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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

'Blind' wine tastings can be a real eye-opener

By Aaron Trujillo


I was at a "blind" tasting the other night at a friend's restaurant. A blind tasting just means all of the wines served are concealed so that their varietals, region, and producers are unknown to the tasters.

Many believe it is a way to assess a wine's quality and attributes (or lack therefore) in a more objective manner.

At one point, four big red wines were served to me in a row (big here meaning powerful in flavor and weight). Three of them I guessed to be from California, because of their deep, black, ultra-ripe, rounded, wonderfully supple fruit, which was intermingled with a huge dose of brand-new French oak. I was wrong.

When the wines were unveiled, one was a Hall of Fame-type Spanish tempranillo-based red, named Flor de Pingus. Another was an absolutely huge, decadently rich zinfandel from Australia (yes, they apparently make red zinfandel, too) from a small producer named Rusden. And the third proved to be a cabernet blend from Bordeaux, France. Utterly amazing!

The fourth wine I guessed to be from southern France, specifically from Bandol in Provence and a small, family run winery named Domaine Tempier. I have had this domaine's wines on many occasions and was therefore quite familiar with its rather unique funky, gamey, "barnyardy" character. This proved to be the only wine I was right about.

Now, I do not consider myself the greatest wine taster, but I was somewhat perplexed by the results. Furthermore, my thoughts also mirrored by most of the other tasters present, some of whom I consider to be the very best of Hawai'i.

I thought about this experience for several days. It was not that my guesses were off-base that bothered me, I later figured out. My apprehension came from the fact that more and more of the wines of the world are tasting more and more alike. Here was a good example — a Spanish tempranillo, an Australian zinfandel and a red Bordeaux. And we thought they were all Californian.

I am sure this is not an isolated situation. In fact, I hear and read about similar findings more and more, and from a growing number of people.

I do not think this is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, isn't it great that more and more regions, countries and grapes are capable of producing top-notch, world-class wines?

There is one lesson that really rang out loud for me, however, which I think needs to be shared. As much as we gravitate to, and rave about these internationalized, contemporary wines, we should also applaud the more authentic, regionally typical wines of the world, such as Domaine Tempier's Bandol (wine No. 4 in the tasting) — wines that reflect the tradition, climate and terroir of the region they are grown in.

In fact, we should clap our hands even louder. Otherwise all of the wines of the world will eventually taste more and more the same. I hope the wine writers, makers and personalities think about that, too.

This is Aaron Trujillo's last column for Raise a Glass. His duties as general manager and wine buyer for Vino in Kapalua keep him too busy for writing for now. Next month, Lisa Gmur joins the columnist team.