WOSA Semi-Finals Recap: Blind Tasting
Upon arrival at Corkbuzz, we were seated at tables in the front, each of which had 4 glasses ready and waiting. We’d be given 20 minutes to assess 4 unlabeled wines: 2 whites, 2 reds. We were given papers for each wine to fill out, and the task was to evaluate the wine visually, on the nose, and on the palate, then say what grape(s) we thought went into each wine, the area of production (the more specific you got, the more potential points awarded), and then the vintage of the wine. Simple enough, right?
The wines were poured, and the clock was ticking! I picked up Wine #1, saw its brilliant and vibrant golden hue, and took a sniff after swirling. It was my lucky day, I thought to myself, because I recognized this wine immediately: Ken Forrester’s FMC, a Chenin blanc that is a true icon in the world of South African wine (and, frankly, a world-class bottling any way you slice it). Opulent aromas of dried apricot, honey, anise, and wax jumped out of the glass, and on the palate, a kiss of orange peel and walnut rounded everything out. A delicious and auspicious beginning, I thought. How wonderful to be tested on one of the best wines in Dreadnought’s portfolio!
The next wine was more pale in color than wine #1, but I again felt confident that I knew what was in the glass: a Chardonnay this time, and my hunch was that it was from somewhere in the Cape South Coast. I hesitated on the next part: was this from Elgin, or was it instead from one of the Hemel-en-Aarde Wards? After some hemming and hawing (well, as much as you can in under 5 minutes), I decided on the latter, then went to the first red.
Wine #3 was a delightfully pale ruby color, and heaps of red fruits came through on the nose, but there was a slight bit of earthiness framing it. Was this Pinot noir? Cinsault? Unfortunately, I did what we all are prone to doing sometimes: I looked for something that wasn’t there, and I called Elgin Pinot noir.
The final wine was a rich ruby color, and the scents were unmistakably Stellenbosch Cabernet sauvignon: black fruits like cassis and blackberry, a whiff of cedar, and a sharp green note that recalled bell pepper. Don’t overthink this one, Adam. Go with your gut.
Although I had 5 minutes remaining, I knew that I’d be better off handing in my paper than overthinking and talking myself out of the choices I’d made. The ensuing 5 minutes seemed like an eternity, and we were then dismissed to discuss the wines outside while our late-arriving contestant now began his theory examination.
Responses among the group were mixed, but most people settled on Chenin and Chardonnay for our white grapes, although a couple put them in reverse order. As for the Chardonnay, one contestant remained adamant that it was from Robertson, an area noted for its limestone soils. His enthusiasm had me doubting my selection, but I offered that the wine didn’t offer as much stone fruit as I’d typically noticed in Robertson, and I volunteered my call of Cape South Coast instead. The reds? Everyone put Pinot for wine #3, but I knew the mistake I’d made – it was Cinsault, I told everyone, and I was sure of it. At this point, the group trusted me enough to think I might have been onto something. The whole group settled on Cabernet for #4, and we had a little laugh of relief about that one.
Once our final competitor wrapped up the written examination, we took a peek at the blind wines: #1 was, indeed, the FMC, and #2 was a Chardonnay from the Cape South Coast – but it was Elgin, in the end. The first red? Cinsault, as suspected, and the final wine was a Stellenbosch Cabernet.
It was time now to announce the results of the contest. The other competitors seemed sure I’d take the title, but I was, as usual, reluctant to believe them. Third place was announced, then second, and I still remained uncalled. Wow, I thought to myself, I really might have done it. And then it happened: my name was called as the winner of the competition, and Jim noted I’d won all three categories that day.
It really happened, and Pittsburgh remains the City of Champions.