I have always wondered if two neophytes to wine could tell the difference between really great wine and really good wine. In a blind tasting would they choose, as their favorite, the wine that is widely regarded as one of the best or the wine that is a decent wine for the buck?
My opportunity to perform such an experiment occurred on July 4th weekend when my Father In-Law and Brother In-Law were in town for a visit. I have done guided wine tastings with them before but their wine knowledge and experience is, to say it nicely, limited. For example, Dad sometimes puts energy drinks and ice cubes in his red wine to, as he says, "cut down the chalkiness".
Now that you know the wine experience baseline of who is involved let me set this up for you. Two wines were randomly chosen from my cellar by someone not involved in the tasting. The only guidelines given to the chooser were:
The wine should be California Cabernet Sauvignon within two vintages of one another.
Use the Cellartracker community average scores to determine quality and be sure there is enough of a spread in average score to ensure a difference but not so much as to be easy.
The differential in price had to be more than $50. In the interest of full disclosure I was told, priot to the tasting, that one was over $100 a bottle and one was around $11.99 a bottle.
Each wine would be wrapped in aluminum foil and labeled A and B and each would be decanted for the same amount of time. This video is a bit longer than I would normally like at 12 minutes so I broke it into two parts both available below. I cut a ton of it out in the interest of time but couldn't cut anymore without losing substance...and some humorous moments. If you just want to see the tasting notes they are below the vids. So those are the rules and here is the video of the blind tasting.
Ok, just to make sure I clear something up. I tasted these wine's blind and at the end the two wines were a surprise to me. I was told, as noted above, that one wine was above $100 and clearly I mispoke when I said the Robert Mondavi was over $100 a bottle. As I went back and checked what I paid and the current value I discovered I was clearly wrong. I paid $95.99 a bottle and the average selling price according to Winebid.com is $91.09 at the time of this writing.
Here are the tasting notes.
WINE A - 2004 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve California, Napa Valley
Decanted for 1 1/2 hours for video tasting and decanted an additional 2 hours for a total decant of 3 1/2 hours prior to tasting again and writing tasting notes. Dark and dense deep purple with some ruby on the edge. An intense nose, filling the room and my nose with gobs and gobs of rich and juicy dark fruits, like walking through the dark fruit section of a high end grocer - ripe blackberry and black cherries with oak and chocolate. On the palate it was bursting with more of the dark fruit, blackberry, dark cherry, currant and plums with some spice, oak and vanilla. I also got a touch of mint. It had a long and delicious finish that just kept going and going. Very well integrated and smooth tannins that give the fruit lots of backbone and a nice splash of acidity to liven it up. This is an elegant, well balanced and complex Cabernet - really what California Cabernet is all about. It is drinking incredibly well right now but the structure is in place for another 5 to 10 years of ageing I think. Robert Mondavi's memory and legacy live in this bottle. Wow what a wine! $95.99 retail. 50+5+14+18+9=96 pts.
WINE B - 2006 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Decanted for 1 1/2 hours prior to video tasting and decanted an additional 2 hours for a total decant of 3 1/2 hours prior to tasting again and writing tasting notes. Deep garnet with some reddish hues. Even after the long decant this was very tight and resisting. The nose was holding back but there was some Bordeaux style funk, red fruits and green vegetal aromas. Medium bodied on the palate with more red fruit, plum, spice and smoke. The tannins were very forward and rough but there was some decent fruit structure and acidity in place. This may get better with some age, though I am not convinced of it, but right now the tannins are just way overpowering and a bit bitter. It could just be that it is such a baby and very tight. I thought it would get better with 3 1/2 hours of air time but that thinking didn't come true. It needs a ton more air time or a minimum of 3 more years of age to even find out if this could be something. $11.99 retail. 50+5+11+13+7=86 pts.
Bottom line, the best wine is the kind of wine you like and the kind of wine you drink regardless of price or pedigree. Drink what you will!
Let us know if you have a suggestion for a tasting or a blind tasting and we will do our best to do it.
Have you ever done a blind tasting? If so, what has been your experience?
If you haven't done one and you would like to now, go ahead and record it and we'll post it here on PTC.