It’s once again an Australia Time Friday! It’s FRIDAY!!!!
(Though really I’m posting this California time Friday morning due to circumstances)
We again had Thomas Farms Loin Chops (mini-T-Bone) in the cast iron skillet in the oven at 400 F for about 20? minutes. More a watch and pull than timer.
Sides were a Knorr brand “Broccoli Alfredo Noodles” from the “prep” box. These commercially packaged sides keep for years. I don’t see the reason to pay $6 for Freeze Dried Camping Stuff when this commercial product costs $1 at Walmart. You do need to add milk and (optional) butter, but canned milk and a neutral oil work fine too. (Try olive oil ;-) And an “American Salad” bag-O-salad with Ranch dressing. Basically shredded lettuce, purple cabbage, carrot, and a little wafer of radish every so often.
Wine? I’m working off my stock of Little Penguin Shiraz Cabernet blend. It is just a wonderfully fully flavored rich fruit wine.
I did do a test of “blend your own” Shiraz / Cabernet, using the “Two Buck Chuck” wine from Trader Joe’s. The result was a better wine than either one separately, but a bit ‘thin’ when compared to the Australian Little Penguin. Don’t get me wrong, not bad a all, and likely preferable to someone who has not been seduced by the kick-ass spicy grip of straight Australian Shiraz. More like a Merlot with added flavors.
So here’s the notes I took “at the time” of the blending. Do note that the order matters a little bit. Unlike my UC Davis Viticulture & Enology class training, I did not spit out the wine after each tasting. This means that the later test will have a slightly dulled palate and a numb nose assessing them.
I tested in the order: 100% straight of each wine to establish the starting points, 10%/90% (both blends), 20%/80% (both), 50%/50% (only one blend), then 70%/30% and finally the two 60%/40% blends.
Why that order? Well, after the first 6 drinks, I knew two things. First off, the answer was somewhere near the middle. So try the exact middle. Second, the 1/2 & 1/2 blend only required one drink to asses. Save that palate! After the 50/50 blend, the nose was basically not able to detect subtle changes anymore, so nose comments suspect. “Someday” I can go back and start with those blends ;-)
I’m going to type my notes below, but may also insert some added commentary in retrospect. The order will be 100%, then 90%, 80, 70, 60, 1/2 & 1/2.
Also note that this is for these 2 wines only. Each Cabernet and each Shiraz will want a different balancing blend. In particular, this Shiraz is just not as “strong” a flavor as the Australian Shiraz I’ve had. It takes more $2 Chuck to “punch up” a Cabernet, or it may take more Cabernet to tone down an Australian, depending on the other major point: This reflects what I like, you may have a different end point you like more.
100% Cab: Mellow. Rich nose. Ruby highlights. Nice. Drinkable. A little lacking in depth, zip.
100% Shiraz: Spicier. Interesting nose. Faint bluish highlights or somewhat purple. Dry, a bit aggressive. Earthy overtones. Thin body & flavor (other than spicy bits) also lacking depth.
90% Cab: Much improved from “lacking” to nice with more depth.
90% Shiraz: Slight improvement, aggressiveness lessened. Flavor a bit more complete.
80% Cab: Some smoothness gone, but flavor better. Bit-O-Spice under Cab.
80% Shiraz: Spicy still, less dry & aggressive. Flavor with more depth to it.
70% Cab: Oh Yes! Very nice. Smooth with spice. Richness with zip. Dark Ruby with bits of purple.
70% Shiraz: A bit thin on depth still, but nice spice with good flavor
60% Cab: Wowser! Nice nose. Flavor rich but not lush. Depth with spice. I like this!
60% Shiraz: Improvement over straight Shiraz. Spicy, but not as smooth as I’d like. Very nice, but a bit too much Shiraz I think.
50% both: Nice nose. Deeper richer flavor. Deeper ruby color. (Improvement, but not ideal)
As a post script: The Little Penguin just has more total flavor to work with “out the gate”. In my opinion, you can tell that, while bottled in Napa, the Charles Shaw grapes were likely grown in the Central Valley. They have that small loss of strong flavor characteristic of grapes grown where it is hotter and they mature faster and more fully. Less tannin and less acid, more sugars, a bit less flavor compounds. This makes for wines that mature fast, do not age for long years well, and are really good for “open now and drink”, not intended for “put in the cellar for a decade”. In other words, well suited to the way most people actually drink $2 Chuck.
This, then, means it is a very drinkable and enjoyable wine, but not something that will impress your favorite Wine Snob Cousin after you cellar it for a decade. It also means that the blends will be similarly “a little less there there” than an intense fully flavored Australian Shiraz.
My initial experience with an Australian pure Shiraz was “What the hell just ran over my tongue?” It is strong, bold, with intense flavors and “spice”. Spice is hard to explain, but the best word for it. The wine just kid of sets off sparkles in your mouth. Like pepper without the burn. It takes a few bottles but eventually you start asking why other wine is so bland and doesn’t have that “kick”…
The Charles Shaw Shiraz, in comparison, is softer and more “thin” (less intense). Shiraz grape is known for high variation in flavor and strength with location, soils, sun, water, etc. So expected to vary. The Charles Shaw Shiraz is VERY drinkable for folks who are not already addicted to Australian Shiraz, but a slight disappointment if that Australian experience was what you expected. In other words, it is more like a Cabernet as it sits. It will be interesting to try some blends using a strong Australian too ;-)
THE biggest ‘takeaway’ for me from this experiment was just that “blended wine” is not the pejorative that many folks think. Yes, it is used to take a poor wine and ‘blend it up’ to salable. BUT it is also used to make some of the best French Wines Of Repute in the world. What I learned was “I can do that too!”
No, my 60% Cab 40% Shiraz blend is NOT up to the Little Penguin level. But it is close. I was able to take two “Nice, drinkable, like it” wines and turn them into “Oh My I want more of that!” in the glass. What’s more, that was after I’d started to get a bit of diminished sense of taste after a fair amount of wine. It was “punching through” that dulling. I look forward to starting with that blend in a future confirmation run.
Notes On Technique:
I used “graduated shot glasses” to measure. These are for measuring in cooking. Graduated with tsp, Tbl, Ounces and ml. One of 1 oz size used to measure small %mix (under 40%) and one of 4 oz / 120 ml used when the mix ratio was 40%-50%-60%. I used tsp for the first blends, so one “drink” was 10 tsp. That’s a little over 1.5 ounces or about 50 ml. This is a far cry from the 6 oz “standard drink of wine”. So when I had “6 drinks” it was about the same as one regular glass of 9 oz.
My tsp scale was bit hard to use for blends with more middling ranges (small glass too small to hold them well, big glass harder to read) so I swapped to 100 ml “drinks” using just the bigger glass and the ml scale that ranged up to 120 ml. This roughly doubled my “drink size” for the 60/40 and 50-50 blends. Still, 4 ounces is less than 6. The point being that I wasn’t sozzled at the testing of the 60/40, but just noticing that even 9 ounces of wine starts to dull the nose and palate.