Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Great Party

Earlier this month I made some suggestions for party wines, and for our annual Christmas party I followed those closely. But unlike last year's party I had to "tighten the belt", so I served a more modest selection of wines for our guests:

NV Codorniu Clasico Brut Cava (Spain)
2007 Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon Yellow Label (Australia)
NV Bistro Mundo Tempranillo (Spain
2006 Meia Encosta (Portugal)
2006 Crasto (Portugal)

The bubbly starter was a huge success, with many guests sticking to the Codorniu for the entire evening (good thing I had a few extra bottles!). I didn't even bother offering a white this year, thinking this bubbly would serve both roles, and it did so ably, pairing perfectly a spread of homemade quiche, pesto lasagna, curried chicken and various cheeses and charcuterie. Available locally for just $13.65 this wine is a steal.

For the reds I had a bit of fun our guests, blinding the wines and giving the guests a few "simple" tasks: (1) pick out the box wine, (2) guess the cabernet, and (3) guess which was the most expensive. They were also asked to pick a "favourite". The most lively discussions of the evening took place in the vicinity of the four mysterious decanters - just the way I like it!

Now a few comments on the wines. The Meia Encosta was the least favourite and was nearly everyone's pick for "the box wine". This was unexpected as I was rather complimentary of this wine a few weeks back. I even opened a bottle after this event and my wife (blinded) loved it. Perhaps it was the competition, but I stick with my original assessment that this wine "...could be the king of mid-week wines."

The Spanish Bistro Mundo Tempranillo was a "table wine success", generating no major comments, positive or negative, and the decanter emptied at a healthy clip. This wine melded into the background, pairing quite well with the food on offer. Can you ask for more from a box wine?

The crowd of novices and aficionados easily picked out the Wolf Blass Yellow Label as the Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was the favourite wine of the evening for nearly half of my guests. Historically a staple in my household, I haven't had it in years - I forgot how good this inexpensive Aussie Cab was. Even better, the SAQ had a blowout two weeks before Christmas - I picked up a few bottles for just C$13. A steal at that price, and even at the current price of C$17.95 this wine is highly recommended.

The Crasto was the crowd favourite, but it was 50 - 100% more expensive (C$20.15) than the other wines on offer. Easy drinking and flavourful with a fabulous nose, it was a touch flabbier than I recall from a previous tasting but still delicious.

Overall, a great night of wines, capped off by a 2000 Bouscasse Vielles Vignes for the stragglers. And I have a few refinements to my party suggestions for next year.

Happy New Year to All!


Edward said...


Your suggestion about picking which wine is which, is a very clever way to get people interested in what they are drinking. At our family gathers it is usually only the wine tragics (myself and my gaggle of brother in laws) who try to do this.

PS opened the Brokenback and writing my tasting note at the moment. Will post midweek.

Marcus said...

Bistro Mundo Spanish table wine is what Via Rail served me on the way to Toronto (at the same time you were hosting your party, actually!). I didn't complain as it met expectations for what I paid (and it is light enough to be drinkable with anything). I really agree with your notes... now I feel I was vicariously attending your party. Ultimately I wonder if making a boxed wine be a NV table wine is so no-frills it does nobody any favours and misses out on boosting the reputation of things like box wine or table wine. I am positive that neither has to be mediocre by default.

I think you hit the nail on the head -- the Crasto 06 makes me think flabby too and that it's much LESS GOOD than the Flor de Crasto 2005 and 2006 were, which were a fraction of the price. Jury still out on the very young tasting Flor de Crasto 2007 though...

I am fond of the Meia Encosta. Might be the best value of all at $10.

John said...

Good to hear the comments from you and Marcus on the Crasto. I had my eye on a bottle yesterday when I was shopping, but decided to pass. It's a bit cheaper here - about $15, but I thought I could do better for the money.

Joe said...

Hi Ed - I think the key is not to make it too initimidating - simple questions seem to get everyone involved. My in-laws are also the fellow wine tragics. My Brokenback post is coming Wednesday.

Marcus - you are correct, it is a lightweight but reasonable. I'm not sure what to say about an NV box wine - it fits a niche, I guess, and I don't think it takes away from other box or table wine. Hadn't really thought about that. The Crasto is a funny wine - terribly interesting nose, just poof and it's gone from the palate - the Wolf Blass was the surprisingly well structured wine. That Meia Encosta is always on my shelf, what a pleasant surprise - my fear is that the '07s come out and it sucks...

Hi John, not sure what to say - I love and hate the Crasto at the same time - or what I should say is that I kinda like it but feel guilty about it...