Last week I has my first, of five, classes with the Capital Wine School for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Award. Going to school for wine? What more could one ask? There are a variety of people in the class, from wine distributors looking to learn about products, caterers, retirees pursuing their passions of wine and getting background for potential work in wine stores and others of us just learning more about wine for kicks.
During the first session, we learned about various elements of wine, from environment to storage. But the primary focus was the Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine. Before you taste the wine, you have to analyze several aspects of it, with specific, pre-identified terms for each level.
Appearance — clarity, intensity, color. For this, you always want to have the wine against a white background.
Nose — condition, intensity, aroma characteristics (you use the characteristics below). Swirling is optional, personal preference, but what do you have to lose?
Next, the fun part — tasting the wine! They like to call it palate. There are several areas to determine/analyze here — sweetness, acidity, tannin, body, flavor characteristics, finish.
For the Aroma and flavor characteristics, there are many of them to base it/them on:
Floral/fruit — floral, green fruit, citrus fruit, stone fruit, tropical fruit, red fruit, black fruit, dried fruit
Spice/Vegetable — underripeness, herbaceous, herbal, vegetable, sweet spice, pungent spice
Oak/other — simplicity/neutrality, autolytic, dairy, oak, kernel, animal, maturity, mineral
Conclusions — quality
What was interesting to learn while doing this is that you have a blank palate — you do not lean a certain way. It is what is present in the wine. You might not like the wine, but it’s the flavor, aromas, characteristics, x,y,z that are there. You analyze that wine to present it to the innocent bystander who is looking for a ‘wine that will pair with ‘this” or a wine with ‘x flavors.’
We tasted 6 wines last week. They provide you with spit/dump buckets and water so you could keep going strong.
#1 2012 Mara White Grass Sauvignon Blanc
#2 2010 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay
#3 2011 Karl Erbes Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett
#4 2011 Henry Fessy Morgon Cru Beaujolais
#5 2010 Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon
#6 2011 Bodegas Volver Tarima Mourvedre (Monastrell)
As mentioned earlier, it was tough to say, ‘this was a good wine,’ because there are a few that I put personal notes about what NOT buy at the store. But it is so neat to start learning about what goes into what sommeliers learn when they provide you all the info on the grapes we enjoy.
Class #2 is later this week. So, more to come.