TheWineRambler "A German wine label is one of the things life's too short for" - Kingsley Amis

Bordeaux Brawl (blind tasting madness part 7)

Posted by Julian 13 Mar 2011

In what has become a Wine Rambler tradition, whenever we get a full committee meeting (Wine Ramblers proper and significant others) together, we do a little blind tasting comparing two wines that ought in theory be very similar on the basis of grape variety, style or pricing. This time, two aged Cabernet-based Bordeaux blends, one an actual mid-range Bordeaux, Chateau Poujeaux 1994, the other a Napa Valley classic, Mayacamas 1992. Braised vension, red cabbage, Spätzle and chestnuts were on hand to keep the contestants company.

The red cabbage and the chestnuts went on to accompany a piece of venison...The red cabbage and the chestnuts went on to accompany a piece of venison...

We had been wrong before - and so uncorked bottle No. 1 with due concentration and a sense of humility.

We found a wine of a colour that was somewhere between rusty iron and red brick. Pretty. On the tongue furniture polish was the first aroma we noticed, old furniture mixed with vegetable (somewhere between broccoli and vegetable stock). Then came the fruit, cherry and alcohol marinated fruit, a hint of fruit in rum perhaps, and leathery aromas. One of us was reminded of vegetable baby mash - in a more serious, sophisticated way. On the tongue a surprisingly fresh and lively wine with good acidity, pronounced fruit and a lovely cocoa powdered finish. Interesting, pleasant to drink and still amazingly lively due to the acidic bite. After a while the fruit lost a little focus though.

Not bad for a start. Now let's bring on No. 2: A more robust colour to start with, ruby red of a striking hue. The nose started out similarly, a typical mature Cabernet, but brought a little whiff of pine wood rather than the marinated fruit of No. 1, and was a little clearer and more focused overall. It proved younger, more robust and substantial, but also softer and rounder on the palate.

...while the wines went into the Ramblers...while the wines went into the Ramblers

To sum up, while there was not a world of difference in quality or enjoyment, while No. 1 maintained the lead in freshness, No. 2 had just a little more of everything else. As it was also the somewhat smoother and friendlier drinking experience, we guessed that this must be the New World offering. The more austere and enigmatic No. 1 we associated with Bordeaux.

And so had once again fallen victim to preconceived notions: When Mrs. Munich Wine Rambler, in that engaging way of hers, exclaimed "you losers!" before removing the paper bags, that sinking feeling reserved exclusively for falsely confident blind tasters began to set in once again. Not to make a meal of it, No. 1 was the Californian, No. 2 the good ol' Bordeaux. We consoled ourselves with the ancient wisdom that nothing proves the importance of blind tastings than getting it wrong in blind tastings. We'll have more in the course of this year.

Bordeaux brawl

But how did they square up to each other pricewise??


Fair point, I originally forgot to link up the individual wine descriptions that contain that information. Thanks to the vigilance of my fellow rambler Torsten, this has now been repaired and you can simply follow up the link. To anticipate: The Californian was pricier by a considerable margin.


As Julian rightly says, we have been a little surprised about the outcome. First of all it was interesting that the older, supposedly more heavy wine tasted lighter and fresher. Secondly, it was interesting that the French wine came at a little less than half the price with less international glory and was still, by the consent of everyone at the table, the more interesting wine. I do also wonder, had we spent the average price per bottle, about 35 Euro, on a younger wine, had we been less well of in terms of quality? I would want to miss the experience and I really enjoy drinking aged wines, but I think you should look carefully at how much you spend and what you get for it elsewhere. Or am I too defeatist here?