Palate Practice

tasting with intention

Tag: wine course

Ups and Downs of Recent Wine Learnin’

 

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??

 

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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?

 

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That’s cute.

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…

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

Have you ever thought about taking a wine course?

 

 

Recent Wine Adventures

The world keeps spinning, the seasons keep changing, and while there hasn’t been much activity here of late, my own personal wine adventures continue.

 

WSET

A few weeks ago I wrote a 50 multiple choice question exam that was the culmination of four months of learning about wine. For 16 thoroughly enjoyable weeks I systematically learned about wine and spirits. To my delight we learned (and tasted!) our way through Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, Syrah, Grenache and a whole mess of other whites and reds. We also got comfy with sweet, sparkling, and dessert wines (Sherry is amazing, and you will probably hear all about it in a future post), and had one class each on white spirits (vodka, gin, etc.) and brown spirits (the whiskies, mostly). Delicious and exhausting, looking back on it.

 

After freaking out over my seeming lack of ability to retain anything about things like the varietals specific to Italy or Vins du Naturels, I hunkered down with some charts and index cards because I decided I would be damned if I wasn’t going to pass this test with flying colours!

 

My aim was to pass with distinction – 85% or higher. But let me tell you – it is really difficult to get 85% or higher on a 50-question test, each question was worth 2%! If I got any more than seven questions wrong that dream would go out the window. Well, I found out last week that while I did pass, it wasn’t with distinction. On the plus side, it was with merit (80-85%) – I’ll take it!

 

Needless to say my brain is now full of new wine knowledge. And yet, I still feel like a novice when it comes to wine! Oh well, you know what to do to remedy that… *pops cork*

 

Family Birthdays = Wine Tastings

My brother Nick’s birthday was in April and he requested a wine tasting as part of his celebrations. Of course we, his loving family, were happy to oblige.

 

We tasted six reds and six different varietals. I’m sad to report that I only correctly identified two of the six wines – it’s clear I still have some work to do. However, it was still a great time and we were treated to six really delicious wines from my stepdad’s cellar.

 

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Wine tasting is a lot of work, guys…

 

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Alas, I only correctly guessed two out of six wines.

 

Wine siblings!

Wine siblings! (note that this isn’t the brother whose birthday we were celebrating, that one is less enthused about photo-taking)

 

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Aaaaaaaaaand then my stepdad spoiled us all even further by opening this wine. Holy crap, this wine is old!

 

Adventures in Cataloguing

I’ve been making a concerted effort lately to catalogue the wines I drink in Vivino. My plan is simple – every time I taste a new wine I log it in the app along with some brief tasting notes. I don’t usually re-log the same wine, so the wines in my profile are usually ones I’ve never had before. I’ve also been focusing on wines I have in my day-to-day explorations – taking time out at dinners or parties is a bit more onerous that I’m interested in, and I know I have ample opportunity to log wines independent of social time.

 

To date I’ve logged 82 wines and am ranked 188 in Canada. Pretty cool! If you like you can follow me there.

 

Wine Course Plans

I’ve always been a bit of a nerd for formalized education, and my WSET Level 2 course was so enjoyable that even before the course ended I knew I wanted to keep learning about wine in this way. I also made a couple friends from that class and together we’ve decided to go on to the Level 3 course in January. In the meantime I’m going to fill in some personal gaps by taking a different wine course through a local college. Both my wine buddies have taken this one and recommend it before doing WSET Level 3 since the jump from Level 2 is quite big. To be honest I have no problem with this; more classes and tastings – hurt me!
Now that spring feels here to stay I’m looking forward to the warmer weather, which of course includes more whites, more rosés and fun with sangria.

 

 

Learning Wine with WSET

As part of my own personal ongoing wine education I enrolled myself in a wine course: the level 2 wine and spirits course created by the Wine Spirit and Education Trust, or WSET.

 

WEST is a British-based wine education organization and unlike Sommelier training there’s no service component with WSET. As much as I love wine I don’t plan on working the floor of a restaurant any time soon, so I was interested and excited to forgo that aspect of training and take a WSET course as opposed to a Somm course.

 

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Look at all that wine learnin’!

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