Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Chateau Julien Merlot Challenge (NW)

The folks a Chateau Julien have arranged a rather well designed Merlot challenge between their wine and the Blackstone Merlot. They've reached out to wine bloggers like The Wine Cask blog to accept the challenge and post the results.

This challenge had a particular arrangement of flights to be set up by someone other than the participants. Of course, the wines would be tasted blind. To read about flight set-up, please read the entry below by PB. He's described this in detail in his entry titled "The Great Chateau Julien 'Merlot Challenge.'"

I really enjoyed this exercise. As the folks at Chateau Julien expected, tasting a dozen wines arranged into three flights can exhaust the palate. They warned against palate fatigue and how the tasting gets progressively more difficult. However, after careful examination, I selected my favorite wine from each flight as requested and my selections were consistent throughout the tasting. My selections were B, B, A, in flights 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Flight 3, Glass C was also the same wine. In every flight, I identified the wines correctly and consistently chose the same wine as my favorite. Thankfully!

This actually wasn't that difficult. The wine I consistently chose had a unique nose, a richer fruit core, and a better finish. I also knew right away this had to be the challenger- Chateau Julien. Why would they issue the challenge if they were the "average and typical" Merlot I tasted in the other glasses?

I preferred the Chateau Julien from every flight because it was darker, richer, more unique, and more layered. It has so much more potential than the Blackstone! The problem is, I didn't really like it that much because of an odd, plastic note I've described in more detail in my tasting notes below. This odd layer was consistently present and detracted from my overall enjoyment of the wine.

After completing the challenge and later comparing notes with PB of this blog, I realized the taste I was describing as plastic he was describing as daffodil. In any case, it was a detractor. So much so, for PB, that he picked the Blackstone in every flight. For me, though, the Blackstone was just too average. It tasted like a wine I would try not to buy. Why would I when there's so much interesting red wine from all over the world to choose from instead?

Upon further comparing notes, PB and I learned two things: there are always objective things that make a wine good and there are always subjective things that make a wine enjoyable. We agreed on the objective qualities of the two wines, but disagreed on which wine tasted better.

Thanks to the folks from Chateau Julien for their bold efforts to challenge a big Merlot producer in a blind tasting! In my mind, they win with a more unique interpretation of the grape! I didn't love their wine, but I think there's real potential in what they've got.

Raise a glass!

*Both wines are reviewed with complete tasting notes in my postings below

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