I would think that many of you who might share my love of wine, have at some stage looked out across a vineyard and uttered the words “this is the life”.
I have often envisaged myself as a gnarled old man with my trusty hound at my feet, as I sit in my rocking chair on my porch sampling the fruits of my labour in some gloriously star laden vista (although for the most part I romantically overlook the laborious part of the equation). Oh the splendid poise and balance of my white wines, and the perfect weight and complexity of my reds. Yes folks I dream of being a wine maker.
On Monday night, for two hours at the Bleeding Heart restaurant I got my chance to live the dream courtesy of Jean Paul Khoury of Chateau Khoury from Lebanon and Enologia (His UK distributor).
The premise of the night was to take the individual lots that Jean Paul blends to create his red wine ‘The Symphonie’, and come up with a blend of our own.
The lots were as follows; Lot 1 = 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Lot 2= 60% Cabernet Franc 40% Syrah. Lot 3 = 60% Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Presse (Skins/pulp left over from the presssing of the grapes) 10% Syrah. Lot 4 = 50% Merlot 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. With the different Cabernet Sauvignons and Syrahs from the different lots being selected from differing vineyard sites. All were from the 2011 vintage.
Jean Paul talked us through the vinification processes and his wine making phylosophies for a while and we were shown his Symphonie 2006 for a reference point. This wine was plum purple in colour, with a smoky black cherry and prune aromatics. Good flavours of Black cherry, anise and white pepper. With a warm spicy finish. It was explained to us that this was a very warm vintage and not typical of what we were to expect from the 2011, but it was an indication of style.
We then tasted through the components we were about to attempt alchemy with, before at last being given the all clear to start.
Before me sat an empty measuring cylinder, a mass of tasting notes, the lot samples and my potential future as a master wine maker. Here Goes.
Suddenly all the knit picking I’ve ever done at wine tastings flashed before me. Someone else was going to be judging MY WINE soon. Uh Oh. Obviously I wanted my finished product to be the most glorious wine to have ever passed anybodies lips. How to achieve that??
Right, I start to pour into the measuring beaker. The back bone for me was Lot 2 (my tasting notes abridged) Very bright fruit both in aromatics and flavour. Nice acidity. nice spice. Great tannins and length. Next in was lot 4. Weigty dense fruit, a little volatile acity I noted. Pffff Lot 1 next i guess? It had a bit of leafiness, good fruit but a touch more savoury. Lovely smoky/pencil shaving edge to it. And finally some lot 3. “A fleshy fruity little filler”, I noted. I tinkered and tasted, and tasted and tinkered. “ok Time to submit blend number one”
I offered up to Jean Paul my first attempt. Hi sipped. He slurped. He made approving noises and there was no sign of repulsion on his face. “YES”!
Then came the verdict; “Nice attack, good flavours and balance (I am almost at crisis point at this moment) ……..but just a little bit short” Short?????? The word was like dagger to my heart. I held back the tears. “Right I’ll show you!”. I return to tinkering. A bit more lot 4 a soupcon of lot 1. I’m happier. I know there will be no need for blend number 3. I have knocked it out of the park on this one. I resubmit.
More sipping. More slurping. More satisfied noise making, and a look that came across his face that I can only describe as the look that is the recognision of genius. I’m hopeful. But then ….silence as he returned my glass.
He waited until he had sampled all our final blends. And much like how a champion dog is selected in crufts, he selected three blends. “Yours, yours and yours”. I’m in!!! I am assured a Bronze medal at least. But I saw his face. I must be a shoe in for the gold??? “OK” said Jean Paul “as a decider I want you to read out the breakdown of your assemblage. The closest to mine wins”. Damn!! The more astute of you will have noticed there has been a distinct lack of any mention of measurements up until this point. I guess the give away should have been the measuring cylinder we were given to make the blend in. I guestimated the percentages but I think my bluff was caught. I upped my Bronze to Silver in the end and actually I still surprised myself. Valuable lesson learnt. Guestimates are hard to replicate unlike formulae.
Anyway as consolation for my near miss, I indulged in the other wines from the Chateau Khoury’s Portfolio. A lovely fresh and light Rose (should the sun ever give us cause), a very good Pinot Grigio ( like good Alsace without any residual sugar, I noted on the night) And a fantastically zippy fresh Riesling/Chardonnay blend.
I would like to thank Jean Paul Khoury and Enologia for a fun night out and keeping my dream alive.