One of my many New Year’s resolutions is to drink only the wines that I love. I’m assuming I’m not alone here, but what I like may not be what you like. As you know, the point of My Wine Tribe is to provide customized wine recommendations based on your palate preferences, not mine. Take our nifty quiz to find your tribe (based on the tastes and scents you gravitate toward) and then this year, follow along with our tastings to see what others in your tribe like.
Most recently, My Wine Tribe wanted to find red wines perfect for our various palates. The way to do it, we decided, was to hold a blind tasting of single varietal reds. Single varietal means the wine is made entirely from the same type of grape, aka the same varietal. In contrast, blended wines can contain anything from two different varietals up to a dozen, which you might find in your favorite Chianti.
The Wines We Tasted
Nick wanted to push us beyond the varietals we might usually encounter–Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for example–and to let us try wines that best express the characteristics of the varietal. He chose four wines for our tasting:
* Domaine Joseph Drouhin 2013 Pinot Noir (France) $31. From the Cote de Beaune region in Burgundy, where Pinot Noir reigns.
* Syncline McKinley Springs Vineyard 2013 Syrah (Washington State) $32. This one’s from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, which is home to about a quarter of the state’s acreage planted in grapes.
* Finca la Emperatriz 2008 Reserve Rioja (Spain) $33: Hailing from La Rioja region, this wine is made with 100 percent Tempranillo grapes.
* Ridge 2014 East Bench Zinfandel (California) $32: Ridge has long been a leader in making surprisingly complex Zinfandels. This one sources its grapes in Sonoma County.
Not surprisingly, different tribes gravitated toward different wines.
The Domaine Joseph Drouhin is a classic expression of French Pinot Noir and was the Accessible Tribe’s favorite. The wine is light on the palate with flavors of sour cherry and rose petals—or as one taster said, “this tastes like sunshine and grapefruit.” Drunk on its own, high acid levels made the wine a bit tart, but those acids mellowed out when we paired it with food. If you are in the Accessible Tribe and looking for a good wine to go with food, this is it. For everyone else, I recommend that you hold out for some of our other choices.
Lots of our tasters appreciated the Syncline Syrah, but the Complex Tribe absolutely loved it. With deep aromas of leather, dark chocolate and wood, this wine got people excited even before their first sip. It isn’t particularly fruity, rather it’s smoky, earthy and lush. And like the Pinot Noir, a higher acid and tannin level means it’s best when paired with food. Here’s a tip from one taster: “This is the perfect winter wine . . . when there is snow outside you want to be inside with this wine and a roaring fire.”
The Finca la Emperatriz Rioja was another hit across the board, particularly with the Balanced Tribe. They liked the aromas of black plum and herbs and dug the flavors of baked fruit and olives. Sounds like a weird combination, but people apparently liked it. This wine got a lot of colorful feedback: “it’s a little rough but sexy,” “this wine is like a symphony, complicated and interesting” and the final word, “overall, this wine is delicious.”
Our reaction to the Ridge Zinfandel depended on which tribe you asked. We either loved it or hated it. My fellow Developed Tribe members and I loved it (as in, I’m going to go buy a case of it). Here’s the deal with this wine: It’s fairly high in alcohol, so it coats your tongue and feels kind of thick. Think of this wine as being like whole milk, versus the Pinot Noir, which is like skim milk. The Zinfandel smells like cream brulee, dried fruit and, oddly, peach yogurt. It tastes of cloves, raisins and barbecue sauce. It’s luscious and bold–another wine perfect for winter.