Marketing and selling fine wine successfully nowadays is all about connecting with your customers in a unique and dynamic way. Whether your customers are wine buyers, agents or end consumers, producers need to be able to think outside the box and educate as well as inspire.
Yesterday’s De Toren Z 2016 blending session certainly ticked all these boxes and was both highly enjoyable, inspiring and educational all at once. With 10 to 12 buyers, customers, agents and sommeliers in attendance, we tasted and selected our favourite blind Z blends from nine possible 2016 variations.
Below are my tasting notes for these blind wines for which no further blend information was furnished until after we had all delivered our top three wine choices as well as our least favourite.
Z Blend 1 ~
Dense dark opulent nose of plum confit, mocha and milk chocolate. Subtle notes of red liquorice, crushed leaves, and hedgerow spice. Palate is soft, plump, fleshy with soft acids, and creamy spicy black fruit. Finish maybe lacks a little cut and tension. 89+/100
Z Blend 2 ~
Rich creamy nose of bruleed black fruit, caramelised cassis and black cherry. Hints of blueberry pie, condensed milk, and Creme brûlée. Shows a lifted cedar oak spice note, lead pencils and suave, sleek tannins. Fine balance, crunchy acids and very fine grained tannin finish. 93+/100
Z Blend 3 ~
(A blind ringer, actually being last years bottled 2015 Z Blend)
More exotic nose with raisined cassis, liquorice, touch of molasses and creamy raspberry crumble. Less overt fragrance and perfume. Palate is fleshy, full bodied but slightly less complex, a little soft and broad with perhaps insufficient definition and tension at the moment. But a lovely blend nonetheless. 92+/100
Z Blend 4 ~
Rich exotic nose of kirsch liquor, cherry confit, liquorice and blueberry pie. Hints of creamy molasses, sweet plum and freshly chiselled granite. Palate is fleshy, creamy, opulent, with dry grippy granitic mineral tannins, in a powerful, structured four square style. 91+/100
Z Blend 5 ~
Dense, dark creamy black fruits, Molasses, and caramelised plum. Develops classical notes of gravel, spice and chalk. Good freshness and grip, but the components are slightly disparate at the moment. Nice tension on the finish. Shows a lot of potential. 92+/100
Z Blend 6 ~
Dusty creamy bruleed oak, black plum, dense core, cherry pith, and a spicy lift. Violets, tobacco spice and sweet plum. Nice harmony, balance, and breadth. Shows good fine wine potential. 93/100
Z Blend 7 ~
Rich creamy opulent nose showing plenty of blueberry, cassis and aniseed root, liquorice stick and leafy cherry spice. Pretty dusty mocha powdered lift. Palate entry is tart, crunchy, vibrant and fresh with sour plum, cassis, graphite, gravelly tannin grip and a steely textural precision with a hint of cedary oak spice complexity on the finish. Very smart, very fine, great pedigree. 94/100
Z Blend 8 ~
Creamy dense, spicy cherry, black currant, and damson plum. Hints of raisined plum and blueberry. Palate is soft, creamy, dense and crunchy, with powder mineral grip, light weight supple elegance, and a very elegant texture. Suave, harmonious wine with good mid palate tension and freshness. 93+/100
Z Blend 9 ~
Overt nose of black plum, black cherry, spicy cedar as vanilla pod spice. Palate is very fleshy, sweet fruited, opulent and plush, showing good minerality. Finish is a touch shorter than some of the other Cuvees and does not quite fan its tail. A little more mid-palate tension and this could have been excellent. 89/100
My Blend Results:
After this challenging exercise, I settled on a top three list of Wine 7, Wine 8 and Wine 2, with my “least favourite” being Wine 9. Though I should add that all the blends were very fine and impressive, with some just a little more balanced, precise and complete in my mind. For such young wines I look for that extra intensity, tension and wound spring energy. Getting the right fruit, acid and tannin balance among the component blends can certainly deliver this.
Results: Z Blending 2016
Emil Den Dulk’s selection:
7, 5, 6 and least 1
Sommelier Caroline from 67 Pall Mall:
2, 5, 3 and least 7
Pretoria Tasting Session Selection:
6, 3, 9 and least 1
Average Result Selection:
7, 3, 9 and least a tie 6,5,2
We were then treated to a fantastic lunch where we were able to discuss the blends while drinking an impressive Fusion V 2008 – 93+/100, Z Blend 2008 – 92/100 and Z Blend 2012 – 93/100.
While the above tasting event may all seen a little bit academic if you weren’t actually there to taste the different wines’ subtlety and nuances, it nevertheless stands as a wonderful marketing exercise that gives a fascinating insight into the blending of a complex fine wine.