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Wine Tasting Kit - The Mystery of the Whites

In this fun and “anyone can play” wine tasting, the goal is to match four wines with their grape variety, from a list of five grape varieties.  What's unique is a secret, known only by the host. The education is around tasting first-hand the diversity of styles, flavors, and aromas that a single grape variety can exhibit. Yes, you read that correctly, a "single" grape variety. The twist in this wine tasting is that all four wines are from a single grape variety – Chardonnay!

Successful delivery of this wine tasting requires a host with a poker face, and the ability to keep a secret.  Rehearsing the wine tasting theme, and being prepared to answer a few questions that might arise are key, so follow the “Tasting Process” instructions below carefully.




Preparation

1.   Make as many copies of the Tasting Guide (pages 2-4) as you have guests.  Note: Be sure NOT to make copies of the first page as it has the answer to the mystery.   Make sure each guest has a location to taste the wine, and write down any tasting notes they might wish. 

 

2.   Have a pen or pencil for each guest.

 

3.   Wrap each bottle using a dark tissue paper (you can read the label through light paper).  Using a magic marker or peel off stickers from your local party or office supply store, number each bottle 1 through 4. 

Tasting Process

1.   Introduce the theme and goal of the wine tasting.  This is where a little practice comes in handy.  You should indicate that the goal is to match the wine with one of the five grape varieties.  Obviously since there are only four wines, and five choices, most guests will not consider the possibility that a grape variety can be represented more than once.  However, depending on the degree of wine experience of your guests, it is possible that at some point during the tasting someone will ask, “Can there be more than one wine from the same grape variety?”  Enter your best poker face.  Take a long pause, as if you are thinking about the answer, and then somewhat casually say, “I guess it's possible that there could be more than one”.  If you've selected Chardonnay's with a wide variety, only the most seasoned oenophile will unearth the ruse.

 

2.   Carefully open each wine.  Keeping with your poker face, as host you should include yourself in the tasting, and make selections along the way, further distracting guests from the secret. 

 

3.   Pour each guest two ounces of the first wine and allow guests time to taste and record notes if they wish.  Repeat for each of the remaining three wines.  If there is sufficient wine a second pour may be allowed at the discretion of the host.

 

4.   Recording each guest's conclusion as to the grape variety can be done after each wine or after all wines have been tasted.

 

5.   As always, remind tasters that the real goal is to have fun, and to hopefully identify a new wine or two that can be added to each person's repertoire of favorite wines.

Wines to Purchase

Purchasing wines for this tasting is usually easy if you have a good local wine shop.  Share the theme for your wine tasting and ask for suggestions.  You can expect to pay $75 - $100 for four bottles of wine with the most expensive likely being the French Burgundy.

The key to a Mystery White wine tasting is selecting wines that are significantly different in style.  If possible it is always a good idea to do a little homework.  If you can, purchase and taste the wines in advance and convince yourself that the style differences are pronounced.

 

Chablis – Crisp, high acidity, and mineral notes characterize this traditional French classic.  Prices vary widely from over $60 for Grand Cru from Chablis to under $20 for lesser known vineyards.  Make sure the wine is from the Chablis region of Burgundy.

·         2010 Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard Petit Chablis $14

·         2010 Domaine William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux $21

 

Burgundy - Old world style, fruit emphasis, light oak.  There are dozens if not hundreds of premium white Burgundies from this region.  Xavier Monnot Puligny-Montrachet form the Cote de Beaune is one, however best to ask your wine shop manager for a recommendation.  Make sure that the wine is a good representation of the Burgundy style. 

 

Big, full bodied, malolactic fermented oak aged – California is still your best bet although more California Chardonnays are bypassing malolactic fermentation so check with your wine shop manager.

·         Rombauer (Napa Valley - Carneros) $32

·         Frank Family Vineyard (Napa Valley ) $32

·         J Lohr Riverstone (Monterey) $11

·         Toasted Head (Yolo County, CA) $11

 

Crisp fruit, high acidity, lots of fruit, no malolactic fermentation.  These wines can be from many regions however they are more common from Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina.

·         Argento (Argentina - Mendoza ) $12

·         Yalumba (South Australia) $12

·         Oyster Bay (Marlborough, New Zealand) $12

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·  Wine Tasting Kit - The Prince and the Pauper
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