It’s probably no surprise that when I’m not learning or writing about wine I’m often reading about it. Yes, I’m a little obsessed! But there’s so much to know!
These are some of the places I’ve found online that keep me coming back again and again. They consistently have great stories and information and some of them are written by people I know. If you’re looking to branch out in your wine reading, take a look at these websites.
Lately I’ve been noticing something interesting coming out of wineries in Niagara. It’s something I honestly never thought about, though now that I think about it makes perfect sense. Maybe you’ve noticed it too, in adventures to wineries or wanderings through the LCBO.
They’re making Syrah.
I know. You’re probably thinking, ‘Why is this so surprising? Wine is wine, isn’t it?’ I mean, yes. It is wine. But also, it’s Syrah! One of the most prized French grapes! And a grape that Australia has already taken and completely turned on it’s head! What does Niagara think it’s doing here?
I’m now past the halfway point in my journey through WSET level 3. I’ve begun studying for the exam (50 multiple choice questions, 4 short answer questions and 2 blind tastings – one white and one red) but am still waiting for my confidence to show. I had a similar problem with the last class I took – it wasn’t until the last few weeks of class that I finally started feeling like ‘hey, I think I can do this!’. Hopefully that feeling comes to my WSET studies soon. Better late than never, I suppose.
In my internet wanderings I often come across questions relating to wine, and now that I feel like I know some things about things I thought I’d share what I would say to someone who asked me these questions.
How long can wine last in optimal conditions?
First of all, let’s talk about what ‘optimal conditions’ are when it comes to storing wine.
Ideally you want to store wine in a place that fits three main criteria: cool, dark, and dry. Light, heat and dampness** can all wreak havoc either on the cork or the wine, so you want to try and curb these things as much as possible if you plan to hold on to a bottle for more than a few months.
**Edit: My wonderful stepdad (and personal wine oracle) has gently reminded me that dampness is not quite the red flag I thought it was. Also, I forgot that wines also like to age undisturbed – jostling them around or moving them too much can shorten the life of a wine. The more you know!
So, how long can a wine last in these conditions? Well, like many things in life, it depends. On what, you ask? Read on to find out.
As I mentioned earlier this year I’ve been taking a wine course at a local college as part of a bigger plan to get my WSET Level 3 certification. I was worried about the jump from WSET level 2 to level 3 so I’ve been taking this other course to help fill some knowledge gaps and get practice on blind tasting, something I still find quite intimidating.
Since September I’ve been spending my Tuesday evenings in a classroom, writing notes about soil and climate and trying my best not to embarrass myself during tastings. This week was the final exam and though I really enjoyed it, the course really kicked my butt.
I know, what a weird statement. It’s just wine, right? How hard can it be??
Tasting is a Game of Persistence and Practice
I was nervous for the blind tasting part of this course. In fact, the exercise of tasting wines blind and trying to identify them was my entire reason for taking this course and not just plowing through to WSET level 3. I can now proudly say that I don’t think I completely suck at tasting, but does that mean I have a good track record for correctly identifying wines?
No, correctly identifying wines from a few whiffs and sips is still incredibly challenging. I am getting better at it though, and feel confident enough to continue with the plan to take a WSET level 3 course over the next few months, so silver linings and all that.
Italy, my Everest
Italy is hard, you guys. Like, really hard. Much more difficult to figure out than France, which I attribute to a few key reasons:
You know how France has a bunch of regions and you’re just supposed to know the grapes used in that region when buying a bottle? Italy is like that, only with a bajillion more regions and often a few different kinds of ‘typical’ wines in each region. It’s a ridiculously large amount of information to learn in the span of a few weeks.
Also like France, the Italian wine industry is old and famous and well-loved and has pretty strict rules, which means the delicious stuff tends to be out of my price range. Amarones and Barolos will continue to be wines I gaze at longingly on store shelves for the foreseeable future.
On top of the cost (or maybe because of the cost) I don’t drink Italian wine much, which means my taste tends toward others things, which means that my palate is so far out of its depth with Italian wine that tasting these wines blind becomes a bit of a joke.
Clearly I have some remedial studying to do…
The (New) World is my Oyster
Fortunately, where I floundered with Italy, I flourished with the new world. Maybe it’s because the labels are more helpful, or because the wines are more affordable (and therefore my palate is more familiar with them), or because I happen to live near a fantastic wine region. Whatever the reason, I had a much easier time learning about wines from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, America and Canada.
To give some perspective, where my tasting notes were sadly sparse and I correctly identified zero of three wines on my Italy test, on my new world test my tasting notes were much more detailed and I correctly identified all four varietals and three of four regions. Totally vindicated!
Onward and Upward
So Wines II at George Brown College is done and dusted. I should get my marks back in a few weeks but I feel confident in my knowledge and tasting ability, which was the whole point of taking the course. I finally feel ready to tackle WSET Level 3, which is good because I start in January.
Bordeaux, France, aka Gorgeoustown. (image from SuperCar-RoadTrip.fr on Flickr – click through for more info)
I recently had dinner and caught up with my friend Cat. I first met Cat during my first year of university where we were both fresh-faced and over-eager campus student leaders.
The last time we saw each other was last November when I was visiting New York City. We met up and wandered around the Union Square market, toured Eataly (where Cat bought a big and slightly scary-looking octopus) and where Cat showed me her favourite wine shop – Appellation Wine & Spirits. They were having a tasting, she said, and added that the staff there were so friendly and their stock so interesting that this shop had become a regular ritual for her. Turns out she was correct on all counts. I was sad to leave that wonderful place but ultimately both me and my bank account were happy it isn’t my local wine shop.
Us, pretty much. And by that I mean we’re both Meryl.
In case you couldn’t tell, along with being a good friend, Cat is a fellow wino. We had a great time last November talking about and enjoying wine and it was then that she first told me about her dream to one day become a winemaker.
Fast forward to last week, when we got together. We spent the evening catching each other up on our lives and our wine journeys. I told her about this blog and some of the plans I’m mulling over and she told me about the soul searching she did while walking the Camino trail. Always a doer, walking the trail led her to realize that learning to be a winemaker was a much more pressing and insistent goal than she originally thought. So, she left her corporate job in NYC to begin this new adventure, and will shortly be moving to none other than Bordeaux to begin a combined MSc/MBA in the wine industry. And, wouldn’t you know it, Cat has started a wine blog to share this new chapter.Talk about exciting!
Needless to say I’m impressed and very excited for her. Cat has always inspired and motivated me and this new adventure is no different.
It’s nice to have a wine buddy, someone who is learning like I am and who I can share my hair-brained and novice questions and comments with (What the heck is the deal with appellations?? Does this taste like school chalk to you? Yes, this tastes like a Merlot, but that’s all I’ve got!).
This will be Cat and I in our old age. Ok fine, it’s us now.
Catching up with Cat has also left me thinking more about my own wine-related ambitions, and the personal journey I’d like to take. I find myself renewed when it comes to writing and learning about wine and pushing myself to always taste with intention. For the past few months I’ve be mulling over the decision to enroll in more structured courses. Would they be too easy? Too difficult? To what end would I take them, or would it be purely self-indulgence? But then again, wine is a wonderful thing, and who couldn’t use a little self-indulgence every so often?
Well, I’ve decided that next January I’m going to take a WSET course and see where that takes me. Sometimes you have to jump and do something without knowing what use it’ll be later.
I have, of course, already begun looking up flights to France, because who wouldn’t want to visit their wino friend in wino Mecca? Happy trails and safe sipping, Cat!
Palate Practice is a wine blog written by me, Meg. I've been enjoying wine since the days of childhood Sunday dinners and my Nan's dining table. When I was older I realized that, for me, wine is more than something to sip on when I'm heading to a dinner party.
Palate Practice is a place for me to share what I've learned (and am still learning) as well as stories of wine in my daily life. For me, sharing wine with someone is often the beginning of a really special experience.