|It was the recreation of a historic moment in the history of the world of wine – the Wine Society of India (WSI) hosted a blind tasting of New World versus Old World wines at the Taj Residency in Bangalore, led by the inimitable wine expert, Steven Spurrier, chairman of the Board of Wine Advisors, WSI, who is otherwise famous for leading the blind tasting event in Paris in 1976. Ruma Singh reports from Bangalore|
That tasting turned the French wine industry on its head by rating wines from the USA higher than French wines (subsequently referred to as the Judgement of Paris).
The evening of July 3rd commenced with a glass of chilled bubbly. Members of the Wine Society of India, the Bangalore Wine Club and numerous invitees sat down at tables of 8 or 10. Steven Spurrier and David Banford, director, WSI had selected six wines for the blind tasting – two whites and four reds. The New World wines were pitted against the Old World, but guests were not told which was which until later. As pencils and score sheets came out, a first pair of wines (both white) were tasted. The first, golden yellow and fruity, found approval from everyone who guessed correctly that it was New World (Montes Alpha, a Chilean chardonnay), as compared to the more complex French Chablis (Laroche) that followed and kept everyone guessing.
|The first red that followed (Brancaia Tre 2005 from Italy) also found as much approval as did the Rolf Binder granache shiraz from Australia — the guesswork was doing fine so far! The final pair of reds (a 2000 St Emilion Bordeaux from Chateau Magdalaine from David Banford’s personal cellar,) got a thumbs up and quite a few correct guesses about its regionality, even as a new 2006 red from South Africa (a Le Bonheur merlot/cabernet sauvignon) got a few appreciative nods as well. The crowd was not faring too badly at all.|
In between the tastings, Steven Spurrier kept the crowd listening in appreciative silence as he talked about everything from the Judgement of Paris (naturally!), to his early adventures in barge buying in France and a description of the Australian version of wine poker. He also commented on the new trend of complex and detailed wine terms (the best critics would once just say “bags of fruit” and that worked – now tasting terms can fill books and mean little) and how he conducted a wine event with Hugh Johnson for his old school, Rugby. By the end of it, Spurrier’s dry wit and humour turned a basic exercise in wine tasting into a fun-filled, memorable evening!
In an exclusive post-event chat, Spurrier put the whole New World versus Old World debate into perspective: “The Old World has always had it, and now the New World wines are getting it too. The rivalry has evolved in the best possible way. New World wines are now looking for regionality, they are planting on higher ground,” he said. “The competition is open and healthy and is developing in a positive way.”
Spurrier summed up the event in Bangalore, by saying, “The evening was nice because it was chatty and cheerful. I think people enjoyed themselves while really learning something. If anyone in my audience comes up to me after a tasting and tells me, ‘Gosh, that was fun!’, I take it as the best compliment in the world.”