A staff assignment to 'wine' about

Sun staffers help out tasting and scoring three Italian white wines for Wine Novice column. They are, from left, Suzanne Dion, Grant Welker and Peter McQuaid.

What makes working at a newspaper exciting is the uniqueness of a new day of news.
No two days are ever the same. In fact it’s almost a given that when someone in the newsroom says, “That’s it, I’ve seen it all,” the phone rings and someone says, “You won’t believe this but …”
People who work at newspapers, or in the New Age of digital newspapers, are committed to excellence, curious about the world they live in, compassionate, positive, truthful, and possess a healthy dose of skepticism.
Recently, I discovered they have pretty good palates too.
So now I have my own official Sun Wine-Tasting Team.
It began when I needed help on my own assignment, tasting three new wines that arrived in the office mail. I put out an email blast on a Friday morning telling the staff that I needed volunteers for an end-of-the-day wine tasting. It would take place in the editorial conference room that is usually reserved for U.S. Senate candidates looking for The Sun’s endorsement.
Two editors and three reporters responded, including our newest hire, Boston University graduate Rick Sobey, who was finishing his first full week of at The Sun. (He probably thought, wow, is this a fun place to work or what!) The others were Managing Editor/Days Tom Zuppa, Lifestyle Editor Suzanne Dion, Arts & Entertainment reporter Peter McQuaid and Chelmsford reporter Grant Welker.
Once assembled, I gave everyone instructions. We’d be sipping three different Italian white wines. I told them to spit out the wine in a plastic cup placed in front of them or in the big glass spittoon on the table. I told them to drink water in between tastings and if they did swallow the wine, they had to drink a glass of water. I gave each a wine-scoring sheet, rating the varietals from 1 to 5 points (5 being the best) on appearance, aroma, body, taste and finish.
Since this was new to three of them, I wasn’t expecting expert commentary or scores but a simple expression of their reaction to the wine as they smelled, swirled, sipped and savored. To my pleasant surprise, these tasters displayed great journalistic instincts in breaking down the wines. Their perceptions were amazing.
We tasted Livio Felluga Friuli Colli Orientali Friulano 2011, Esperto Pinot Grigio 2011 and Mionetto Moscato Dolce.
The scorecards reflected a remarkable consensus: The Moscato Dolce was selected as the top wine by five of the six tasters, and finished with 111 points. No one gave it a perfect score of 25 points, although I gave it 21.5 points — the highest single score for any wine reviewed.
The two dry wines tied with 100 points, scoring well on body, taste and finish but showing weakness from the panel on appearance and aroma.
Here are the comments with suggested retail prices:
1. Mionetto Moscato Dolce, $14 — Dion: Slighly sweet, peachy, pleasing, lasting finish; Zuppa: Subdued aroma, peachy tones, a bit of wood in the background; McQuaid: Aroma feels like the inside of a Cracker Barrell gift shop, had the fullest presence on the tongue; Welker: Bubbly, smell of flowers and apple; Sobey: Fruit juice with bubbles, you could drink a lot of this it feels so good on the tongue; Campanini: Lovely texture and balance, dreaming of sweet desserts.
2. Livio Felluga Friuli Colli, $30 — Dion: Lingering smoothness; Zuppa: Smoother flavor, but not as long lasting; McQuaid: Flowery smell, really sat on the tongue, smooth finish; Welker: Smooth and a bit spicy on the finish; Sobey: Packs punch initially but fades away; Campanini: Dry, beautiful and citrusy, bring on the raw bar.
3. Esperto Pinot Grigio, $10 — Dion: Strong citrus and grapefruit in the mouth, nice light feel; Zuppa: Sharp flavor, like lemon, almost a puckering feeling; McQuaid: Bitter, long lasting and acidic; Welker: Lemon, acidic, grapefruit, long aftertaste; Sobey: Dry, tart, lasts long in mouth and gets better as you drink it; Campanini: Grapefruit taste and crisp, clean finish, made for summer salads, topped with chicken, seafood.
I want to thank Kate Morgan of Creative Palate Communications for the samples, and would suggest that you try these wines to your own delight.
Put this date on the calendar: The Merrimack Valley Food Bank’s 8th annual Grape Expectations wine Tasting and Silent Auction Fundraiser is scheduled for Thursday, April 25, from 6-9 p.m. at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased for $20 each at the door or at www.mvfb.org. Among the top auction prizes is a special wine tasting for 12 hosted by The Wine Wizard, Richard Rourke of Tutto Bene Wine & Cheese Cellar, and the Wine Novice, Jim Campanini of The Sun. Trinity EMS has also donated two premium tickets to each of the Boston team games: Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics.
Send comments to jcampanini@lowellsun.com and visit http://blogs.lowellsun.com/winenovice.