Blackberry Farm

Friends of the Farm

Wine Tastings

Wine tastings can be as simple or complex as you want to make them. All you really need is wine, a corkscrew and some glasses. The one aspect that is the hardest to prepare is the theme. Having a unifying thread that will tie all the wines together. There are a couple of common themes that can be found in our daily encounters with wine. At the local wine stores, a single producer or brand will show off all the wines that are under their umbrella. This is called a Horizontal Tasting and can be a lot of fun to explore. Another common tasting is called the Vertical, which is a when a single wine from a single producer is picked and multiple vintages of that same wine are tasted side by side.

A great theme to try is the United States vs. France. Many of the Varieties that we know and love come from France. This tasting allows the guest to try a wine from France against their California counterparts. I love to see the difference between a California Cabernet Sauvignon and French Bordeaux. Or take a Russian River Pinot Noir and try it against a Red Burgundy from France. Then take a Napa Valley Chardonnay against White Burgundy. There are many other regions to try. The most obvious difference will be the relationship between fruit and earth. The American wines will smell have more obvious aromas of ripe fruit. While the French wines will express a balance of earth and fruit smells.

If you would like to recreate the famous Judgment of 1976 tasting, where American wines were picked over the French. Pour the wines for your guests so that they cannot see the labels. When the guest cannot see the labels all bias has been removed. This can be a really fun party game with points assigned for the right answer. You can let your guest know what the wines are before the tasting begins or keep the bottles on the table. Depending on what you feel will be best for the tasting.

Decide on your glassware and the placement of the glassware. Whether you will be using just one glass for the whole tasting or tasting the wines in pairs with the French and California counterparts side by side. Then an hour before the guests are due to arrive open and taste all the wines that will be part of the tasting, checking for any flaws and giving the wines a chance to breath. Some wines might need to be decanted. If there is an ability to have all the wines poured into glasses ahead of the guest arrival then decanting will not be necessary. The time that the wine spends in the glass will be enough for the wine to open. In a less formal setting where all the glasses will not be set up in advance, be prepared for your guests to want a new glass or rinse their glasses with water when switching from white to red is made.

Exploring wine does not have to be a complicated venture. This is a great tasting to share with some friends who are also curious about wine or friends that are just starting out in wine. The pearl of this tasting is getting to explore the wine side by side. There are certain fundamentals of wine education that will be revealed with every sip. I always enjoy getting to a wine tastings in our cellar for our guests. I always find that they best wine tasting will answer many of the questions that I have but also leave me with a few new questions. Therein lies part of the drive that keeps me moving forward with wine.

Jason Drotar, Sommelier