Two blind tastings
May 5, 2009, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

None the wiser.  La grève wednesday night slowed arrival at Philippe Faure-Brac’s Bistrot du Sommelier, a discreet rendezvous behind the red and gold, across the boulevard from the very special if aloof Caves Augé.  I hadn’t been expecting a sumptious feast, opting for the more modest discovery tasting menu, and realised not only would I not be seeing a wine list all night, I would be guessing.  And not correctly.  

I wondered if the subsequent pours might have been less whacky if I hadn’t annoyed them by being more than the expected fifteen minutes late.  I also wondered whether our smug sommelieress would get half of these right if she were tasting blind.  We failed satisfactorily on the first pour, a 2007 Lirac blanc.  A bourboulenc, clairette, grenache blanc blend from an appellation bordering Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Lirac lies just south of some reds I regard fondly: Gigondas, Vaqueyras, Beaumes-de-Venise.  

Instinctively I guess Roussanne-Marsanne on unidentifiable whites; either it’s an attempt to be clever, or a poorly veiled longing for the morning casse-croûte in the St. Péray vendanges.  I’m never right, and you don’t get credit for trying (at the Caves Augé Rhône tasting yesterday I got a similarly admonishing “Of course not, this is the Southern Rhône).  

The amuse it paired with, however, was excellent.  Impossibly tender escargot, sitting on tomato marmelade and topped with frothy garlic milk, in one of those horribly unfashionable verrines (this month’s Marie Claire and Elle à Table have kindly let me know that those dozen glass cubes they made me buy four months ago can be put away now).  I have learned that the amuse gives no indication of the quality of the food ahead, so I sopped up the rest of the salty milk (pas de gâchis) and tried to come up with some obscure appellations for round two.

I thought I had nailed it too.  Ange, who consulted for a first growth as part of her business school project, was similarly convinced.  Sommelieress hops over: Got it?  Tasting is such a weird sport to prove yourself at.  In chorus (triumphant): Pouilly-Fumé.  My delusions of wine professionalism melting, the sommelieress with restrained glee: Oh no no, ç’est Reuilly.  80km west of Pouilly-sur-Loire, Decanter lovingly described Reuilly as Sancerre’s almost-forgotten cousin.  With hectares of unplanted AOC vineyards, Reuilly’s mineral-nettle-citrus charms go little noticed.  There were no surprises in the haughty bistrot food that dominates Paris, this menu découvert was all about the oddball wine.

Reasonably frustrated by the time my glass of Bordeaux arrived, I nevertheless enjoyed its chewy pairing with crispy rouget and chorizo.  Calling Médoc off the bat, this Bordeaux wasn’t French.  What over-reaching wine region won’t reverently pour you their Bordeaux blend?   I could pick a Napa Cab-Merlot from an Okanagan Valley “Meritage” (although this tasting makes me wonder), in BC every enterprising winemaker overstews an aquitaine-esque cuvée prestige for a good number of your canadian dollars, I’d rather be overcharged in St. Helena.  We debated South America – I went for low end Super Tuscan, Ange stuck with California.  I don’t think either of us were shocked to discover we were drinking Casa Lapostolle, their 2006 Tanao from Colchagua.  We knew we were fishing in the dark.  Good to keep your palate on its toes?  Keep your ego away from the spitoon?  Sure.  Do I want a rematch?  Of course (if you’re offering, but that’s enough disappointment at €88 thanks).


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