Last week’s wine tasting class focused mostly on our mid-term preparation. We went through some of the things we learned that would fall under the written portion of the exam, such as describing the wine tasting room, and what sort of things to avoid before going into a tasting:
- Don’t go in on a full stomach (or after eating anything with strong flavours)
- Tasting are done best first thing in the morning
- If you are tasting in the morning, brush your teeth with water only, and never use mouthwash
- Stay healthy, a cold can pretty much ruin any senses you have
- Make sure you’re well rested
- Your mood should be calm, not sad or excited
- No hairspray or perfume
In one of our classes, we also started working with an aroma wheel (do a search in google images and there are tons that come up). Dr Ann C. Noble invented the aroma wheel to standardize a vocabulary when it came to identifying aromas in the wine. It also helps a person be more specific when determining aromas.
We also talked about the Terroir. Which was originally a French term in wine used to mark the characteristics that geography puts on particular varieties. The terroir is the soil, climate, farming techniques – all the conditions under which the vine is grown. Everything the vines are subject to in the field. Type of growing conditions such as temperature – is it a cool climate or hot? Proximity to water or hillside? Flat or land? Vegetation, mountain ranges, trees? Days of sunlight? Average rainfall? Vines need certain conditions to produce optimal fruit.
We also need to know the description of malolactic fermentation, where malic acid (harsher and tastes of green apples) is converted to softer lactic acid, like in a Cab Sauvignon or Chardonnay. The process gives wine a richer, more buttery taste. The amount of malolactic fermentation is done to the discretion of the winemaker. It’s a bacteria that is added during the initial stages of the fermentation.
Tannins come from seeds, stems and skins and new oak barrels. Maceration is the act of letting the juice sit on the skins longer to get more tannins. You’re not able to do this with all grapes, only certain ones, like Shiraz and Nebbiolo. Gamay on the other hand, doesn’t have the make up to be able to produce a wine with high tannins.
Maceration is the winemaking process where the phenolic materials of the grape— tannins, coloring agents (anthocyanins) and flavor compounds— are leached from the grape skins, seeds and stems into the must.
American oak imparts more flavour characteristics to wine than French oak.
Vanilla (#1 flavour)
What happens to a young Chardonnay with age in a barrel?
As the wine ages (10 years +), the rim gets wider (and more watery). In white wines, the center colour gets deeper.
What happens to a young Shiraz with age?
As the wine ages (10 years +), the purple hue in the rim gets wider. But contrary to whites, the colour gets more translucent, almost a brick colour.
Aldehydes strip out the colour.
There will be sediment at the bottom of the bottle.
Why do we decant wines?
- Let the wine breathe
- Helps to soften the tannins
- Allows the sediment to settle
- Helps put emphasis on the bouquet – especially in a young wine
- Some wines will not open up if not properly decanted (1-1.5 hours)
- Don’t decant an wine that is past it’s prime or it will loose the aromas and taste
This was then followed by a blind wine tasting. This time without class participation. At the end of the 6 wines, our teacher went through all his tasting notes so we could compare. Surprisingly, I got the majority of the aromas and flavours right. I did miss some, but I did way better than I thought I’d do. One thing that totally had me floored was the rose scent I picked up in the Alsatian Gewurztraminer. How on earth I picked that out is beyond me. But it was great. What a confidence boost! I didn’t do so well however, on the body of the wines, or the length of the finishes.
Before I get into the details of the tasting, I’ll just skip to the end of the class, where one of the students, who is also a winemaker for Bergeron Estate Winery in Prince Edward County, chatted to us about what it was like to start up a winery and the bumps and hurdles that go along with it. Definitely one to check out, we got to try their Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer. I held back from buying a bottle of each kind but did leave with one – the Gewurz. Bergeron also makes Gamays and Vidals.
I don’t have the name, nor the CSPC and price details of these wines. Only the region and grape. I also wanted to add something to these and give my own rating, based on whether or not I would buy this one outside the tasting. But I was concentrating way too hard on all the other aspects. In my mind, they were all good in their own special way. I can't really say any of the wines we've tried during any of the classes I wouldn't enjoy. Except maybe the one that was corked!
I’ve also added a code below to describe how I did during the tasting. A (+) sign means I got it right, a (-) means it wasn’t mentioned, an (x) means I got it wrong. And then I’ll also list what I was missing.
Wine #1 – New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Colour: Pale yellow – borderline watery +
Aromas: Grapefruit +, citrus +, lime +, apple -
Missing: Vegetal, earthiness, diesel
Weight: Light to medium +
Acidity: Medium +
Actual response was medium to high with emphasis on the medium
Taste: Grapefruit -, lime +, apricot -
Missing: citrus, lemon, mineral, peach
Finish: Short x
Actual response was short to medium
Wine #2 – California Sonoma Chardonnay
Colour: Pale yellow x
Actual was pale to medium yellow
Aromas: Ripe banana +, honey -, oak -, toffee +
Missing: Vanilla, toast, clove, smoky, melon, baked apple
Weight: Medium +
Acidity: Light x
Actual was light to medium
Taste: oak -, honey -, peach -, banana +
Missing: Toffee, clove
Finish: Short to medium x
Actual: Medium to long
Wine #3 – Alsatian Gewurztraminer
Colour: Medium yellow +
Aroma: Floral +, rose +, lemon +, honey +, melon -
Weight: Medium to heavy x
Actual: Medium with some residual sugar
Acidity: Light to medium x
Taste: Buttery -, honey +, melon +, peach +
Missing: Mango, flowery
Finish: Medium to long +
Wine #4 – Sebastiani Pinot Noir
Colour: Medium red with purple and brick hues +
Aroma: Chocolate (missing brownies) +, caramel -, strawberry jam -, cherry +, vanilla -
Missing: Prune, sweet tobacco, raspberry, smoky
Weight: Medium to full bodied x
Actual: Light to medium bodied
Tannin: Light to medium +
Taste: Cherry +, smoky +, chocolate +, cloves -, cinnamon -
Missing: Prune, sweet tobacco, raspberry
Finish: Medium to long x
Actual: Light to medium
Wine # 5 – Clarence Hill Australian Shiraz
Colour: Dark red with brick hue +
Aroma: Tar -, anise +, cassis -, cherry -, prune -
Missing: Ripe red berries
Weight: Light x
Tannin: Medium to high +
Taste: Ripe cherry +, raspberry -, smoky -, tobacco -, pepper +
Finish: Medium +
Wine #6 – Cabernet Sauvignon Mission Hill
Colour: Dark red with purple hue +
Aroma: Caramel -, molasses -, cherry -, blackberry -
Actual: Cassis, leather, black licorice
Weight: Medium x
Actual: Medium to full bodied
Tannin: Medium to high +
Taste: Clove +, ripe cherry +, anise +
Missing: Oak, vanilla, spice
Finish: Long x