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Friday, July 9, 2010

The Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine

Tomorrow I take the second of several classes in the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level 2 Certification.  Mary and Joyce (team members at Fast Forward Events) and my partner Ken have all signed up to join me in our quest for greater wine knowledge.  For me, this serves several purposes:
  1. It will help me gain a greater understanding of wine production, grape varietals and food and wine pairing (which, we all know, I love)
  2. Since our business is fully immersed in the wine industry, this will help greatly in dialogue with wineries that participate in our events
  3. It satisfies the geeky side of me that really digs all the terminology and new found trivia (Where does still rose get its color from anyway?)

In our first class, we learned the basics of the WSET's Systematic Approach to Tasting and here's what I absorbed, sort of:

There are basically four parts to tasting wine:
  • Appearance
  • Nose
  • Palate
  • Conclusion

With Appearance, you are looking to assess the Clarity of the wine (is it clear?  dull?), the Intensity of the wine (is it pale?  medium?  deep?), and the Color of the wine which will range based on whether you are tasting a white, rose, or red.

Nose has been a bit trickier for me.  Here you are looking for the condition of the wine which means that you are looking to see, basically, if it smells okay, or not corked  (is it clean?  unclean?).  After that, you go on to measure the Intensity of the wine (is it light?  medium?  or more pronounced in its smell?).  And lastly, the Aroma, for me this is the nutty part that you always hear wine people talk about.  Does the wine smell fruity?  Floral? Spice? Vegetal?  Oak?  And the list goes on.

My favorite part, Palate, is when we assess the wine at last by tasting it.  There are 6 elements to this step:
  • Sweetness (Is the wine dry, off dry, medium, sweet?)
  • Acidity (Is it low in acid?  Medium? High?)
  • Tannin (Is it low, medium or high in Tannin?)
  • Body (Is it light, medium or full?)
  • Flavor Characteristics (Is it fruit, floral, spice, vegetal, oak or something else entirely?)
  • Length (How long does the wine stick around?  How long do you taste it?)
In the final phase, Conclusion, you assess the quality of the wine, asking if it is a poor, acceptable, good, very good, or outstanding representation of its type.

I have a long way to go before I can walk through the steps without my cheat sheet!

You can download the chart if you would like one for yourself, which I have now found pretty handy to have when tasting!

Click Here to Download

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