Travels, Wine

Nothing Says “Birthday” Like “Wine Tasting”

I was at home over the Easter weekend and this year it happened to coincide with my brother Nick’s birthday. For the past few years he’s requested a wine tasting from my parents as part of his celebrations and, wonderful parents that they are, they’ve obliged.

All poured and ready to go…

This year’s tasting was based on six Cabernet Sauvignons from six different countries and spread over 23 years. I’m learning that my palate gets fatigued pretty quickly with highly tannic wines (of which Cab Sauv is one) so I wasn’t surprised that I found this tasting a bit challenging.

Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t also delicious.

Not pictured: a bottle of 2012 Ringbolt that my generous brother contributed to his own birthday wine tasting. What a guy!

Since the tasting happened the first weekend after my monstrous test of wine knowledge I was keen to keep my tasting skills fresh and prove to myself that I still know some things about wine things now that I’m on the other side of the exam of doom. I ended up scribbling lots of notes (comparatively to the other tasters) in my little tasting boxes. My mom kept looking over at my sheet with this surprised/impressed/amused look on her face.

My notes clearly didn’t help me correctly identify the wines – I only got one out of six. I was interested and amused to see that my mind and palate seemed to notice the difference between more traditional and less traditional though. I mixed up the two wines that came from places more known for breaking the winemaking mold (California and Australia) and then did the same thing for the wines that come from places more known for traditional winemaking methods (France, Spain, South Africa). I have no idea what that means but I’m going to call it a win regardless.

After tasting and talking and note taking it was time to finish things up. My step dad, the creator of my family’s particular way of doing structured wine tastings, doesn’t require any information from the tasters with one exception – he always insists that we rank the wines so we can see which wines were more or less liked. Of all the things I love capturing about wine this is the worst. I would be completely happy to omit this part entirely from the sheets. Maybe I’ll save that for when I start doing my own tastings.

My view of the tasting

Many of the tasters had similar preferences. The French wine came out on top, followed by a tie between the Spanish and South African wines. I guess we were a bunch of traditionalists! Personally I liked the ripe juiciness of the California wine, and enjoyed getting a bit of brettanomyces on the nose of the Australian one (meat, savoury, blood – sounds gross, I know, but yum!).

We also may have had some snacks to fortify our tasting

The one wine we all agreed was not only our least favourite, but just downright not good, was the poor Chateau des Charmes. Being from 1997 I was (and still am) convinced that it was probably delicious at some point but had been opened far past it’s prime. No one else seemed to be convinced of this theory though. I guess I’ll just have to taste more older Ontario wine to test that hypothesis a bit more.

All in all it was another successful birthday wine tasting. I am, as ever, grateful to both my brother for requesting one and to my parents for making it happen.


Have you ever done a structured tasting? How did it go?


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