You pour a wine you adore for friends. It hits all your buttons and makes your eyes light up. One friend takes a sip, winces, and utters, "Yuck." How does this happen? Chances are a characteristic jumps out at your friend, who hates it but it doesn't bother you. This simple phenomenon explains so much rancor surrounding wine.
Usually I try not to inflict wine-geek stuff on unsuspecting guests, but I knew that our friends coming for dinner Sunday loved full-bodied red wines and had some great ones in their own cellars. So to drink with dinner I pulled out a couple of New World Syrahs that I think of as candidates for modern standard-bearers. I did not feel at all guilty, especially when I learned that none of them had ever tasted either wine.
I chose Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz Pyrenees Malakoff 2007 from Australia and Owen Roe Syrah Yakima Valley Lady Rosa 2006 from Washington for several reasons. First of all, the wineries have gotten plenty of ink and they have been making these wines only recently—since 2004. They are distinctive, and I have consistently rated them both in the low to mid-90s. Australia, long known for its Shiraz (its name for Syrah), is finally beginning to get some love around the world for its cooler-climate styles, of which this one is a fine example. As for the Washington wine, it eloquently makes the case that Syrah belongs right up there with Cabernet and other Bordeaux varieties as the state's calling card.
Recently, several prominent wine writers argued on Twitter in a contentious back-and-forth with me and others that blind tasting was bad. It's tasting without context, they said. I am not setting up a straw man here. Here are some of their actual tweets:
"Why should wine routinely be tasted blind, devoid of context or perspective? Why deprive those who would judge it of that information?" contended Bruce Schoenfeld, who writes a wine column for Travel + Leisure magazine.
"I question whether blind tasting … can uncover the most compelling and virtuous wines," read another comment from Jon Bonné, wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.
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