Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Sun: Vin du Soleil blind tasting

I got a phone call from The Sun yesterday. They'd seen my news story on about the release of their new wine - Vin du Soleil, and wanted to invite me and a colleague down to their HQ in Wapping for a blind tasting, the results of which you can read about here.

Born out of a collaboration between the red top's wine writer Brian Moore and Asda's chief wine buyer Philippa Carr MW, the aptly named Vin du Soleil, a blend of Vermentino and Viognier, went on sale at Asda last week, so The Sun are obviously keen to plug it.

Living by the Wildean adage that all publicity is good publicity, web editor Adam and I decided to do it. Arriving at News International we are met by feature writer Nick Francis and ushered to the 'Green room' - a windowless grey room with black and white photos of Carry On stars adorning the walls, which I could almost hear weep.

We're told by Nick to wait in the green room while he prepares the tasting. Twenty minutes later he emerges. 'Here's the plan, we're going to put you in black silk blindfolds and take a few photographs'. Horrified by the idea of these photos coming into being, I suggest it would be a better idea to cover the bottles rather than our eyes. Nick seems happy with this and promptly disappears.

Ten minutes later we're whisked into a studio and placed in front of a white desk like a pair of news readers. A man fits us with mics and the photographer begins snapping away. Nick emerges with two plastic glasses filled with wine. 'We're not going taste from these are we?' Adam asks aghast. 'You can't swirl them and the plastic will impede the flavour'. Off goes Nick again in search of suitable stemware.

Meanwhile Adam and I prepare ourselves for the challenge ahead. We were to taste six wines, five of which were around the £5 mark and one around £15, picking out the Sun wine and the £15 bottle. Participating in any kind of blind tasting is a risky business that sets you up for a potential fall - even the most experienced palates make mistakes.

Nick bounds through the door with a box full of glasses, which are promptly filled with the six wines and laid out in front of us. The camera starts rolling and we're told to look at each other and have a relaxed 'conversation' about the wines. Adam is a natural and launches into describing the first - 'light, fruity, a touch sweet', we both agree it's got some character, but isn't rocking our world. Wine number two is more to my taste. Its crisp acidity and green apple notes make me think it may be the Vermentino in the Sun blend. I boldly suggest we may have found the Vin du Soleil.

Wines three and four are dire - colourless, characterless and charmless. 'They must be Pinot Grigios' I say, looking disdainfully down the camera lens. Adam agrees. Wine five is more interesting, with appealing minerality and malolactic notes - cue lengthly description from Adam about the intricacies of malolactic fermentation. I steer the discussion on by reaching for glass six.

Mercifully it's good. Very good in fact. So good I wonder if it's the £15 wine. Lively, fresh, with good acidity and attractive floral notes Adam is convinced it's the Viognier from the Vin du Soleil blend, so we put our reputations on the line and hail it the Sun wine. At this point, camera still rolling, Nick starts waving his arms with glee and grinning. We must be right. But what of the expensive wine? I venture it must be wine two, as none of the others showed enough complexity. Adam agrees hesitantly.

The camera stops rolling and Nick tells us we're half right. We picked out the Vin du Soleil but failed to spot the most expensive wine – a Pouilly-Fuissé from Bouchardné et Fils, preferring the Jacob's Creek Semillon-Chardonnay blend. The Bouchard wasn't showing well - its supposed pear, apricot, floral and honey aromas had all but vanished. As quickly as we'd entered, we were stripped of our mics, shaken by the hand and ushered out of the studio and into the midday traffic.

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