About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A blind wine tasting party!

Six wines were tasted and a seventh was enjoyed by The Wine Guy's guests
during the blind tasting of affordable wines available in Cuenca Ecuador.
The Wine Guy finally got to properly inaugurate his new wine bar.  The fetching Mrs. Wine Guy and I hosted a wine tasting party for some friends who had expressed an interest in wine.  Each couple and/or single guest was asked to select a bottle to bring that fit the theme for the tasting.  Our theme was "Affordable and Available Wine".  The wine could be either red or white but no dessert or sparkling wines were permitted.  The theme criteria asked that the wine be available at retail here in Cuenca, Ecuador and be priced under $15.  That's actually no mean feat because of the very high import tariffs on alcohol here in Ecuador....wine is one the things that is generally much more affordable in the USA than it is here!

We ended up with six bottles of wine (two white, four red) for the tasting and each had its label covered to conceal its identity.  The wines were marked with letters "A" through "F".   Scoring sheets were handed out to the tasters to use in scoring the wines.  Each wine got 50 basis points (just for being a wine!)  The host would later enter label and seal points (worth a maximum of 5 points each) and the guests were to give from 0 to 10 points each in four categories:  visual examination of the wine,  aroma of the wine, initial wine taste and finishing taste.   That made for a maximum possible 100 points for each wine. Each scoring sheet had suggestions on the positives and negatives to look for in each category.  A general discussion of scoring occurred before the tasting began, but each guest was left to his own intuition as to how to assign or deduct points.  Here were the six wines subject to scoring in the tasting in order of their presentation to the guests (although they were not identifiable at the time of tasting):

A.  Trapiche Sauvignon Blanc
B.  Santa Julia Fuzion Blanco (Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay blend)
C.  Cremashi Furlotti Barrel Select Carmenere  (this wine slightly exceeded the retail price requirement)
D.  Trapiche Astica Malbec
E.  Carta Vieja Reserva Limited Cabernet Sauvignon
F.  Vina Maria Cabernet Sauvignon

Each tasting consisted of a single one ounce pour and a spit container was provided.  After the scoring was complete, the tasters handed their score sheets to the host for tabulation.  Each scorer was provided later with a print out of their scores and a listing of the wines ranked in order of the group's overall average scores. This was all handled by having excel spreadsheets prepared onto which the host could enter the scores.  Tabulation and ranking then proceed automatically.   While the host was entering the scores, guests enjoyed snacks and discussed their scoring observations.  They also had the opportunity to revisit the uncovered wines if they chose to do so.  They were additionally treated to a seventh wine that fitted the criteria for the tasting theme.  This wine was provided by the host and came from Uruguay.  (The Wine Guy reviewed this wine, Pisano C/S Platino Tannat/Merlot, in an earlier September 12, 2012 posting on Roger's Grapevine).

When the scores were averaged, there was a tie for first and second place in the rankings between a white and a red.  In fact, only 5 points separated the top ranked from the lowest ranked wine.  (Rankings ranged from 72 to 77 points in overall average scores).  Here are the rankings based on average scores:

1. (tie)Santa Julia Fuzion Blanco                                                 77 pts
1. (tie)Carta Vieja Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon                         77 pts
3. Cremashi Furlotti Carmenere                                                  76 pts
4. Vina Maria Cabernet Sauvignon                                             74 pts
5. Trapiche Sauvignon Blanc                                                      73 pts
6. Trapiche Astica Malbec                                                          72 pts

I later did an alternative ranking based on assigning 5 points to each taster's number one rated wine, 4 points to the second ranked wine and so on down to 0 points for the bottom ranked wine and then tabulating the total points from all tasters.  This method yielded a slightly different overall ranking:

1. Cremashi Furlotti Carmenere
2. Santa Julia Fuzion Blanco
3. Carta Vieja Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
4. Trapiche Sauvignon Blanc
5. Vina Maria Cabernet Sauvignon
6. Trapiche Astica Malbec

One of the interesting note from this method was the Carta Vieja Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon which received number one rankings from four different tasters. That was the most 1st place ranking of any of the wines.  It also received a last place ranking from four different tasters and that was the most last place finishes of any of the wines. Those in attendance either really liked or didn't like this wine!

The guests may not have noticed
but the tasted was presided over by
Rusty, the host's official Wine Bar Bear!
It was an interesting experience to examine the tasting sheets of couples in attendance.  One couple was in almost total agreement all the way through, only differing on the order of the last two place wines.  It was also noteworthy that the wine they brought finished in the bottom two for both of them.  Another couple who professed a strong prejudice for red wines both scored a white in their top two rankings.  Yet another couple who stated a preference for whites both scored a red (although a different one for each of them) as their number one wine choice.   Results like this are not really all that uncommon in blind wine tastings and it can be a great way to learn and discover that your wine tastes can sometimes take you to new and unexpected places.

All in all it was an enjoyable evening and perhaps some of these wines will make it to your table for a trial.   Our Cuencano friends may especially appreciate having reference to some affordable wines to try.   Enjoy!

(Note:  because the subject content covers both wine and our adventures in Ecuador,  this blog is being entered on two different blog sites:  1. Roger's Grapevine,   www.rogersgrapevine.blogspot.com and
2. Juntos en el Camino de la Vida,  www.togetherontheroadoflife.blogspot.com)

My Turn to Tackle the Sulfite Myth

Note to readers.....this is an old blog first published in 2010 that disappeared from the archives, I went searching for it so I could reference it in response to a reader's email about sulfites.  I decided to republish.  Be advised that some of the information may be dated because of this.

It’s almost a rite of passage for wine bloggers to tackle the subject of sulfites in wine and having published “Roger’s Grapevine” for over a year, I’m probably overdue. Today, I’ll attempt to tackle the subject with a recap of what I’ve learned from numerous sources over the past 4-5 years of reading and learning about wine.

The necessity for tackling the subject is the seemingly unending stream of people I talk to that ask me how to avoid sulfites in wine because it gives them headaches. If it’s not an issue of interest for you or a close friend that shares your love of wine, today’s blog might be worth skipping over. Otherwise, here goes my two cents worth on the subject:

Wine headaches, particularly red wine headaches, are of concern to a significant number of wine drinkers I talk to on a regular basis. Most of them are very quick to blame sulfites as the culprit. The truth is that there is more than a 99% chance that sulfites in the wine are NOT the problem. Here’s the skinny on sulfites:

All wine sold in the U.S. (regardless of where it’s produced) must contain a warning “contains sulfites” if the wine contains more than 10 mg per liter (1.25 standard bottles). It must contain less than 1 mg per liter to be labeled “no sulfites” (Note: this is much different than the often seen “No Sulfites Added” label.) While sometimes, sulfites are added to wine or absorbed into grapes from the soil, you should be aware that sulfites occur naturally within wine as part of the fermentation process. ALL wine, unless means are employed to extract them, WILL contain sulfites. Adding hydrogen peroxide to your wine can chemically alter and remove sulfites. I would guess, however, that it probably wouldn’t be very appealing to your dinner guests.

The “contains sulfites” requirement came into being after government health officials estimated that 1% of the U.S. population may suffer from sensitivity to sulfites. However, sulfite reactions are almost always either dermatological or respiratory in nature. You’re more likely to get a rash or shortness of breath than a headache. If you’re asthmatic or C.O.P.D. and you utilize steroids in treating your condition, and also happen to be among the 1% who of the population who have sulfite sensitivity, you could possibly suffer headaches after ingesting wine with concentrated sulfites. A 2001 study by H. Valley & P.J. Thompson showed that an asthmatic response in sulfite sensitive subjects first appeared at extremely high sulfite levels in the vicinity of 300 mg per liter.

The average sulfite content for all measured bottles of wine is 80 mg per liter and that drops to about 40 mg per liter for organic wines. In terms of the standard 750 ml bottle we’re talking 60 mg/30 mg per bottle or about 10 mg/5mg per glass. Keep in mind that the human body itself produces about 1000 mg of sulfites per day! It’s with a high degree of confidence that I tell you that sulfites are probably NOT the villain if you get wine headaches!

Need more convincing….try munching on about six dried apricots, drinking a couple of back-to-back glasses of processed orange juice or having a huge fresh salad from a restaurant salad bar for lunch. If you don’t get a headache from any of these, then quit blaming sulfites for your wine headache! Dried packaged fruits and processed orange juice have preservative sulfites and nearly all restaurants utilize a keep fresh spray on fresh salad bar items that contains sulfites, all in concentrations comparable to, or higher than those found in the average bottle of wine.

O.K. That bursts your bubble….you thought you knew where to place the blame for your wine headache and now you’re back at square one. So what’s the answer? Unfortunately, that’s very hard to determine and the answer is probably different for different people. Tannins, histamines and seratonins are among many compounds that occur in wine that could possibly cause headaches. And, of course, let’s not forget that the alcohol content itself can play a role. The percentage of the population sensitive to alcohol is many times that sensitive to sulfites and headaches are not an uncommon reaction to alcohol sensitivity.

If your headaches are mainly due to red wine, histamine may be the likely suspect. If they occur mostly with white wine, it might be seratonin. The fact is that you have to do a little intensive detective work to discover the cause of YOUR wine headache. Note the kinds, types, even the origins of wines that cause your headaches and also the ones that don’t. Keep a log and build a database. Once you established a number of wines that do and don’t, it should be possible to establish a pattern of what’s present and what’s absent in the various wines in order to narrow down what you’re reacting to cause the headaches.

When the headaches are strong and severe, I always suggest to my inquirers that they discuss and share their reactions with their doctor. Wines are complex beverages with many compounds that mimic other compounds. It’s part of the reason we get so many different wonderful aromas and flavors in wine. It can also, however, be a source of reactions for all the hundreds of compounds people develop allergies and sensitivities to or have interactions with because of regular medications.

Remember, there are hundreds, even thousands, of possible choices for you in the world of wine. Don’t waste time with the ones you don’t enjoy or which have side effects and discover the ones that give you pleasure and satisfaction.

Here’s hoping you get to discover and enjoy a glass of wine that’s just right for you!