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Call my Bluff Tasting Competition

By Tom Cannavan, 03/00

A light-hearted blind-tasting competition organised by the University of Strathclyde, this followed the format of TV's "Call My Bluff" panel game. Eight glasses of mystery wine were poured. For each one, three "expert" panelists read out a detailed description - name, country of origin, vintage, price and tasting notes. One description was the correct one for the wine in the glass, the others were totally false and full of red herrings. We contestants had to taste and then pick which description matched the wine in the glass. This was a fun event that was a chance to relax and not take my tasting too seriously, and it was also more difficult than might be imagined! As you listen to the different speakers it is quite easy to be swayed by the odd word or bit of wicked mis-information artfully slipped in!

Did I win? sadly not, I scored a respectable 5 out of 8, but the well deserving joint-winners managed 6 which was a considerable feat. In truth there was only one of my three wrong calls that I could grumble about, having managed to talk myself out of the correct choice by some dodgy deduction! For the other two I just didn't have a clue.

The 3 choices offered by the panelists for each round are shown; the true one is highlighted in colour. My notes are as written during the tasting, including my guess at the wine.

Sainsbury’s Cava, Spain £3.99
Huguenot Hills Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa £6.10 (Somerfield)
Cray Crémant de Loire, 1992, France £6.99
Pale/medium greenish gold. Nose is fresh and zesty. On the palate this is all grapefruit acidity with just traces of lemon and lime fruit, but it is tart, short and rather undistinguished. The mousse is weak. No idea what it is, but it's not good. It quite obviously doesn't have the age to be the Cray, it doesn't taste like Sauvignon Blanc, so guess: Cava.
A sparkling Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa is a novelty for me - and I can understand why on this evidence!

Turckheim Co-op Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France 1998 £4.99 (Oddbins)
Norton Torrontés, Mendoza, Argentina 1998 £4.49
Oenoforos Asprolithi, (Roditis) Greece 1998 £4.99
Very pale, tinged green. Nose has some pear, honeysuckle and apple, just a little rich, toffee note too. The palate is medium- bodied and a little insipid though there is decent citrus fruit and tangy acidity. Doesn't have the aromatics for the Torrontés, not odd enough for the Greek. Confident guess: Alsace pinot.

Banfi Pinot Grigio, Italy, 1998 £6.99
Rothbury Estate Verdelho, Hunter Valley 1998 £6.99
Norton Torrontés, Mendoza, Argentina 1999 £4.49 (Oddbins)
Pale green colour. Intensely perfumed, floral nose with hints of violet and lime fruit. This is the Torrontes. Palate is quite light and sharp with zipping acidity. Guess: Torrontés.
Such a distinctive grape variety: once sniffed, rarely forgotten.

Jaboulet Côtes du Ventoux 1997 Rhône France £4.99
Chivite Gran Feudo 1996 Spain £5.49 (Oddbins)
Masi Valpolicella 1997 Italy £5.49
Ruby red, just paling rim. Quite a deep, plummy fruit nose with warm autumnal berries and some pepper, a little creamy oak? Palate is fruity and velvet-smooth with low acidity and a slightly bubblegummy character. Soft stylish and easy-drinking. Not the Italian, I think this must be the Jaboulet from the very ripe 1997 vintage. Guess: Jaboulet.
Oops. Dreadful error here. No excuses.

Luis Felipe Edwards Carmenère, Conchagua, Chile 1998 £5.49 (Oddbins)
Vieux Château Champs de Mars, Côtes de Castillon, France 1997 £8.99
Monastrell Merlot, Yecla, Spain 1998 £4.99
Deep vibrant crimson colour. Nose of cherries, spice and cream. Quite clean and bright fruit, with a little chocolaty depth - a very Chilean profile. Palate is savoury and fruity with earthy berry flavours and again dark chocolate. Good acidity, a little tannin and some sweet vanillin oak in the finish. I've tasted a few Carmenères recently and I'm pretty certain this is another. Guess: Carmenère.

Errázuriz-Seña, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Carmenère, Chile 1998
Cape View, Cinsault- Shiraz, South Africa, 1998 £5.49
Château La Baronne, Corbières, France, 1997 £5.60
Pale/medium blackish crimson. Fairly muted but earthy, charcoally nose. Shiraz. Quite stylish on the palate, some animal flavours and maybe just a hint of under under-ripe greeness? Not from Chile and it doesn't have the sunny cream and berry flavours I associate with Corbières, so: South African Cinsault-Shiraz.

Lindeman’s Padthaway Shiraz, Australia 1997 £8.996
Pepperwood Grove Zinfandel, California 1997 £5.99 (First Quench)
Serina Primitivo de Salento, Puglia, Italy 1996 £4.49
Quite an even, deep crimson/ruby. Ah! The Pepperwood Zinfandel. Lovely.
Sorry there's not much of a note but this was my Wine of the Week just a fortnight ago. It would have been rather embarrassing to get it wrong! Lovely stuff.

Domaine Cady, Coteaux du Layon Les Varennes 1996 £8.99 (OFW)
Dry River Late-harvested Semillon, NZ 1996 £11.99
Meßmer, Burrweiler Altenforst Scheurebe Auslese, Pfalz 1996 £6.49
Glowing bright yellow/gold. A honeyed nose with peaches and toast to the fore, some barley-sugar botrytis notes. Rather obvious on the palate: a big lush and buttery mouthful of sweet fruit, but a little one-dimensional. There is a lovely sweetness, and the acidity is there though maybe lacking slightly. Fruit is mostly peach and a little apple, all with that honeyed edge. Not the Dry River (too expensive to be poured in this quantity!!) this is probably the Loire wine I think....but then it is a bit flabby. Guess: Pfalz Auslese.
The one that got away: I'm a huge fan of sweet Loire wines and have actually tasted this quite recently. I knew it was the Coteaux du Layon but then promptly guessed the German! That's the pressure of cut-throat competition for you :-)

All in all, great fun - thanks to Ali Downes, a Wine Pages regular who was one of the main organisers of the evening.