The Big Six Tasting... and a few lessons learned

Please ignore the Goldfish in this picture. They are not the best cracker to eat while tasting wines. But you probably knew that.

So we had our ‘big six’ tasting the other night and I just had to laugh at us right from the start and on through the whole thing.

If you are looking for a fancy-schmancy wine blog, keep clicking. This is definitely not the one. But if you want to giggle a bit with us while learning, keep reading…

To begin, our wine refrigerator isn’t chilling as cold as it should be. (Yeah, I know. I should get it fixed.)

We decided we would just pop the bottles of white in some ice and water to chill them down a few more degrees. The problem there is that my ice bucket is only big enough for one bottle of wine. We had four bottles to chill.

And then I spied my slow-cooker insert, which was the perfect solution.

The Big Six Tasting... and a few lessons learned

See all my stickers on the bottles? That’s how I was sure not to open them until the big tasting.

Wine Lesson # 1: Almost any container will do to chill your white wines to the proper temperature for serving. Just pop the bottle in ice AND WATER to chill it quickly.

I rinsed our wine glasses to be sure there wasn’t any soap residue in the glasses, my husband opened the first bottle and my brother-in-law, Steve, gave us our first pours.

We tried each varietal, read the description of it from Great Wines Made Simple by Andrea Immer Robinson, and compared our observations with what she suggested we should be noting.

In most cases what she said matched right up. Except for the time Steve poured the Chardonnay instead of the Sauvignon Blanc. Surprisingly we all started talking about oakiness, which is not at all suggested by Robinson to be a characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc and then we realized the mistake.

Steve tried to defend himself by explaining he hadn’t read the label of the one he poured, he just knew we weren’t tasting the Fume Blanc, so he hadn’t poured that one and the Kunde was the only one left.

Wine Lesson #2: Sauvignon Blanc also goes by several other names including Fume Blanc, Sauvignon Jaune and Sauvignon Musque.

Steve finally believed me that the Fume Blanc was the Sauvignon Blanc tasting after we pulled out a few more books. Since then, I’ve done more searching on the internet. As it turns out, Robert Mondavi created an oakier Sauvignon Blanc he called Fume Blanc.


This whole process of tasting each wine and reading about the different characteristics made me really think about what it was that I was tasting. I began to taste what Robinson described and feel the wines becoming more full bodied as we worked our way down the list.

Wine Lesson #3: When thinking about whether a wine is full-bodied, think about milk and how it feels in your mouth. Skim is light, whereas whole is medium, and cream is full-bodied.

White and red wines aren’t exactly the same feel, but they follow the same progression, with Riesling and Pinot Noir typically light, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon typically medium and Chardonnay and Syrah/Shiraz more full-bodied.

At one point, we pulled out a few snacks to go with the wine and, once we got to the reds, it was time to break out the Dove dark chocolate squares.

I took a bite of the dark chocolate and sipped some more of the Simi Cabernet and noticed that the fruity flavor of the wine was gone. The chocolate had over-powered it. I took a bite of a salty pita chip and the wine’s original flavor returned.

Wine Lesson #4: The flavors in food definitely impact how you taste wine.

This is one element I hope to explore quite a bit in the future. I was fascinated by my chocolate and salty pita experience.

Once we finished tasting, we went back and drank more of what each of us liked the most. First I went back to the Sauvignon Blanc, and then the Pinot Noir, which surprised me. Typically I go for the bolder reds.

Going into this exercise I expected to come away with a hands-down favorite varietal. Instead I started to taste new flavors and identify different elements in each that I liked.

Have you ever done a varietal by varietal tasting on your own or with friends? What new things did you learn in the process?

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