Eating and drinking my way through life and learning all the while

WSET Diploma, Week 5 – Wine Production: Dry White, Red and Rosé Wines

Now in Week 5 we took a step away from the books and got on with the side of the course I find so very useful, the blind tasting.

We started with three white wines and were told all three wines were produced from the same grape variety and were asked to name what variety it was.
We were given two further clues, one of the wines was a very successful high volume brand and one of the wines was from a cool climate, but which wine?
Blind tasting is a great way to train your palate, but is also a very scary technique to try in groups unless you instigate the rule, there IS shame in NOT guessing like we do in our unofficial wine study group.
So on the nose, none of the wines was particularly aromatic, which ruled out the likes of Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. The first wine was giving lots of apple and citrus on the nose, the second – ripe green apple as well as tropical fruit like mango and banana, the third was pronounced with steely green apple, and complex mineral, stony, toasty notes.
The range of primary fruit characteristics on display indicated that these were all wines made from Chardonnay. With the third wine indicating it was from a cool climate due to the less ripe, green apple fruit flavours.
As to which one was a high volume brand, my initial thought was wine number two because the tropical fruit flavours indicated warm climate and there are more big brands from the new world.
But to be sure we needed to investigate the wines on the palate, the first wine had mouth-watering acidity, medium tannin from oak aging and ripe peach and apricot fruit flavours. The oak, however, in my opinion overpowered the wine and strangled the fruit.
The second wine had medium acidity, was lightly oaked, with medium levels of alcohol, medium flavour intensity and medium minus length. The tropical aromas didn’t follow through so much on the palate and there was not a lot of flavour concentration.
I’d suggest the first wine was not a successful high volume wine, the use of oak was so overpowering it would be an acquired taste. The second wine has very middle of the road, medium acidity, medium flavour intensity, medium alcohol and length. Successful big brands are generally quite inoffensive as they do not want to alienate any drinker with strong tastes or flavours.
So I guessed all the wines with Chardonnays with wine three – a cool climate wine possibly a Chablis, wine two – a high volume successful brand perhaps from Australia. And wine one – an oaked Chardonnay from Australia or the US.

The wines were revealed to be…
Wine one: 2007 Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay, California
Wine two: 2009 Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia
Wine three: 2008 Chablis Simonney-Febvre, Chablis
At this point I was feeling very smug, get me I could correctly identify wines blind – no mean feat.
Then they brought out the reds…
We were told all of the wines contained one or other of two different grape varieties. I got that one of the grapes was Cabernet Sauvignon but really struggled on the second one. To be honest I got myself so confused I’d flitted between two or three different grape varieties. It turned out the second grape variety was Merlot, which wasn’t any of the grapes I was flitting between.
We were then given the technical details of each of the five wines. Where it was produced, the percentage of the component grape varieties used, the planting density, how it was harvested, whether it has used cold soaking, the length of fermentation, maturation methods and period.
We then had to match the technical specs to each of the five wines. It thought this would have been easy, but like watching game shows on TV it is very different when you are the one under pressure having to decide. I have to admit getting only two out of five right – but this is only Week 5, hopefully by the end of this 18 month course my palate will have been well and truly trained.
So blind tasting can be ego boosting or soul destroying but it is always enlightening…

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