Where I live, prices of wine can be high. In fact prices of wine are even higher in some of the neighbouring countries with duty on tax as high as 500% on value, alcohol level and so on. The only exception is Hong Kong which has now become a haven for wine purchasing due to the exemption of duty and tax.
Our tax and duty on wine is about $9.50 to $11 per bottle, depending on the alcohol level. The higher the alcohol content, the higher the tax and duty. I think you get the idea how much we pay for a bottle of good whisky or vodka. *.*
So most of the time, we (most of my wine collector friends) do not really give any thoughts to purchase and taste $30 or less wine, well maybe a few sips at weddings or cocktail functions. So when I was invited to join a group of wine connoisseurs and collectors for a $30 challenge, I could not say no, In fact I was thrilled. When we (especially the different groups I am with) do not think twice to drop serious dollars for wines we love to drink, it is easy to forget to consider that there might be good wines, diamonds-in-the-rough types. Maybe not every wine, but most must have started at that price level, maybe not quite be $30, but humbly I am sure.
It was not simply to go to a supermarket and pick up the first $30 on the shelves. As we are a bunch of curious, critical and possible cruel group of people, we looked for wines that were made from unusual grape varietals, unexpected blend, or unexpected wine growing region for the usual grape varietals. All were served blind and we had to guess grape varietals, vintage, and wine producing regions over local zichar cuisine.
This first pair of white was quite intriguing. The one that got us stumped was made from an unfamiliar grape: Jacquere. I thought it was oxidised and the colour was quite dense. We guessed every possible grape varietals we thought might be close, but just not Jacquere. I thought it was a Spanish white that might have been oxidised. It seemed that this wine needed to be drunk very young and vintage 2009 was considered over the hill. So now we are hunting down another bottle to taste again so that we can decide if it was indeed oxidised.
The next pair was reds. I brought a NZ red of unusual blend from this part of the world. When I last visited NZ, I was amazed by how grape varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon are tasting. It maybe due to global warming or the vines are maturing, but they have come around with more complexity and maturity in flavours instead of being green and stalky which I encountered more than a decade ago. So when I found a Malbec/Merlot blend, I felt that this would be a good blind. In terms of character, it was quite Grenache-like, soft, fruit forward, smoky and lip-smacking yumminess. And guess what, it was priced at $26.50.
The Valpolicella was a big wine, too big in my opinion. Although it was opened for quite a while it didn’t soften till we were almost done with dinner. The size and sweetness will definitely appeal to novice drinkers and a good intro to getting to know wine further.
I was glad that there was a California wine in our selection. Entwine Merlot was made by the Wente Family and it really showed its country of origin. Soft, fruit forward sweetness and flavours smoky notes, and big in style without being too overwhelming.
The Australian Shiraz was the most un-shiraz-like for its nationality. We thought we can spot a young Australian Shiraz from a mile, but this little black bottle stumped us. It didn’t have the green pepper, black pepper, candied-like upfront sweetness, and in your face style that it is known for. I am not a fan of Australian Shiraz, but I must say, this was not a bad one.
The final bottle may be the only bottle I not sure about. It was rather one-dimensional, short to mid length and fell quite quickly. It had fruit such as plum and cherry, and the tannin was quite soft laced with characteristic of dried leaves, wood chips and dried flowers. It may have been too dry for me.
We agreed that we had the most fun sourcing for potential bottle to surprise each other. But I still believe that life is too short. I try to drink as well as I can.