Test your grape-ness

– round two

One of the most popular wine dinners of the year took place at the beginning of the summer at Edoardo’s restaurant hosted by Blackbeard’s, a fun-packed but forehead furrowing test of diners’ wine knowledge. Organiser Blackbeard’s Jodie Petts managed to play a merry dance with our palates by throwing in some unlikely varietals along with some recognisable favourites, ensuring that just a handful of diners correctly guessed all five wines.  Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports.
Wine dinners can’t help be convivial affairs, with friends joining together to enjoy a set menu dreamt up by the chef and wines purposely chosen by professionals certain that their selections will enhance the cuisine and thus the evening as a whole.
Blackbeard’s annual (how I wish it was more frequent!) guess the grape dinner includes all of the above but also adds a frisson of competition to the proceedings, as diners have to think long and hard (and drink lots of wine in the process) to decide on the varietal that they are drinking, along with the region, country and vintage, throughout the course of the evening.
At the start of the dinner, Jodie explained that everyone could earn themselves a maximum of 20 points and along the way they might even discover a grape variety that might well turn into a brand new favourite.
We first assembled at Edoardo’s swish newly revamped bar, called Bar-olo, developed this year for guests to enjoy aperitifs or after dinner drinks in spacious, stylish yet comfortable surroundings before or after dining in the main restaurant.
Our first wine was poured and enjoyed at the bar, the low lighting not aiding us terribly well in our initial grape guessing as colour is an important indicator (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).
Jodie confirmed that the wine, poured from the bottle disguised in brown paper, was a sparkling rosé. She also confirmed that all wines were single varietals and not blends, so as not to confuse our amateur palates.
This first wine was slightly reminiscent of a Prosecco, the trendy sparkling wine from Italy’s Veneto region that has taken over from Champagne as the sparkling wine of choice, far more reasonable in price than Champagne. But then again it had a feel of “méthode traditionelle” (the old-fashioned tried and tested method of making Champagne), without the full impact of Champagne. 
One diner described the wine thus: “Bubbles dancing on the tongue like a penguin from Happy Feet.”
Our table discussed the three Champagne grapes that could possibly be in the glass (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and concluded that the pink tinge to the wine could have been made by the Pinot Noir grape, so that is what we opted for. Wrong! The wine was a De Chanceny Cremant Rosé from the Loire Valley (at least we got the country correct), a non vintage 100 per cent Cabernet Franc, made in the same way as Champagne but only aged two to three years rather than the usual three to four.
Taking our seats, the tough decision-making could continue. A beautiful gazpacho soup (which inspired me to make the garlicky tomato-heavy broth all summer long) tempted the palate, further to Eduardo’s delicious appetiser canapés. The soup was enjoyed by another delicious rosé, a fruity light wine that had our table immediately rooting for the Zinfandel grape, perhaps from California.
Wrong again. Jodie eventually revealed this to be a Syrah rosé from Planeta in Sicily. We did, however, guess the correct vintage (2008) for a measly point. Jodie pointed out that although this wine was one of Planeta’s lightest varieties, it was also the winemaker’s most popular, annually selling out completely.
Fingers crossed for a more successful next round. Unfortunately this wine, a fruity white, really had our table scratching heads – not a Sauvignon Blanc (not acidic or grassy enough); not round and buttery like a Chardonnay; not light and fruity like a Pinot Grigio, but more a mix of all three. 
Definitely not a distinctive Riesling or a perfumed Gewürztraminer. We eventually plumped for a Sauvignon Blanc but with some reservations.
Of course we were wrong, this time it was a 2008 Loimer Grüner Veltliner from Kamptal in Austria, a delightfully elegant wine that sang the praises of the shrimp and fresh Caribbean salsa alongside which it was served.
Slowly, as the evening progressed, the fact that we had earned only a handful of points thus far did not seem to matter much as we loosened up to the proceedings.
A lovely fruity red was then poured, its deep dark colour and spicy, peppery notes a sure giveaway as to the grape (a Shiraz). Alas we were far too immersed in conversation to note the grape’s special nuances, settling instead for a Cabinet Sauvignon, while at the same time savouring the chef’s delicious offering of mustard crusted rack of lamb with caramelised onions and seasonal vegetables, a brilliant pairing.
Jodie explained later that this was a 2007 Yangarra Shiraz from McClaren Vale in Australia, an estate-grown and bottled wine made in fairly limited quantities. The wine had scored 93 points in the 2010 Australia Wine Companion and 90 points on Patterson’s The Tasting Panel magazine.
One diner described the wine as: “without doubt top shelf” while another was about as spot on as our table:
“Grape? Red – probably. Argentina, Cabernet or Pinot”.
Giving the game away just slightly on the dessert course, Jodie hinted that the wine could well come from Canada. Well-known for its sticky sweet dessert wines, Canada’s Niagara region is a huge producer of ice wine. This was a good example of the Vidal grape, a gorgeously sugary sweet wine dubbed “deliciously teeth-rotting, not unlike Sunny D” by one diner.
Finally we had got one right! In particular, this was a 2006 wine from the Pillitteri Estates Winery from Niagara on the lake, Ontario, Canada, a stunning companion to Edoardo’s New York style cheesecake with tropical fruit compote.
Our table’s final score? About 4 out of 20 for each of us, but it really did not matter at all. The evening had been a huge success and we all look forward to testing our knowledge in round three next year.