Saturday, May 28, 2011

WSET Tasting Regime

Every so often, a famous wine professional will be embarrassed in the news for, say, giving top marks to vodka-spiked grape juice, while at the same time panning a $100 Burgundy.  It's funny, I admit, and there are a lot of pompous blowhards in the profession who could use an occasional humbling.  But an equally valid takeaway is that tasting is hard!

Wine contains hundred of aromatic compounds in thousands of combinations and are affected by, like, everything.  For example, I can pick a benchmark pinot noir out of a lineup at ten paces.  But if you take those same expensive grapes, macerate them for thirty days prior to fermentation and then age them in new oak for three years, I'm probably going to think the result is a crappy merlot. 

So all is confusing and murky, but the challenge of thinking of wine in a logical and categorical way is a valuable thing to try.  With so many different flavors, so delicious, so many options, it just begs to be put in order.

Enter the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.  They are trying hard to quantize the objective and categorize the subjective into some sort of taxonomy.  It may be arbitrary, but it's not capricious.  The advanced tasting card I will be using for the next several months is on their website.  Here is a sample note:

Chรขteau Clerc Milon 2004
AOC Paulliac

Appearance is clear with medium intensity and garnet color with only slight color shift at the rim to brick.  Legs and tears are noted.  The nose is clean.  It has medium-plus intensity and is developing, with primary fruits dominant.  Aromas of blackcurrant, redcurrant, smoke, and tobacco are noted.  The wine is dry, with medium acidity, and medium-plus tannins that are ripe and integrate nicely with the fruit.  The alcohol is medium, while the flavor intensity and length are medium-plus.  Again, blackcurrant, redcurrant, smoke, and tobacco are the main flavor descriptors.  It is a very good wine, in a premium price category, that is ready to drink, but will improve with age.

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