Monday, March 31, 2014

How is Sangiovese different from Pinot Noir?

So, in one of my blind tastings as practice for my WSET Advanced I was told a wine I was tasting was not a pinot noir, but I found out it was a Burgundy (an easy mistake to make - check my previous post on how to tell what grapes are in French wine

One of my guesses was a Sangiovese, so I had to learn what makes Pinot Noir different from Sangiovese. Here are my notes:
Appearance: Both are ruby, but sangiovese is medium intensity, PN is light
Nose: Both med+ (the ones I tasted anyway)
Aromas: Both Cherry and plum, S=blackcurrant, PN=strawberry
Mouth: Both dry, low acidity, low body, but WOW S=high tannin, PN=low tannin BOOM!
Flavours: Both strawberry, cherry, plum
OK, tannin is the differentiater, take note all you WSETers.

Next... how is Nebbiolo different?

What is this wine? Another blind tasting that I got wrong.

OK, I've lost my touch, I need to learn more to get a good handle on blind tasting for my WSET Advanced course. Exam in less than two months. Getting a lot of practice in.

Can you guess?
Appearance: light, ruby,clear
Nose: clean, medium intensity, medium legs, developing
Aromas: Blackcurrant, cedar, plum, cherry
Mouth: Medium intensity, medium acidity, low tannin, dry, medium body, high alcohol
Flavours: cherry, plum, strawberry, blackcurrant fruitella
Quality: inexpensive, acceptable quality, short length

I have to say its disappointing on the palate, a bit wet, weak... although it gets better when you put some air to it... and even better when you put an apple pie in the oven (I thought I was getting some burnt caramel and cinnamon notes, but alas that was the pie that my husband is cooking).

I couldn't figure it out. I was given the option of pinotage, merlot, zinfandel.  I couldn't figure it out. None of them fit (from what I knew). I'm guessing from that you'll know if you've passed your WSET Advanced or work in wine.  But I think it also goes to show, you have to taste a hell of a lot of wines to get rid of preconceptions.

If you haven't figured it out (or if you have), post on here and I'll reveal.

How can you tell which grapes are in French wines?

So I am given a glass of a light red wine, and before tasting "It's pinot noir!" I exclaim. "No, it isn't" my friend replies, with the knowledge of having chosen it for me to blind taste as practice for my WSET Advanced course.

"Oh, well what is it..." I ponder. Right, lets do this properly.
Appearance: light intensity, ruby, clear, med legs.
Nose: Clean, med+ intensity, developed.
Aromas: raspberry, cherry, plum, strawberry, rosehip, strawberry sweets, cherry jolly rancher.
Mouth: low intensity, dry, low acidity, low tannin, light body, medium alcohol
Flavours: strawberry, cherry, plum.
Quality: short length, acceptable quality, drink now not for ageing, inexpensive.

OK, so its not pinot noir... grenache? a rubbish pinotage? sangiovese? none of them make sense.

What is it? Roncier Burgundy 12.5% Vin de France. Ah! An understandable mistake - my friend doesn't realise that Burgundy is pinot noir, "it doesn't say it on the label". One of the "tricks" about French wine is that they expect you to know whats in the bottle from the minimal labelling terms they use. This is a common mistake.

As a basic rule of thumb:
Burgundy red = pinot noir
Burgundy white = chardonnay
Chablis = chardonnay
Beaujolais = gamay
Rhone red = syrah (aka Shiraz)
Bordeaux red = cabernet sauvignon and merlot
Loire white = chenin blanc or sauvignon blanc

Hope that helps!
Let me know if you need to know others and I'll put together a more comprehensive list.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

English Wine

There is a lot good to say about English wine, its often better than you think it is... but you have to be careful about what you choose and where from. My favourites are Nyetimber, Sharpham, Chapel Down, Camel Valley and Ridgeview. The best of English is sparkling (or Espa as I call it). I had Nyetimber at my wedding, which was a great choice for something different, less alienating than Champagne and has more oomph than prosecco. Try the Classic Cuvee.

About 18 months ago a friend took me to Highdown Estate for a tour of the vineyard and a tasting afterwards. Unfortunately they don't make sparkling so we tried their white, rose and red wines instead. It's a shame that all the wines we tried that year (it was a particularly bad year for sunshine hours, so less ripening of grapes),  which meant less flavour complexity, and high acidity. I had confidence in the winemaker, so bought a not-available (i.e. kept for sale to family members and friends only) bottle of Albert's Reserve Pinot Noir. It was suggested in hush tones that I lay it down for a year to allow the fruit to develop. I did so by placing it at the back of my wine store, and opened it 18 months later. I think I left it too long.

My tasting notes are below, and the right flavours are there for a good pinot noir, but it was past its best and had quite a watery consistency. My suggestion would be to support your local vineyards and try their wines, but be careful about opening them at the right time (try a year after harvest). If you're not a risk-taker,  my suggestion would be to stick to the bigger names (above) and get to know the sparklings. There really are some great English wines, but you have to be willing to experiment. I have two Sharphams in my cupboard, a white and a rose, and I can't wait until the sun is next out to get tasting those. I'll let you know how I get on!

Albert's Reserve Highdown Estate Pinot Noir (can't remember price)
Ruby colour with low intensity.
Low intensity on the nose, clean, with a hay and barnyard aroma.
Low acidity, low tanning, medium alcohol.
Flavours of water - quite a watery consistency and low intensity flavours.
Raspberry, cranberry, damp, wet soil, mushrooms still in the ground, supermarket strawberries.
Would guess it is inexpensive (it wasn't), and past its best.

Quite a shame, its my fault, and would be willing to give it another go... that is, if they sold this to the public at the time it was ready to drink. Not sure I'd be willing to wait another 18 months!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Practice for WSET 3 - blind tasting

Ok it's a new week and I have another wine to try blind...

Appearance: clear, medium intensity, lemon yellow, low alcohol/sugar.
Nose: clean, pronounced, developing.
Aromas: green apple, gooseberry, grapefruit, pineapple.

At this point I thought Sauvignon Blanc, so looked for green tinge and passion fruit and lime but couldn't find it...

Palate: dry, med+ acidity, med- alcohol, light body, med+ intensity, refreshing, delicate, med+ finish.
Flavour: lemon juice, grapefruit flesh, lemon peel, gooseberry, white pepper.
Quality: good, drink now not for ageing, mid-priced.

Identity: Italian? Normally they're light intensity but maybe it's Soave, I read that has a bit more to it, but I haven't tried that in a while so couldn't really say... Eden valley Riesling? That's quite fresh right? But I'm coming back to France... It's not Sav Blanc, could it be cheap Chablis?

No. Dammit. It's Pouilly Fume!! Argh!! I need to learn about Pouilly Fume, what makes it different from other Sav Blanc and why did I dismiss it? Is there a trick/ knack/ cheat sheet? 

Any tips welcome!

Monday, March 10, 2014

WSET Advanced practice #2

OK, so one under my belt, lets see how I get on with a red:

Medium+ intensity, ruby,clear appearance, high viscosity (means either high sugar or high alcohol).
On the nose: blackcurrant, blackberries, reducrrants, sweet spice: clove, black pepper, chocolate, cedar, eucalyptus.
Taste: med+ acidity, high alcohol, medium+ body, pronounced, med- tannin.
Blackcurrants, raspberry, clove, chocolate,blackberry, and i'm sticking my neck out and saying eucalyptus because i get a minty zing.
Quality: Good,  Mid price, ready to drink now.
Ahem, I would love to say Australian Shiraz, but its not... what is it? No,seriously what is it? The acidity is too high for Merlot, not enough tanning for Cab Sav, and its not Pinot Noir... Hey! Pinochet! I mean pinotage, sorry,that's what we call it.

And what is it?
Doolhof Pinotage 2010 (dammit I forgot to guess vintage again!),Wellington, South Africa. I need to learn more about Wellington. £15, 2010, and a high 15%. Yep, a lot of alcohol. And its yummy. Buy it,drink it. Probably the best Pinotage I've had yet, although I do love Goats do Roam.

Tasting practice for WSET Advanced #1

I have just started my WSET Advanced and I'm super excited!! There is a lot more work with this level than the Intermediate, and rightly so, but after Class 1 it is a little daunting. The tasting is more sophisticated and the book twice as thick, I need to get studying... and that means drinking, ahem, I mean tasting wines too.

Badger is my initial support group (until I find others), and he has set me the task of tasting one white and one red per week without knowing what it is, so I can practice. This is what I tasted today:

Medium intensity, lemon yellow, clear  appearance.
Nose: Clean, lemon rind, yellow apples, honey, blossom, sand, I'm getting something oakey but can't put my finger on it... maybe its not oak, maybe its tropical fruits instead, yes mango and passion fruit.
Mouth: medium- acidity, medium+ body, dry, medium+ alcohol, pronounced, but short length.
I'm getting golden delicious apples, mango, papaya, passion fruit,almond  skin, apple juice from concentrate, honeycomb.
Quality: Acceptable, mid-low price (I haven't yet learned the correct terminology and I'm doing this blind) so I'd guess £8-11, definitely Chardonnay (I got that from the first sniff), from Chile... wait, no Central Valley California.

Right, what is it?
Hahn winery, Chardonnay from Monterey 2012, 14.5% and £14.

Blimey! Not bad for a first go, I'm not as rusty as I thought. Now, i would tell you what I got wrong or what I missed, but I need to move on to the red. Good game, good game.