Posted on March 3rd, 2008
Saved in Wine
I approached the WSET intermediate course with a dose of cynicism. From reading and listening to people about wine, I had more than a sneaking suspicion that it was all a bit of embellishment. Wannabe or failed writers expression themselves by exaggerating the base pleasure of drinking fermented grape juice.
The cynic and the gooseberry
One of the things that really got my goat was the humble gooseberry.
Why? Many a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is described as having notes of gooseberry.
But really, the gooseberry is long gone for most of us. At best a bitter childhood memory.
But many wine sellers insist on using the descriptor. So, they’ve read reviewer notes and are just repeating them which, to me, lacks any imagination. It’s also dishonest. Yet, everyone continues to swallow it.
My fear was that wine tasting in a class or group exacerbates the problem and creates new legions of gooseberry goons that will spout out a learned wine vocabulary that has been taught rather than tasted.
I still have that fear, but remind myself to question everything. Then came the liquorice
The Redeeming Liquorice
During the fourth WSET night, we were tasting a couple of wines from Bordeaux. On smelling a Chateau Lasalle St. Emilion Grand Cru I was smelling something that was so familiar, yet I couldn’t place it. Someone yelled out “Liquorice” and that was it, I got it immediately.
In this case, I got it. However, when people describe wine, they’re referencing their olfactory memory. They may have visited a shoe factory and can easily recall leather, their grandfather may have smoked a pipe and they can identify with tobacco.
And then it all cleared up for me. The aim of this kind of course and of wine education in general is to give people a common vocabulary, albeit a lowest common vocabulary, but with a very specific purpose.
To be able to describe wine as objectively as possible, despite personal preferences. That’s the key point – to be able to step beyond personal and subjective preferences and respect and admire a wine for what it is and how’s it made and respect that it will be likeable by others