Thursday, May 26, 2011

IWFS Blind Old World-New World Wine Pairing Dinner.

Last Thursday, the 19th May 2011, was at CAV for an International Wine & Food Society Philippines Branch ("IWFS") Blind Wine Pairing Dinner organized by Director Jay Labrador.

Two wines for each course, plus two bubblies for the pass-arounds, one Old World and one New World, were served sans identification. In choosing the wines, local availability, identity of vintages and close matching of prices were made the standards. The wines themselves were disclosed ahead of time, but nobody except a few members of the waitstaff knew which was which when served. Those in attendance were asked for their preferences and to try and tell the wines apart. Of the total of 26 participants, most were members and spouses- only 5 or 6 were guests.

CAV proprietor David Ong flanked by David Celdran and a friend.

Catha & Michelle Server with Lawrie Martin & Jay Labrador.

Bill Stone, Oscar Ong, Dong Puno, Robbie Delgado & Bernie Sim with Robbie's guests.

Richard & Yuki Joye with IWFS President & Wine Master Bernie Sim.

Three pass-arounds were made available to go with the two bubblies. Aside from some very nice Mini Onion Tartes Flambées (sorry, no photo), the others were...

...Escargots Vol-au-Vent...

...and Sea Urchin Toast.

Bubbly "A", pleasant, quaffable and citrusy, was comparatively lighter, tight and linear compared to Bubbly "B". Bubbly "B" was fuller, heftier, toastier and creamy in comparison. As to the pairing canapés, all were delicious, the escargots vol-au-vent and uni toast being outstanding. Given the escargot vol-au-vent's comparative richness, I preferred Bubbly "B" as the pairing; and, due to Bubbly "A"s lean, fresh citrus, I preferred it as a pairing for the uni toast.

Over-all, however, I preferred Bubbly "B" and guessed it to be the Old World Bubbly (Piper Heidsieck Brut NV), leaving Bubbly "A" to be the New World bubbly (Schramsberg Mirabelle NV). Catha and Michelle made the same identifications.

Bill Stone then took the floor, and, with Jay Labrador, took the tally of votes. In just a few minutes, the results were announced:

Bubbly "A" was the Schramsberg Mirabelle NV (New World) and Bubbly "B" was the Piper Heidsieck Brut NV (Old World). 23 of the 26 participants (88.46%) preferred the Piper Heidsieck Brut NV with 18 (69.2%) being able to identify it as the Old World bubbly.
The seafood course was then served with the 2 pairing whites (both sauvignon blanc):

Prawn Carpaccio w/ Lemongrass,
Jellied Spice Consommé & Aromatic Leaves

This wasn't much of a challenge since I've had the wines of Pinard and Dog Point before and it is no secret that, for sauvignon blancs, the wines of the eastern Loire (Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé) are my favorites. Sauvignon Blanc "A" was evidently more floral, graceful and pure with passionfruit nuances; while Sauvignon Blanc "B" had telltale grassiness and comparatively more forward gooseberry notes. I preferred Sauvignon Blanc "A" and guessed it to be the Sancerre (Old World).

The results were:

17 out of 26 (65.38%) preferred Sauvignon Blanc "A" which was revealed to be the 2008 Vincent Pinard Sancerre Flores; though only 13 (50%) were able to identify it as the Old World wine. Sauvignon Blanc "B" was the New World wine, namely, 2009 Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc.

Jerome Philippon, the Philippine distributor of the wines of Vincent Pinard (above with Louie & Maritess Lee and Guido d'Argensio), didn't look overly surprised. In fairness, however, neither was I. As regards the pairing dish, on it's own it was quite unremarkable, if not outright uninteresting. With the wines, though, it was nothing less than a masterpiece - different composite flavors coming alive with each wine. My compliments to the chefs; it was undoubtedly one of the most skillful, if not the most skilful, interplay of flavors a single dish for two different wines that I have ever had.

Next was the pinot noir pairing; the dish being...

Sweetbreads w/ Bonito Purée, Spring Vegetables & a Truffle Jus.

Pinot Noir "A", on the one hand, I found comparatively clunky/chunky/blocky in its overly concentrated, dense and extracted fruit. I, further, felt that its considerable alcoholic level threw it out of balance even more. This is not how I personally prefer pinot noir. Pinot Noir "B", on the other hand, to me was, at first blush, purer in fruit, more refined and balanced. I, naturally preferred Pinot Noir "B" and guessed it to be the Old World Wine. The results were:

11 out of 26 (42.30%) preferred Pinot Noir "A" (i.e., 2008 Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir) and 15 (57.70%) preferred Pinot Noir "B" (i.e., 2008 Faiveley Nuits St. Georges Vignes Rondes). 21 of the 26 participants (80.77%) were able to correctly identify Pinot Noir "B" as the Old World wine.

Dong Puno, Freddy Pio de Roda & Rene Fuentes, Sr.

Bernie Sim, David Ong & Oscar Ong.

Perfectly executed Rack of Lamb w/ Risotto was then served for the pair of Malbecs. Several, including myself, noted that they were served in non-identical glasses - which is a fundamental no-no in comparative blind tastings. CAV was full that night, though, so there was a shortage of identical glasses - so it couldn't be helped, and we soldiered on.

Malbec "A", to me, seemed a bit shy, restrained and lacking in heft for a malbec (not that I have any depth of experience with malbec wines). Though it was quite acceptable as a pairing, alongside the more forward, indulgent, full, lushly ripe and nicely layered Malbec "B", I went for the latter and guessed it to be the Old World Cahors. I was wrong. The results were:

Malbec "A" was the Old World wine (2006 Château Lamartine Cahors Cuvée Particulière) and Malbec "B" was the New World wine (2008 Achával-Ferrer Malbec [from Mendoza, Argentina]) and I was the only one who guessed that the latter was from the Old World. 18 of the 26 participants (69.23%) preferred the Old World (Cahors, Southwest France) wine.

Like the preferred Sancerre, Jerome Philippon's Sommelier Selection distributes the preferred malbec. This time, though, he was visibly elated by his wine's triumph. The Old World, thus far, had been consistently preferred by the group.

France had already clearly made a and strong statement for the Old World.

The Old & New World Reds.

With the cheese course of Gorgonzola w/ Asian Pear Mustard & Walnut Toast, came the pair of fortified wines. Fortified Wine "A", the lighter colored one, seemed more ready to drink, more "together", showing some dried sultanas, lemon drop in its svelte body; while Fortified Wine "B", to me, was a bit too sweet and had a diffuse feel to its redder fruit flavors. With the gorgonzola, I much preferred Fortified Wine "A" and guessed it to be the Old World wine. Wrong again. The results were as follows:

Fortified Wine "B" was the Old World wine; i.e., Ferreira Quinta do Porto 10-Year Old Tawny Port (Portugal). Fortified Wine "A" was the New World wine, namely, Seppeltsfield 10-Year Old Para Grand (Australia). 17 of the 26 participants (65.38%) preferred the New World fortified wine; and, only 2 (7.7%), namely Bernie Sim & Jay Labrador, were able to identify the wines correctly. Thus, Seppeltsfield garnered the only comparative preference for the New World that evening.

Richard Joye, Jay Labrador & Bernie Sim.

Delectable Mignardises followed.

After some discussion of the results, Bill Stone & Jay Labrador called out and congratulated Chef Bjoern van den Oever, who, with Chef Markus Gfeller (not around at the time), created and executed the nights impressive pairing menu.

Jay, Chef Bjoern van den Oever & Bill.

The entire kitchen crew received a hearty round of well-deserved applause.

The evening officially over, we, the few and persistent,
lingered over espressos and the rest of the wines.

Lovely evening. I must note that the food at CAV has been consistently impressive since Chef Bjoern van den Oever's been around. Congratulations to the IWFS Board, especially Jay Labrador, for such a wonderful and interesting evening. Then, as always, until the next!