Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wine Class: Understanding the Label

My second day at WSET reminded me of evening classes at Parsons where I would find it hard to concentrate after a long day of work and no sugar. My mind immediately perked up once we reached the tasting portion of the class.

Wines I loved:

The 2009 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel had a lovely and potent smell. There were prunes, vanilla and spices on the nose and it was just like I like my reds - big and bold. It had full body, was dry and more spice on the tongue.

Out of the whites, I liked the 2008 Vouvray Le Mont Demi-Sec. I used to think that Vouvray was a grape (sad), but it's a well known area in the Loire Valley. The grape is actually Chenin Blanc and this wine had a lovely honey scent with hints of tropical fruit. I couldn't smell the tropics, but teacher pointed out lychee and melon. It had a shallow sweetness to it and a long finish. One way to measure a good wine is how long the taste lingers in your mouth after you swallowed. In class we ask ourselves did this wine have a long finish or a short finish?

What I learned in class:
  • A cheap wine that has an oaky flavor has not been aged in oak barrels, but possibly infused with oak essence. Not to be confused with natural oak chips soaking in the wine.
  • Old world wines (think France) label their wines according to winery, the region and sometimes the vineyard. It’s rare that the grape is ever mentioned because, the producer/winery will give you an indication of the quality and consistency of the wine (reputation) and the region (say Beaujolais) will give a hint as to the style, flavour, and grape. Alas for us amateurs this can be a tricky one if you don’t know about what kind of grapes grow in that region or even recognize that it’s a world renown vineyard like La Tache.
    So the other night this lucky bird got to try La Tache 2000, a bottle that retails in the four figures.  My friend informed me that La Tache is a Grand Cru vineyard (aka the best) of Burgundy and the wine is made from Pinot Noir. It is controlled by a single winery (aka monopole) called Domaine de la RomanĂ©e-Conti and my impression is that if it says monopole on the label, prepare yourself for a good’un. It had a lovely smell to it, somewhat strong yet delicate and I managed to pick up red fruits and vanilla. The taste was silky smooth, easily drunk on it's own and the lovely flavour lingered on for what felt like ages.  
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