On Tuesday night I began my first ever wine course; the level 1 WSET Level 1 Award in Wines to be more precise. It’s an entry level course, but there is a small exam at the end leading to an actual qualification. And that, that, for me is the appeal. Something I can recognise, and maybe one day build upon, yep I’ll start there.
I like wine as much as the next thirty-year-old girl. I have my favourites, but honestly, I like most types. It goes down just fine… then sometimes, when drinking a better-quality wine, I really love it, and want to understand better what it is I’m tasting, and have better knowledge of a subject I would love to have a command of. So, when I saw that a smart local wine-bar-retail-shop-tapas’y-style-food-deli place near where I live was running this qualification based beginners course I thought, why not, let’s do it.
This interest in learning about a fun subject I feel I’ll always be interested in, coupled with the cloud dreams of future business ideas that could or could not maybe involve wine lists, or wine sales, or who knows what cemented my reason to join onto the course. I feel my future self, I’m sure, will always have a business in food and drink, and one day I may grow away from frothing milk and serving breakfast and I may want that funky wine bar, so I may as well start growing my interest and understanding now. Because who the F knows? And if it’s never ‘useful’ further, it is always something I’d like to know more about personally.
The course is being run over five 2hour sessions, every other Tuesday for ten weeks, and my dearest wife has offered to drop me off and collect me, because I definitely ain’t spitting that quality wine I’m tasting.
The first session was quite information loaded but delivered by one of the ‘Masters of Wine’ of the world – there is only 350 in total, so his knowledge was vast and drunk up – excuse the pun! In this first session, he took us on a brief overview of the:
- types of wine; light/still, sparkling, fortified
- styles of wine; colour, sweetness, body
- how some of the other factors in wine play a part in tasting; oak, tannin, acidity
- what makes wine vary; climate, location
- major grape types and the qualities these types possess; chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, Riesling, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and shiraz.
This may sound a bit too much, but we only touched into these details, and it was all before we started the evenings tasting so I kept up; it certainly was the right way around to do it!
Following the more technical part of the evenings session, we had a led tasting of six wines focussing on tasting ‘typical’ types of wine made from six different grape types. The idea of the course isn’t to get too technical or highbrow pretentious thankfully, but it’s about trying to teach us what to look for, and how to taste. I always find it much easier to know what I’m looking for when someone points it out because then my mind and tastebuds can be lazy, but I’d really like to venture beyond this!
We were simply thinking about acidity levels, body types and primary fruit flavours and aromas, and for the reds the tannin levels. It was good to be following a tasting that wasn’t getting to convoluted by minute tertiary tastes that we were nowhere near tasting yet. There was no pressure, and no competition, just a great tutored tasting, leading us to understand some of the main styles of what we were tasting in different wines. We were being taught how to recognise things like the acidity and tannin levels; for instance, high acidity is felt from the mouth-watering sensation and pooling of saliva in our mouths, whilst tannin makes our mouths feel dry.
In the white section, we tasted a very light bodied pinot grigio, which was very easy to drink, a Californian Chardonnay, that in my head I may have thought I wouldn’t like, but I did! Full bodied, but interesting. Many people rule out Chardonnay due to bygone over-oaky times, but this one was great! Champagne, and the French wine Chablis are chardonnay! Our third white was a French Sauvignon Blanc.
Red wine grapes covered were a very light Pinot Noir, an Australian full bodied medium tannin Shiraz, which I really enjoyed and finally a higher tannin level Cabernet Sauvignon.
It was a great session, I enjoyed learning about something I love and the wonderful tasting to corroborate some of the learning after it.
Our homework… drink some wine, mindfully, and think about what I can taste, like really try to taste and think! Ummm, OK, like I always was a homework doer and academically focused, but yep, definitely, I can do that homework!