It seems to be the season for wine tastings — not (for me anyway) the imbibing sort, but the leading and showing of wines to all sorts of groups. The other night I returned to a society I first spoke to some 12 years ago.
I enjoy leading their tastings because they take place in someone’s home and there’s always some fun to be had negotiating the collie (who has an uncanny knack of yawning noisily when I’m mid-flow) or the left-handed corkscrew. I love going but am always slightly nervous because something always seems to go awry.
And it did. I arrived bang on time, equipped with wine glasses, notes, right-handed corkscrew and even a chauffeur for the night. I unpacked my tasting sheets and was just starting to feel confident when the hostess mentioned that the wines she’d had delivered didn’t ‘exactly match what we’d discussed’. Ever the control freak I wondered first why she’d left it until five minutes before kick-off to tell me and then felt slightly ill at the idea of having to stand up and talk to some wines I knew nothing about. I fired up the android phone and was horrified — and intrigued — to discover that the first of the whites is, apparently, the first ever wine to be certified ‘carbon neutral… at every stage of production’. I feel fairly confident about carbon neutrality but am definitely not sure I can sound credible on the ‘every stage of production bit’.
I wing it whilst mentally committing myself to fill this gap in my knowledge.
The winery responsible is Chile’s de Martino estate. They were audited for carbon emissions back in 2009: a process that calculated emissions in the vineyard (fertilisers, electricity, fuel), through to packaging, winemaking and transport. Even staff travel was included in the final calculations.
In their bid to negate the greenhouse gases that they are responsible for, de Martino have upgraded their water waste treatment plant, reduced the weight of their wine bottles and increased the volume of recyclable material they are made from. Labels are made from recycled paper and have a low ink content. Packaging has been substantially reduced.
It is, of course, a fantastically commendable exercise but what are the, boldly named, Nuevo Mundo wines like? Well, my first observation is that the labels might be carbon neutral but that’s no excuse for having them look like something that ought to be in the insects and spiders section of the Natural History Museum. It’s a lovely butterfly, I’m sure and it undoubtedly looks magical flitting from vine to vine in Chile but it does nothing to make a body want to pick the bottle from the shelf.
The taste is altogether more satisfying. We tasted the Nuevo Mundo estate Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and the 2010 Carmenere. The white was a zippy, gooseberry-laden mouthful of wine. It certainly packed quite a punch and was very well received. The group was pretty much united in agreeing that it was worth its £8.75 price tag (www.vintageroots.co.uk). I was more charmed by the red Carmenere (also £8.75 www.vintageroots.co.uk) that was full to overflowing with black plum and elderberry fruits. It got a unanimous thumbs up.
It may not have been the most auspicious start to the tasting but as always I came away a little more knowledgeable than when I’d arrived.