Wine and spirits are fascinating and important subjects. Using the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Systematic Approach to Tasting can be invigorating and can most definitely enhance our pleasure of enjoying wine, spirits and food. They can take us on unimagined adventures as we look towards understanding more about why they taste the way they do.
Why take a wine course or qualification?
The main reasons seem to be curiosity and for the love of wine. You may have in-depth knowledge or little knowledge of wines. Almost everyone has personal preferences. We can travel the world (well, much of it) staying at home and sampling all types and styles of wine made from just about every wine producing nation in the world. For all who want to learn more about wine and its nature, it is a never-ending journey of exploration and discovery, of pure excitement and joy.
In the late 1980’s, a newly appointed American Master of Wine gave a speech to a group of hoteliers, restaurateurs and wine merchants in Toronto. He said that he would rather drink what he referred to as a simple bottle of wine at home with his family than a mature and rare Cru Classe Bordeaux with work associates. Possibly an unusual thing to say. I remember thinking, yes, for many of us, wine is about sharing, enjoying each other’s company, bringing people together, uniting us and reflecting upon life.
Wine means different things to each of us
How does wine make you feel? One of the things that makes learning about wine quite distinct is the use of our senses. Using our sense of smell and taste in particular seems to be part of the appeal of wine. It brings us back to nature and to self-awareness.
Blind tasting is often talked about and under exam conditions can be a very humbling experience. From a learning point of view, it can be helpful in distinguishing grape varietal characteristics in particular. If you want to try this at home, here is one approach:
1. Choose 6 wines with distinctive characteristics such as a Sauvignon Blanc + an unoaked Chardonnay (such as a Chablis AOC) + a dry Riesling + an oaked Cabernet Sauvignon + an unoaked or lightly oaked Pinot Noir + a Syrah/Shiraz. 2. Sample each one, firstly, by smelling and writing down what you smell (citrus, gooseberry, peach for example for the whites and blackcurrant, cherry, blackberry, spice, vanilla for the reds). Then taste the wines and write down what you taste (which should be similar to what you smell). 3. Now ask someone to pour the wines out again in clean glasses and switch the glasses around making sure they know which glass has which wine. 4. Sample the wines again and based on your previous tasting, deduce which wines are which.
By learning more about wine, looking at grape varietal characteristics, climate, how the wine was made, for example, as well as other factors, it can help us to understand and appreciate wines fully. When you try different wines that you may not be used to, you can often find new wines that become firm favourites. It expands our horizons and makes us thirsty for more. So, pick up your wine goggles and let’s get going!
Upcoming qualifications: WSET Level 1 Award in Wines and WSET Level 2 Award in Wines: To be confirmed
GIFT VOUCHERS are available and make perfect presents for wine lovers.
WINE FOR LIFE LEARNING is a dynamic Approved Programme Provider of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and runs WSET qualifications in Swansea, Cardiff, all over Wales and Southwest England. To see details please go to www.wineforlifelearning.co.uk.