In the days following my opening post, I’ve pondered my modus-operandi going forward. Should I taste wines in undisturbed, unencumbered solitude, or should I gather friends to join me on this journey? The scales tipped in favor of the friends. I decided it might be presumptuous to rely on my sensory abilities alone. It would be nice to have a few more sets of such apparatus to validate or negate my own perceptions and make it that much more valuable for readers.
Thus was born the Indie Wine Club. The triple pun on the word “Indie” was intentional, alluding to a group of Independent Indophiles from Indiana. The tongue twister of a moniker would make it memorable.
After quickly designing a logo for the club, I was on a roll. Topping my action list was co-opting membership to the club. Who would be invited? As I went down my list of friends and acquaintances, combing for prospective Wine Club members, it was clear I would have to use some selection criteria. While not intentionally seeking exclusivity, certain qualities, I decided, would be absolutely essential. It had to be folks with a penchant for “La Dolce Vita”. Other “must have” attributes would be an enjoyment of the fine, the subtle, the elegant, the eclectic, the simple and yes, even the unpretentious. For I had decided my wine philosophy was going to be “simple elegance”. I also needed a group with a strong track record of taking commitments seriously. Coming to every tasting and bringing selected bottles of wine meant a certain dedication, albeit modest, of time and money. A list of ten friends who fit the bill emerged and out went the invitations. My hope was a 60% acceptance rate – which would give me an optimal group size for meaningful meetings that do not descend into gabfests. It turned out I had vastly underestimated interest in the subject. Not only did all ten accept, word went around that I was leading such an effort and requests to join the group started pouring in. I had to create a waiting list, in the interest of ensuring a great learning experience for the group.
The next step was to find my wine guru. I was self-taught, unless attending a brief immersion program on Bordeaux wines at the Center for Professional Wine Studies at the CIA counts as training. The expansive nature of knowledge on the subject was intimidating. After studying a few books, I found my “Wine Guru” in Andrea Robinson. Her simple presentation of the subject and focus on the core of wine enjoyment struck a chord. From then on, I decided my club tastings would be guided by Andreas books.
After an inaugural tasting of the Big Six grape varietals where the Pinot Noir & Sauvignon Blanc emerged as the favorite red and white respectively, we quickly found ourselves gravitating towards spice. I guess it was to be expected in a group dominated by an ethnicity that traditionally favored spice. (On a side note, the newly affluent yuppie populace in the Indian subcontinent is truly a vast opportunity for the wine industry).
Shiraz from the famed Barossa Valley in Australia was the choice for our next tasting. We would choose a couple from different price points and give our verdict on them. Per a tradition established from our first meeting, this one began with a short presentation about the wine, its region, history and some wine trivia. The tasting group sat open mouthed as I waxed eloquent on how Shiraz and Syrah were really the same thing, that some of the grapevines in the Barossa region were more than a century old, that the signature flavor of Shiraz is black pepper, that spice can be savory as well as sweet and that it is almost impossible to find an unoaked Shiraz. In the Trivia category was a piece on glasses as messengers of wine.……………….so much to learn…………..so little time…………
Our two choices for that evenings tasting were Jacobs Creek Reserve 2007 Shiraz ($ 10) and Rolf Binder Hales 2008 Shiraz ($ 20). Both are classically heavy bodied and crimson to ruby red hued libations. And that is where their similarity ends. The Jacobs Creek Shiraz is distinctively youthful yet powerful, with black pepper, berry & plum tones. Together with an audacious hint of tart, it makes for a delicious wine. The Rolf Binder on the other hand is smooth, mellow, and fruity with gentle sweet spices & an exquisite balance. Its off-dry nature was appealing to some. Others found the mildly sweet overtones a little cloying and incompatible with the nibbles we had out that evening. What was remarkable about the Rolf Binder Shiraz was that it opened up in the glass through the evening. Its character grew deeper and the finish smoother as it seemed to bloom and show off its full potential given a little time and oxygen. The jury was split evenly on which one was the favorite. The consensus seemed to be that both were eminently drinkable wines with the choice between the two resting on the type of food being served. My personal choice – The Jacobs Creek with a robust meal and the Rolf Binder Hales as an aperitif.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the next tasting of the Indie Wine Club – this time it will be the famed California Zinfandels.