Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Que Syrah, Syrah...Failed

Hello All,

This bank holiday, our customary wine-off didn't materialise, so we decided to set up something a bit special at home. We geared ourselves up for an awesome blind taste-off of two wines from one of our favourite regions and grapes; Hawkes Bay Syrah. Bottle covers, Riedel glasses and numbered place mats at the ready, D poured out mine blind and I returned the favour...

Two superb wines from the 2008 vintage, Craggy Range's Gimblett Gravels Syrah and Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an awesome fail...

The first wine didn't show well. The nose was every so slightly hot on a big sniff, hinting at oxidation. Despite the underlying redcurrant and berries with a white-pepper, it was slightly vinegary. Intense dark purple at the core it faded to a violet rim but no hint of oxidised brick red or tan. Was it faulty? It became riper and fuller after a while but still, the feeling that it wasn't right nagged.

The second wine was clean. Slightly lighter core with a delicious smell of blackberry crumble, red fruit and pepper. Smooth silky tannin and some oak hints but the flavour really wasn't doing much for us. We both preferred wine 2, coincidentally having poured Trinity Hill into each other's second glass. I incorrectly identified wine 1 as Trinity Hill as I knew that had a cork (vs. the screwtop on the Craggy), purely due to there being a greater probability of spoilage, and couldn't recognise the usual lushness associated with Craggy.

We were dumbfounded. A previous 9-pointer, the Craggy was certainly not showing well. We enjoyed the Trinity Hill but something was still amiss. Neither gave us the intense experience we normally associate with these wines. So what was it? I think I know...

Mood, disposition, call it what you will, but we were both absolutely knackered. We'd had a long weekend, just driven back from North Wales for 3 hours, overdosed on junk food, our mouths tasted like toilet brushes and we both hadn't felt well the previous night. We were nearly falling asleep on our noses watching the DVD with the wines in hand. Our senses were dulled. I've previously read about the Biodynamic debate, fruit days and leaf days and whether it is simply mood or circumstance only, but never really paid it any mind. Our wines normally taste great no matter what day it is and we'd never experienced any mood/tiredness related incidents, apart from the obvious cold/flu affecting your smell, and hence taste. Until now...£36 worse off...

So let this be a warning; Mood/tiredness/feeling under the weather can seriously affect your perception of a wine and ruin, what we envisaged to be, a momentous occasion.

Oh and to top it all off, our errant dog smashed the Riedel glasses. B@$£^&d.

I have to repeat it, purely because we were so looking forward to the wines. This time, I'll make sure we're in peak (drinking) condition!

Taking faulty bottles back...

The Craggy was certainly faulty in the end. By the following morning it had developed an oily, shiny film in the bottle and smelled horrendous. Being from the now defunct Oddbins, I could not take it back for a refund. I have absolutely no qualms about taking back a faulty bottle, but some people look down on that. Why? If you bought a steak and it went mouldy before the use-by date, would you not take it back? Fair enough, if you kept it out in the sun then it's your own fault, but if you kept it in the fridge, you should at least expect it to meet the date, and hopefully surpass it.

This leads on to the question of storage. "Ah but not keeping your wine in a cellar is like keeping your steak in the sun". Fair point. But, not many people I know have a cellar, and certainly can't afford to have one built into their homes. Storing bottles on their side (for cork closures anyway) and in a cool, dark part of the house (under the stairs, or in a cool cupboard) should suffice for a good few months of storage, at the very least. How long have the merchants/supermarkets/distributors been keeping them upright in boxes in their storerooms/warehouses, how hot did they get in the van/on the boat etc. Yes it could be my storage, but the vendors need to pull their bloody fingers out too!

My next investment is going to be a wine cooler cabinet for long-term storage so that I can minimise the number of off bottles that may be down to me. That way, I will have even less qualms about returning faulty bottles. I believe the majority are faulty on purchase, and that way, I can prove it!

Anyway, here's to a more positive tasting next time...


Speak to you soon,


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