Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 2012: 5 Chardonnays


A Blind Tasting - March 2012

For these Chardonnays I’ll be looking for two things: a ‘dolomite/mineral’ terroir and ‘value‘. *Only one of the five was tasted previously, at a local Bistro - I’ll see if it can be singled out. And will the price spread be sufficient to distinguish ‘value’ between wines - how will they relate?

I found a blind tasting of several similar wines using the ‘masked’ bottle approach to be a difficult task. Frankly I need more time with each wine than normally available during a 'social' blind tasting - repetitive visits to be able to differentiate and to evaluate. That’s not including the changes that can occur during a tasting.

Whether a ‘blind’ evaluation will be the same as enjoying a wine served on a specific occasion is unlikely. That’s a comparison still to be attempted. There’s enough information conveyed by a label alone that can lead to nuances of merit, building anticipation to pair and compare. For a ‘blind tasting’ bottles are to be hidden from even a cursory glance - ie. not left on the tasting table even when masked.

The format to be used:

  1. Use as many glasses as wines - and 'thin lipped glasses' not 'plastic - thick or thin'
  2. Pour the same amount of wine for each taster before the tasting starts - temperature makes a difference
  3. Do the pouring while the tasters mingle in a  different room, for two reasons:
  • The pourer can be distracted
  • Tasters can be distracted (Oh! I saw the corks on the counter…)
Now that glasses are poured the tasting can start:

Elements tasted can be in any order that works for the taster. To be consistent some system is recommended even the one that came with the Blind Tasting Kit. To a sole taster his system usually results in a 'top to bottom' ranking - perfectly adequate when comparing with other guests at this level.

For me, I use Wine Advocate's 100 point Rating System (WARS) with 5 components: a Base of 50, Colour of 5, Nose of 15, Flavour & Finish of 20 and the remaining 10 for cellaring Potential which I split into Cellaribility (5) and Typicity (5). 

I look at Colour and Nose together across all wines. Once satisfied that these two elements have been described for each wine I take a look at viscosity by doing the traditional swirl - I may backtrack to the nose at this point to see if any of the previous results have changed. Swirling has also told me some of what to expect of the first sip directing me to concentrate on texture, depth and body before Flavour & Finish register completely. Flavour & Finish are treated together as an element if the element itself isn’t complete - for instance, if the 'element' is Clover Honey, isn’t there an implied smoothness, a body or depth, and recognizable base flavour? ... and No, I don't do the 'sloshing in the mouth' trick. Just the manner in which I was brought up - not to make rude noises at the table. If 'aeration ' is needed I look for an aerator.

Lastly, and the least tangible, is Typicity, ie. does each wine carry elements true to a blend or grape or is there an unexpected element present? First a guess at the grape type or blend is visualized. This mental exercise often hooks into less obvious traits of the wine itself adding some complexity, or part of the vineyard practises or winemaker’s craft. Or it may be part of a chemist’s antidote for some oversight along the winemaking process. I use only 5 points for Typicity so I can’t go too far off the path. 

I admit it's methodical but this is a mental exercise of mapping tasting elements into numbers and there's not much of the structure evident that would turn a Tasting into a rigorous number crunch. Put down your key descriptors, adjust as needed within the System, add them up and a rating falls out. 

‘Value’ comes easily. Prices are ’announced’ after everyone has their say and Value follows, if needed, as a quick plot using a set of curves introduced previously in this Blog.

And now for the tastings:

.... the 5 Chardonnays are also summarized in the blog entry, March 2012 Wines.

PS. Beppi's article published March 20th in the G&M  makes a good read on the subject of  "Why wine reviews are irrelevant for most drinkers" as well as another article from last year on "Why can't wine critics choke down their biases?". 


  • Anoro Chardonnay 2009, 90-1  --  V, Mendoza, Argentina, #183855  $22.40 
  • *Cave Spring ‘Dolomite’ Chardonnay 2010 VQA Niagara Escarpment, 89-1  --  O, Jordan, Ontario, #Winery  $17.95
  • Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2009,  87  --  V, Willamette Valley, Oregon, #273334  $34.95
  • Bachelder Bourgogne Chardonnay 2009, 86  --  V, Burgundy, France, #272005  $34.95
  • Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  82 --  V, Fenwick, Ontario, #271841  $34.95
(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value)


CAVE SPRING ‘DOLOMITE’ CHARDONNAY 2010 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Jordan, Ontario, 11.5% D, #Winery  $17.95  (Tasted March 18, 2012)

My notes:  Dining at the Solara Bistro in Clarkson we ordered this for our entrée white and enjoyed the pairing. Not on Cave Spring’s website nor the LCBO’s but can be ordered from the winery. A light straw colour and a nicely scented floral nose fronts a lacy rim that recedes slowly leaving scant trace on the glass. A bright sharpness, extra dry on the tongue with meagre butter altho’ adding some roundness to flavours of pithy lemon. An OK sipper looking for hors d’oeuvres. The finish rides a dry chalk seam right to the end. A tart and dry white needing an accompaniment of Asian foods or salmon steak to be complete. *The Solara wine picked  for its touch of floral while ability to complement a variety of appetizers.  89

BACHELDER NIAGARA CHARDONNAY 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Fenwick, Ontario, 13.0% XD, #271841  $34.95  (Tasted March 18, 2012)

My notes: One of three chardonnays produced by Thomas Bachelder illustrating 3 terroirs, this one not that specific including multiple Niagara Peninsula benches.  A clear lemon juice hue with cool lemon edge to a citrus nose and possible the ‘Niagara touch’ of blossom. The film sticks then slowly recedes as an even edge of tears and lace slips downward. The first sip is extra dry, sharply acidic with lemon most prominent given the mild flavour and finishing very dry, almost chalky.  Like biting on a lemon wedge and, I’d say, not a lone sipper. Have with buttered crustaceans pieces or with oysters on half shell. Rated as a meal white.  82
BACHELDER BOURGOGNE CHARDONNAY 2009, Burgundy, France, 13.0% XD, #272005  $34.95 (Tasted March 18, 2012)

My notes: One of three chardonnays produced by Thomas Bachelder illustrating 3 terroirs, this one from Burgundy. A light butterscotch touch to the muted citrus nose has some interest as a sipper. A firm lacy film leaves long tears on a fragmented and bubble layered glass. The first sip leaves an extra dry layer with some warmth, a grassy pear apple flavour then a tang that quickly builds ending noticeable silky. Nose and flavour fall just short as a sipper… a flexible white to pair with subdued sauces and seafood dippers.  86

BACHELDER OREGON CHARDONNAY 2009, Willamette Valley, 13.0% XD, #273334  $34.95 (Tasted March 18, 2012)

My notes: One of three chardonnays produced by Thomas Bachelder illustrating 3 terroirs, this one from Oregon. Initially withheld from release due to a high level of natural sediment.  A light straw colour with a noticeable lemon, grapefruit, clean caramel scent including a slight sting.  A swirl sticks firmly accumulating many tears left to drop very slowly. The first sip stings while chalk dries the palate and a curious grassy flavour takes prominence over a long finish ending without a suggestion of sweetness.  A sipper if you don’t mind extra dry, meagre fruit and toward a clay finish. Try with creamy sauces and a variety of seafood.  87  

ANORO CHARDONNAY 2009, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.2% XD, #183855  $22.40  (Tasted March 18, 2012)

A Vintages release on November 27, 2010 rated 92 by Jay Miller (August 2009).  My notes: A tad darker mid straw than the others with a spicy almond leaning toward a cool butter aroma and a film that sticks then drops a few slow tears before receding as fragments. Smooth, sharply acidic and dry followed by muted pear and lemon flavours combined in a long, warm, tangy and toasty finish. An unusual sipper with a nicely balanced profile - but not for me.  I’d recommend this as a white to pair with roast chicken to grilled Kingfish … or if Japanese fare is going have with sushi or a Bento Box of Tempura shrimp and vegetable pieces. Would cellar well short term.  90

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