Blind tasting at Mundus Vini 2016
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com
21 February 2016 in Neustadt, Germany
We began businesslike. Our chair, German sommelier Jochen Benz, who tastes with the Grand Jury Europeen, spoke not a word during the entire first flight, which proved a bit disconcerting. We began with two “warm up” wines, and thought that we would have discussed these two before going on to the 20 or so Rieslings to taste in this first of three wine flights.
We did not know where the Rieslings came from, but, as it turned out (we only found out after having submitted our notes and scores), they were almost all German. Some boring, others good to excellent and a few rather awful, including a bitter and boring Riesling all the way from… Krasnodar in the Russian Federation.
Taking a break afterwards, we decided that we should talk a bit more about the wines, so as to see how each member felt. Luckily, our group agreed more or less on almost every wine we tasted – including in the next two flights of 20+ Pinot Noirs and 18, mostly Syrah-based, wines (the third and final flight for today).
Occasionally one of us liked a single wine more (or less) than the average, but our scores tended to jive, which is not always the case when one is in a tasting group. Lively disagreement is fun, but I prefer groups that are in sync.
We were six tasters with Jochen, including two from Switzerland, another taster from Germany and Michel Blanc, director of the federation of producers in Chateauneuf du Pape. I am hoping to write an article this year about Chateauneuf du Pape, as it celebrates its 80th anniversary as an appellation (1936), and I will visit in April.
Today was the first of four days of tasting some 5,000 wines, of which some will obtain “grand gold” (95 points or more), gold (90-94 points) or silver (85-89 points) medals. Our six-person group will not taste all of the wines, thank goodness, but we are part of over 150 tasters who traveled to Neustadt, Germany from the four corners of the world – from the U.S. and Australia, from Singapore and Spain among other countries – to determine which wines merit medals. These will be revealed officially at the 13-15 March 2016 international wine fair ProWein, held every March in Düsseldorf.
The occasion? Mundus Vini: an international wine award that began back in 2001. Even at its debut, it registered 2,235 entries from all the major wine-growing regions in the world. It is one of the most well organized tasting events I have attended, with superb service for the judges, clean glassware, and clearly conceived tasting sheets and tasting guidelines.
Some of the wines we tasted were very surprising. The Pinot Noir flight, for example, included wines from Switzerland, British Columbia, the South Tirol in Italy and of course Burgundy. Although none from our flight obtained a “grand gold,” three gold medal winners included a wine from South Tyrol, the German Aargau region, and a California wine from the Central Coast. The three Burgundy wines were not of the highest calibre, alas: a boring Burgundy AOC, a solid village level Nuits-Saint-Georges AOC and a somewhat bitter and short Santenay AOC.
The third flight was perhaps the whackiest: 18 reds, many Syrah-based, but others that had typical Portuguese grapes sometimes blended with Syrah. In fact, all of the wines were made in Portugal, including well made but boring Lisbon appellation wines with between … 12 to 45 grams of residual sugar (VR Lisboa) with Tinta Roriz, Tourgia Nacional, Castelao, Tourgia Franca and Syrah grapes. However, two touched gold (I only gave one of the two a “90”): a Lisbon appellation wine blending Shiraz and Touriga Nacional, with between 4 and 12 grams of residual sugar, and another Lisbon appellation with less than 4 grams of residual sugar blending Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz.
The best part of Mundus Vini?
Meeting so many people from all over the world and tasting with them… What “reassures” is that fact that a group can agree on so many different wines. Sitting next to me was Mr. Beat Zingg, who works in Switzerland, and I have never met before today. When he submitted his tasting sheets to the chair, and I noticed that our scores would match quite often. Interesting… One could argue that wine tasting is an objective endeavor, to be carried out respecting specific parameters and styles, according to grape(s), barrel age (or not) and amounts of residual sugar. So we were tasting not so much for whether we liked the wines on a personal level, but whether they were well made and matched a certain typicity. Subjective taste matters above all to me, but here we tried to assess wines objectively.