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

WSET Diploma, Week Two – Diploma level wine tasting

So week two of wine school and we finally got into the part I love the most – the blind tasting.

Although this was blind tasting but not quite as I knew it. Diploma level tasting is more than just identifying a fruit bowl full of flavours in a  wine and ticking boxes re level of acidity, tannin etc. It is really much more evaluative. We are looking for whether this wine is good value, how old is it, does it demonstrates typicity i.e. is it typical of a wine from that particular region/grape variety? Does it taste of somewhere? To be able to say this, of course, you need to know what is a benchmark wine for a specific area,  what is a Barossa Valley Shiraz supposed to taste like for example.
There were lots of useful hints and tips to distinguish the level of acidity, intensity of colour and flavour etc many of which would have been handy during my WSET Advanced course.
But where I am struggling at the moment, is how to take the WSET structured approach to wine tasting and translate it into a wine tasting note consumers would understand and find useful. I sense the wine trade is very good at finding the technical language to speak to each other but has not yet excelled in talking in a language consumers understand. Medium minus acidity/medium plus tannin anyone?
One of the watch points from tonight is trying to attribute too many flavours/sensations to a relatively simply wine. When tasting blind, you don’t know in advance whether the wine you are tasting is a fine wine, or one destined for a life on 3 for 10 promotion. Also, at this stage we, as students, don’t always have the confidence in our own convictions and so if we are not getting a lot of distinct flavours from a wine we keep in sniffing and swirling, thinking we are missing something, until we can find three or four flavour descriptors to use.
This week, we were told it is okay to say this is a simple, neutral wine with a light aromas of grapefruit and green apple if that is all we’re getting.
Giving  relatively straight-forward wine a plethora of fancy descriptors is why many consumers find it difficult to understand and appreciate wine tasting notes.  Keeping it simple is no bad thing, a bottle of Freixenet Cordon Rosado my hubby picked up last night says it is a fresh and fruity wine with an elegant sparkle. There was definitely lots of red fruit in this wine it had a refreshing acidity. But it was difficult to distinguish which red fruit, even with a plate to choose from in front of me. Fresh and fruity fit the bill much more aptly than saying this wine had hints of strawberry, red cherries and redcurrants – which is what I might have done six months ago.
Although, I said there is more to wine tasting than listing a fruit bowl full of flavours at this stage in the game I thought it wise to test/train my palate.

So I raided my local greengrocers and attempted to blind taste 16 different fruits. If I am supposed to be able to identify these flavours I’d better have a a real clear idea of what they taste like. Some of these I haven’t tried for quite some time.
– Strawberry  – Red cherry – Redcurrant – Mango – Red plum – Black plum – Apricot – Nectarine – Conference pear – Fig – Black Cherry – Blackberries – Blueberries – Cranberries – Kiwi – Comice pear

It was a lot harder than I thought, but remarkably I managed to get 14 out of 16 correct. Next week, I’ll try my hand at dried fruit which considering I don’t actually eat much dried fruit may be a harder challenge, but all the more reason to try I guess.


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  1. Hi Sarah, lovely blog, and excited to see that you started the WSET Diploma! I just took my final exam for the Advanced Certificate yesterday, have not been very communicative for the last 4 weeks, loved the course and learnt a huge amount. I am now in two minds about taking the diploma so look forward to reading your posts until I have to decide in April 11. I read both posts, so pls keep them coming!
    Look forward to meeting you on Monday for the Catalan Supper Club!
    Luiz @ The London Foodie

    1. I find studying slightly addictive and in an area such as wine so very rewarding. Will keep you updated on my WSET Diploma studies – it is quite a lot of work but fascinating stuff!
      Would totally recommend it you are serious about wine and more importantly have the time… an 18 month evening class is quite a commitment.
      Good luck with your WSET Advanced results!
      Look forward to catching up properly tomorrow.
      See you Monday x

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