No, Not the Wine Tasting Test!

“I don’t know anything,” she said.

“You don’t have to, it’s not a test – what do you like?”

I decided to share my love of wine with people I have never met at a party hosted by a new work colleague. To make it fun, I brought two different wines with only one thing in common: they’re both uncommon. One was from the South-west of France and the other was from a place South of San Francisco, Santa Cruz. Here’s the book on them:

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, Quinta Cruz 2009 Souzão 

A rare Portuguese variety. The aromas and flavors are like nothing you have ever had in a red wine before – Very deep berries, earth, tar, anise, floral elements, and other subtle aromatics. About the grape: Souzão (or Sousão or Vinhão) is Portuguese wine grape that is used in the production of port wine. While originating in the Minho regions, it is used primarily in Australia, California and South Africa. In Portugal, it is also an authorized planting in the Douro, and Dão-Lafões area (Vinho do Dão). The grape is known for the deep color it produces in a wine as well as its coarse and raisiny taste. In Australia Souzao is used to make port style wines and also table wines, often blended with other Portuguese grape varieties. In Australia Souzão is used to make port style wines and also table wines, often blended with other Portuguese grape varieties.

Domaine Le Roc, 2010 La Folle Noire d’Ambat

About the Grape: Negrette is a black-skinned variety predominantly found in Fronton, south-western France. It is a descendant of Mavro, an ancient variety from Cyprus, and legend has it that the Knights Templar carried the vines back from there to Gaillac. Over time, the variety spread to nearby Fronton, which today is its undeniable home. Negrette is used in the production of both reds and rosés. Its rosé wines are very fruity, with a distinctive violet flavor and a spicy finish. They tend to be fuller-bodied than south-eastern French rosés. Negrette reds are soft, silky and perfumed, with the same distinctive violet aroma as the rosés, along with certain animal and undergrowth flavors

Here’s the skinny from all the wonderful people willing to taste and talk with me about wine. Now the fun begins as the 9 brave tasters took on one incredibly young and tight red from France (I should have opened it up the day before) and a California red featuring a Portuguese grape. The results: good conversation and 6 would buy the California red but only 3 would buy the French red. Here are “Wordles” of what was shared under “impressions.”

First up, Negrette


Next up, Souzão



The results were not surprising when pitting a fruity juicy California red against an unusual variety from the Southwest of France – most American like the wines that reflect our domestic fruit. What was most striking to me was not these words but the number of times that people said essentially that they “know nothing about wine” and the number of times I had to remind people that this is not a test and if it were one, they could not fail it because all they had to know is what they like. That sense of wine tasting as “Jeopardy” on wine facts needs to change, and I will do my part in this new wine tasting revolution for wine tasting that is JOYFUL!

(reprinted post from 2012)

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