. I got the grape right, but unless this was Castillon, California, I missed the region. Clos de La Vielle Eglise, 2008, Castillon Bordeaux 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Note to self; time in the bottle will soften the fruit.

The next wine, also presented red and black fruit, red currants and blackberries. The quality of the fruit was very tart. And there was both an herbal and vegetal quality to the wine. There was a dominant minerality and some wet leaf aroma. This had to be old world, with the tart fruit as well as the mineral and earthy aromas. And because of the herbal aromas and strong tannins, it must be a Cabernet Sauvignon. Once again I got the grape right, but missed the region. Los Vascos, Colchagua, Chile, 2011. Note to self; 2011 was a cool year for Chile, thus the fruit is not as ripe.

Wine number three was dominant black fruit, black plums with some blueberry. The fruit was not just ripe, but jammy. There were floral aromas of rose petal potpourri and the oak use was obvious by the coconut aroma. This had to be a warm climate, new world with the jamminess and and oak. And I should have gone with Cabernet Sauvignon because of the black fruit. But the tannins were so soft and lovely, I thought it had to be a Merlot. Starmont, Napa, 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. Note to self; go by the fruit, not the tannins when deducing the grape.

Our fourth wine had both red and black fruit, raspberries, red cherries, and black cherries. Again the fruit was jammy. This must be new world. There was a mint aroma along with chocolate, vanilla and toast. The mint told me Merlot, the chocolate, vanilla and toast told me oak, another sign of new world. There was, also a minerality to the wine, like iron, a telltale sign of a Washington State wine. Wildhaven, Horse Heaven, Merlot, 2013. When I filled out my sheet, however, I ignored the mint and called it a Cab. I did get the new world right. Note to self; don’t ignore what you are actually tasting.

In the end, I guessed Colonel Mustard with the candlestick but it was actually Miss Scarlet with the candlestick. I guess I’ll have to keep practicing!

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10 comments on “Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; a Studied Tasting

  1. Linda, are you doing the WSET certification? I went through to the Advanced Cert and was thinking about the Diploma, before life went topsy-turvy and I left the wine world for writing. But man, SO MUCH FUN. Blind tasting is the greatest and also such a challenge. You’re giving me a hankering to study again!!

    • foxress says:

      I am sitting for the court of masters in a few weeks. Then in the fall I will go as far as possible with wset returning to SWE for the CWE. My goal is to get as many certs as possible before my daughter graduates from high school. It is addictive. I love nothing better than to read about, write about and study wine. Oh, and I like to drink it. You talk about writing and wine studies as if they are mutually exclusive. You, friend have the talent and the training to be the next Karen MacNeil…just sayin’…

  2. Wow — that’s intense!

    I’m enjoying your book, by the way. Reading slowly, have a lot going on this summer, but I hope to wind my way through it before I send it on to my son and daughter-in-law, who will like it, too, I’m sure!

  3. It’s fun to try and pick varieties, and also fun to drink a wine that breaks from its’ varietal mold.Whether we pick right or wrong, we learn!

  4. Wine tasting is probably more fun than Clue! Good luck on your continued certification.

  5. harriswine says:

    I love reading others’ deduction processes! These are great. Certification is certainly addictive -there is never enough to learn. Cheers, Vanessa

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