We gathered at Christine's new place; Sunny brought the Pinotage and Greg brought the Beaujolais.
Jason, Helen, Greg, Jeff, Sunny, and Christine
Six bottles, six tasters, and six easy-to-drink reds…that's what we thought we were getting into with our 3-by-3 tastings of Pinotage and Beaujolais. Naturally, the Pinotage were from South Africa (they are not produced elsewhere) and the Beaujolais were from France (but of course!). Christine, our dazzling hostess with shiny new floors, had made a lovely thai chicken peanut noodle dish that matched the Pinotage spiciness very nicely. The cheese and dried meats (saucissons) also complemented the Beaujolais' budding complexity and Helen also liked them with the first two Pinotages. Jason's homemade bread, which gets more airy and dreamy good with every batch he makes, went well with all of the wines.
Well, almost all of the wines…there was one real dog: the #3 Kanonkop Pinotage was corked!! Thanks to Greg's finely tuned nose, the rest of us could rest easy that the moldy, hot, and "hard to figure out flavors" were not supposed to be there! Sunny had been warned that some Pinotages have flavors reminiscent of "elephant shit" ("and exactly how does one know what that tastes like?") and this was one of them. Greg didn't even take a sip of it. Jason tried to be nice by saying that it had a "sawdust distinction" while the rest of us puzzled about the dry and dusty taste of it until Greg made his pronouncement. Next time, Greg tastes first! Anyway, although Kappy's wine manager scoffed at me for buying such a pricey Pinotage, he gave me a new bottle in exchange for the opened one with only 1/3 left in it. The replacement bottle was gratis of course, but he called paying $28 for any Pinotage a tad "oxymoronic, like military intelligence". Great, I thought, I feel suckered now. Let's hope that it doesn't happen twice. Yes, I know Pinotages are generally cheap $10-$15 wines, but now that I like their charming simplicity I'm willing to spend more on them, and if Kappy's is selling them for more…well, you get my point.
#1 and #2 were both enjoyable wines and earned high marks as spicy yet light and very drinkable wines. More people preferred the Southern Right (Pinotage #2) for its "dates and figs" (Helen), berry and spicy notes (Greg, Christine, and Jason). We found it to be thin on the palate, yet suggestive of chocolate and leather – a nice combo. The Pinno/Granhar Beck (Pinotage #1) was a hotter and more complimentary to even spicier foods, like a strong BBQ or Christine's thai noodles. Jason liked the spearmint and plum in #1 while Jeff enjoyed the autumn spices and bitter/sour berry flavors. Nonetheless, we all found the found the Pinotages #1 and #2 to be easy to drink, in spite of their kick. #2 was preferred by 5 of 6 with Jeff being the only vote for #1 as his favorite. In general, we felt that these wines did better when paired with spicy/hot foods but were too harsh/young for fattier, richer foods like patê.
The Beaujolais bottles #4, #5, and #6 were all very pleasant representatives from last year and the year before's crop; none were "nouveau" because we were a week or so too soon. Jason enjoyed #4 (2002 Morgon) the most because of its complex herbal/grass/manure/terroir flavors combined with a lively level of acidity. He called it a fine "solo" wine to drink by the glass, even without food. Jeff felt a bit spoiled by the easy-going Pinotages and called #4 full of grassy, "intestinal flavors" that could cause a "curiosity delay" on Route 128. Christine and Greg both noted some sour fruit overtones and found it acceptable. Helen enjoyed the cranberry tones, but was distracted by "visions of a slaughterhouse" and the "spoiled, foul" tones that it also carried. It was a bit of a mixed bag, and definitely not a nice pair with the cured meats for Sunny. Beaujolais #5 (2003 Juliénas by DuBoeuf) was better liked overall because of its "huge strawberry" tones, medium acidity, and slightly-off-beat "chewable vitamin" taste (and we don't mean that in a bad way!). We all felt that it went very nicely with chocolate…yummy!
Finally, the Beaujolais #6 (2003 Fleurie by DuBoeuf) was praised by Helen because it "smelled like Christmas". Sunny also noted spruce and fir scents, which prompted Christine to say that we should do a "Palate Sensitization" project at a tasting sometime soon so that she could differentiate tones of juniper from spruce, of leather from tea, etc…Good idea, I say! Since Jason noted overwhelmingly "Cherry Flintstonian!" flavors in this one, I imagine that chewable vitamins will also be on our palate-testing list. Many others thought that #6 would also go nicely with chocolate, so I'll take the chocolate and let him keep the vitamins. As for the favorite of the Beaujolais class, well, we were fairly split down the middle with Jason preferring #4, the ladies Helen and Christine liking #5, and Sunny and Greg liking #6. Jeff abstained from voting for "favorite" Beaujolais and seemed to really be sold on the Pinotage.
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Last modified: Tue Dec 7 19:55:58 2004