"Is it balanced?" asks Chapman.
"Yes, the wine is balanced. The finish is medium-medium plus. Complexity -- is that the one I'm missing? Medium." She sips again. "Mmm. It's good. So then: moving on to initial conclusion. It's old world. Given the earthiness and the alcohol content and that it's Spain, um, it's one varietal, and three to five years."
"Temperature?" asks Chapman.
"Cool..." She begins considering her final verdict on varietal: "Tempranillo...Grenache...I don't think it's Monastrell -- not deep enough. Final conclusion: old world, Spain, 2003, I'm gonna say Rioja, and it's a blend...." She's guessing that the orange on the rim is because of Grenache and that the "stewed, cooked fruit" she detects matches with her earlier thoughts on Tempranillo.
"Quality level?" asks Chapman.
And so it goes around the table, Chapman taking notes on each taster's evaluation, prompting them when they forget to mention a required characteristic. (Nobody offers criticisms during the individual evaluations. The table policy is "No hurt feelings," but they save their disagreements for the end.) Then after all six wines have been tasted, Chapman asks for group comments on Wine Number One.
"High acid," says Krikorian. "Tart." It's a hard judgment, but there's reason for it. The fruit is still there, but it's muted, and the finish bears that cola-like character Redwine mentioned. The acid has taken the upper hand.
Chapman: "Lots of red fruit herbs spices forest floor." Someone suggests leather, and he agrees.
"2003 Rioja?" he asks, checking Redwine's assessment.
Krikorian: "Given the browning, it's either Grenache or it's more than five years old."
Chapman turns to Redwine. "You called the color deep, but that's not deep, when you compare it to the others. It's starting to lighten up, which might suggest some age."
"This could be a little older than we think," says Krikorian. And he's right: it's a '96 Reserva from Campillo.
"So I got the region right," says Redwine, satisfied.
Chapman holds up the trade book he's been using as a reference. "Doug Frost says Spanish wines are such good value, because oftentimes they release wines when they're ready to drink," holding on to them for several years after bottling.
That may be changing somewhat. The other two Tempranillos we taste are huger, riper, richer -- and much younger. "Tempranillo has behaved differently in the three wines we've had today," says Burgess, and she agrees it may be due to a shift in winemaking style, a shift that may lessen the need for extended prerelease aging. Spanish wines may be getting a little less foreign. As Krikorian puts it, "They're closer to California than to either Italy or France."