There is a great emphasis on terroir in French wine - the concept that wine should have a sense of place, that it should taste of where it comes from - but this doesn't mean that wines from each region necessarily have common defining characteristics that give away their identity in a blind tasting: there are so many variables in winemaking. But each region does of course tend towards a certain style. And what wine lover could resist the challenge of uncovering some secret wines?
So, I tasted the three mystery bottles, mulled it over and posted my answers on the Secret Wine site. It was really enjoyable tasting the wines without knowing anything about them, trying to work out where they came from.
There has since been a message posted by the Secret Wine team to say that a number of bloggers (from various countries) have entered their votes - but as yet no-one has provided the three correct answers. Zut alors.
Here are my findings on the mystery wines.
This was the first wine I tasted, and it was very impressive - it turned out to be my favourite of the three. A really classy wine. Pouring it into the glass it was very dark, almost inky black in colour (triggering a thought of Cahors down in the south west of France, famed for its so-called 'black wines'). An enticing aroma of blackcurrant and plums with a raisiny, almost brandy-like undertone precedes a gorgeously balanced taste of slightly sweet purple fruit, very smooth, powerful yet with a soft mouthfeel. This wine was so good I wondered about Bordeaux, St Emilion perhaps, but opted in the end for the Languedoc region. My answer was Grands Vins de Languedoc - although in retrospect a more specific answer may have been Minervois.
This was the most powerful of the three and I'm fairly certain it was at least 14%ABV. Again a very dark red, purple colour, but this time with an almost syrupy full body. A port-like aroma with meaty and minty notes, with more menthol and herby flavours and some oak coming through in the mouth, with a slightly overpowering alcoholic hit. I toyed with it perhaps being a Chateauneuf du Pape, but settled on Cahors, partly because it reminded me slightly of an Argentinian malbec - a grape common to Cahors (albeit known as Auxerrois or Cot).
Just a touch thinner than the other two this one, and not as powerful on the nose. Aromas of raspberry, blackberry, blueberry and black pepper were followed up by raspberry and blackberry on the palate. Fairly easy drinking. In terms of grapes, I half wondered about pinot noir, or cabernet perhaps, but it reminded me of a Rhone GSM (grenache-syrah-mourvedre), so that was my thinking when I opted for Cotes du Rhone.
It'll be interesting to find out how close or far away I am. Looking at other people's answers on the Secret Wine site, most have had similar thinking around the south of France. But who knows. That full bodied #390, for instance, could even be Californian or Australian. I'll report the results when they're announced. We don't yet know who wins the prizes if nobody calls all three wines correctly.