Wine flights are an incredibly fun way to compare wines side-by-side. Most wine bars offer them and they are increasingly available at restaurants. They're easy enough to do at home, though, and I highly recommend this when you have the opportunity. Just line up some glasses and pour about two ounces in each glass. Taste them blind or even with the bottles in plain view- either way it's a learning experience and a real treat.
For my birthday, I was treated to two wine flights by PB. He arranged for us to taste them blind and compare our notes. The first flight was made up of three Chardonnays from different corners of the world and the second flight was three samplings of Shiraz. My tasting notes for the red wines are as follows:
Mandra Rossa Shiraz 2003 (Sicily):
Medium-light burgundy red
Weak nose, soapy, a touch of floral and anise
Thin on the palate
Abbreviated finish, falls flat
Stolpman Hilltops Estate Grown Syrah 2003 (California):
Medium red color
Fruity nose of plum
Rich, fruity palate; round and full
Good finish, full of fruit with lightly spicy notes and hints of cocoa
McWilliams Hanwood Estate Shiraz 2004 (Australia):
Medium red color
Slightly floral nose with a touch of strawberry
Dried cherry finish
The best wine of the flight was far and away the Stolpman. It was even close. I later found out the Mandra Rossa and McWilliams were $9 wines and the Stolpman was a ringer at $35 and purchased at the winery near Santa Barbara.
The problems with two inexpensive wines were obvious when tasted next to the Stolpman. Mandra Rossa was flat and boring and the McWilliams was too dry. The Stolpman, on the other hand, exuded confidence with a rich, round core full of fruit. It's worth the price tag and was a real treat with the coal-charred ribeye and fiddleheads.
Both PB and I were pleased to find out we correctly matched each Shiraz with its country of origin. Up front, we were told that these were wines from Sicily, Australia, and California- but we weren't told which ones.
Wine flights are a lot of fun and help develop perspective. I highly recommend putting one together when you have the opportunity. One idea is to have everyone bring one bottle and simply line up the glasses and pour. Then, raise a glass!