Honing my palate at the First Glass tastings

Attending the Fine Wine Tastings at First Glass Wines & Spirits in Takapuna really helps to hone my palate. Twelve wines, almost always tasted blind, no idea what’s coming up, don’t know what’s new into store, always some surprises when the wine is revealed.
I write notes on every wine and post them here on my website. They also go into the First Glass newsletter and on the First Glass website. Not too many wines come up these days where my notes are derogatory. But I do see trends – for my palate anyway.

  •  Sauvignon Blanc – not often tasted at these Wednesday tastings but the ones that are poured are top-notch, reminding why I fell in love with wine.
  • Pinot Gris – not always easy for me to get excited about New Zealand’s offerings unless there’s extra work gone into the winemaking that adds complexity and power – and then they stand out. The sweet luscious renditions from Alsace that we often taste are really another category.
  • Gewurztraminer – so distinctive aromatically but can sometimes be a little too overpowering in the palate – they really are best as food wines.
  • Riesling – Such a diverse creative variety. I love most of them but especially the lower alcohol / medium sweet / high acid style. Awesome yin and yang.
  • Chardonnay – you can’t go to a First Glass tasting if you don’t like Chardonnay. There are bold, gold, oaky, toasty wines that fit into what’s become known as the ‘First Glass’ style because it seems many of the customers like wines like these. Personally I like the more nougat-like, more oak harmonious, more wild yeast funky and the sometimes more controversial reductive styles but alas for my wallet, they are often the more expensive.
  • Rosé – the wines from the 2013 vintage just so exiting with seemingly more serious and much drier or better balanced styles. It’s become my ‘go to’ wine style this summer.
  • Pinot Noir – Almost always it is Kiwi pinot noir that is tasted and boy oh boy, I do have difficulty in picking the originating region. I know from years of tastings that pinot noir cannot be judged by its colour. The hue can range from translucent garnet to inky black cherry red – but colour is not always an indication of what you are going to get. It’s important not to drink with your eyes. I never diss a light coloured pinot before I smell, taste and contemplate – because it could actually be the best.
  • Europe offers up many value-packed lighter styled reds as well as full-bodied beauties that can be either thoroughly modern or inherently old-fashioned. Tasting blind, identifying as Europe (usually on the first sniff) then drilling down to country and variety, add to the education.
  • Australian Cabernet and Shiraz continue to confuse me where alcohol is high and oak is heavy handed – this simply overpowers the signature of the grape.
  • Aussie Shiraz – I like Aussie Shiraz and most Wednesday nights one or more is tasted. Sadly my favourites are always the most expensive.

Looking at my notes from the First Glass tastings I went to last year, I tasted over 45 different varietals from at least 10 different countries and leant lots more too from the trivia interludes.

Now the 2014 tasting year has started with Prosecco, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Rosé, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Chianti, Nero D’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Shiraz, Shiraz and a fortified red being poured in the first three weeks with wines from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy and Spain represented. I think 2014 it is going to be a great tasting year with many more exciting wines from 2013 coming on stream.

To check out my January 2014 Wednesday Roundup page, click here.

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