Blind tasting is not always the best way to taste. The effort it involves focuses the mind and tends to imprint the experience much more firmly in the memory. It also erases preconceptions – you can’t ‘taste’ labels when you can’t see them. But because you are forced to look at the bigger picture as you seek to pin a wine down, you can end up missing the detail.
If you are given few clues, though, you can have something of the best of both worlds.
Last night a group of around 20 people from various parts of the wine trade were given two flights of wine and told the following: one flight was Krug, one was Dom Perignon. All of the wines were commercially available in the UK, there were no duplicates in the line-up and there might or might not be some late disgorged wines presented.
Armed with this information, we got started. Working out which flight was which was the easy bit. The vintages were trickier to spot, especially in the Krug flight –but it was the difficulty itself was useful, enabling a fresh perspective on the vintages, or at least of where they are at the moment. The 1998s were the most surprising: notably evolved, with rich and spicy aromatics and quite broad structures. The 2000s were not very expressive, perhaps going through a closed period. Interestingly, both the 2002 Dom Perignon and the Krug 1996 – wines that, on paper, you would expect to stand out - were not as showy as you might think. Both were excellent in my view, but at this stage of their development, they were not necessarily the favourites of the room: restrained rather than ostentatious.
A highly informative – not to mention enjoyable – tasting.
N.B. The wines in green brackets are my blind tasting predictions.
2003 Dom Perignon
"Pale lemon green. Intense on the nose with very fresh quite green fruit and a marked reductive character. Mid weight with reduction again on the palate. Tight and quite high in acid. Young."
16.5 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (2003 Dom Perignon)
2002 Dom Perignon
"Pale lemon. Quite intense, with smoky aromas and green apple on the nose and a bit of sweet spice. Rounded with with more prominent biscuity notes than above. Densely packed but a lot of substance here. Long and very good. Still very young."
18.5 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (2002 Dom Perignon)
2000 Dom Perignon
"Medium lemon. Floral and exuberant on the nose. Quite light, with high, almost tingly acidity. Good but not super fine."
16.5 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (1998 Dom Perignon?)
1999 Dom Perignon
"Pale lemon. Intense nose, showing some development. Honey notes and sweet fruit. Moderately high acid. Rounded palate, quite spicy. Quite ripe and forward?"
18.5 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (1999/1996 Dom Perignon)
1998 Dom Perignon
"Medium lemon. Intense yeasty, biscuity nose. The most evolved wine so far. Broad and spicy on the palate. Rich and depth. Excellent; and good now."
18.5 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (Dom Perignon Oenotheque? 1996 Dom Perignon?)
1996 Dom Perignon Oenotheque
"Medium lemon. Buttery and peachy on the nose; distinctive. Big and creamy on the palate with moderately high acid. Minerality underpinning the fruit; almost Burgundian. Very good though hard to place."
18 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (1990 Dom Perignon?)
Krug Grand Cuvée (2002 Base)
"Deep lemon colour. Intense, rich nose with toast and biscuit and a touch of exotic fruit. Tiny bit reductive? Mid weight but rich palate. Fruit is young and fresh; youngest wine here."
17 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (Krug Grand Cuvée)
"Medium lemon. Moderately intense nose with some nutty and sweet spice notes. Some development, though mousse still firm. High acidity but with sweet fruit character suggesting a warm vintage."
16.5 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE
"Medium gold. Gentle, quite soft fruit on the nose. Honey, golden syrup, spice. From the nose, this could be quite old. Rich though quite fresh fruit on palate. Quite soft acid and very silky texture. Long spicy finish."
17- Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (1990s vintage Krug)
"Pale gold. Quite fresh fruit with some floral character. Aromatic and well defined. Lovely balance on the palate. Classic rather than showy. Best in the line-up."
19.5 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (1998/1995 Krug?)
"Pale gold. Not especially intense nose. Very lemony fruit, with a bit of biscuit and floral character. Tense, bright fruit on the palate. Not big. Very good."
18.5 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (1995 Krug)
Krug Grand Cuvée (90s Base)
"Pale gold. Moderately intense nose with fresh green apple fruit. Seems quite young then earthy/spicy notes come through. Moderate weight and length. Not especially expressive."
16 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (Krug Grand Cuvée)
"Medium gold. Soft ripe fruit on nose. Quite evolved with some bruised apple character. Broad palate with softish acid. Lots of concentration though and acidity comes back on finish. Long. Excellent."
19 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (1985-1989 Krug)
1989 Krug Collection
"Pale gold. Slightly muted nose. Quite developed. Honey, heather. Lovely softness on palate without losing focus. Gentle. Very good."
18 Points Camilla Bowler, FINE+RARE (1990 Krug)