02/11/09 – March Madness week #1 (Sauvignon Blanc)

By Jesse on February 13, 2009

After skipping last year’s event because we were too busy being in the LA Times, the Young Winos are proud to present our second March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’ll taste six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Week #1 — Sauvignon Blanc
Week #2 — Syrah
Week #3 — Riesling
Week #4 — Pinot Noir
Week #5 — Chardonnay
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting

Each week, we bring bottles of the given varietal from all around the world. Before the tasting starts, two people volunteer to donate the two “mystery bottles,” and their wines are placed in brown bags. (For your wine to be granted this special honor, you must be sure that no one else knows what part of the world it’s from.)

We start things off with an open (non-blind) tasting of up to six bottles, representing the major regions where the particular wine is made. (For example, on Sauvignon Blanc week, we’ll taste one or two bottles each of French, American, and New Zealander.) When tasting, we pay special attention to what characteristics are typical of what regions.

Finally, we bring out the two mystery bottles in their brown bags. In complete silence, we sniff and taste wine #1, and then we make our region guesses on slips of paper, which are collected and put aside. Once everyone’s guess is in, we discuss the wine, and reveal the bottle. Then we repeat the process for #2, and we tally up the points. One point for each correct guess (incorrect guess results in no points, but points are not deducted). The donors each receive one-half point as compensation for not being able to participate in that round. Then we break for cheese time, and then we drink whatever bottles remain!

Beginners are completely welcome — and, in fact, often do just as well as the more “seasoned” tasters. To read the full version of the official rules, including the rules for the two-week championship following the six weeks of varietal tasting, click here.

For week #1, we start with Sauvignon Blanc, in no small part because it’s one of the most regionally-specific wines in the world. In France’s Loire Valley, the white wines of Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre are known for their flinty character, high acidity, and green or spicy notes. In California, Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes oaked and referred to as Fumé Blanc; these tend to be rounder and softer than their un-oaked cousins. And in New Zealand, Sauv Blanc is allowed to go wild, with intense herbal notes and huge tropical fruit and grassy flavors. Please bring a Sauv Blanc from either the Loire Valley, California, or New Zealand.

We’ll be meeting at Wino HQ in Sherman Oaks. The RSVP system functions like this: if you want in, you click on this link and tell me so (don’t forget your full name, e-mail address, and a cute message conveying to me your intentions). If you’re denied entry due to a meeting exceeding capacity, don’t worry — you’ll be at the top of the list the next week.

Once you’ve gotten your confirmation e-mail, go out and find yourself a bottle of Sauv Blanc from one of the permitted regions (or bring a $10 donation, if you prefer). We’ll see you ballers on Wednesday at 9pm.