Blog Posts

Interviewed by: People on the Grid

February has been a tough month so far; I have two exams on the same day on the 8th March, one on the world of Sparkling Wines and one on the world of Spirits. Two very different subjects, each requiring a lot of study that’s absorbing all my time, hence why I’ve been very slow with my blog over the past two weeks! However, I did have the opportunity to sit down for an hour with Katrina from People On the Grid, a lovely project to connect the community of Barcelona, and briefly discuss my local wine tasting group; Maestrazgo Wine Club.

For the same reason that this blog has been neglected, we’re only organising a single tasting this month which is completely booked out. However, in the coming months expect a flurry of exciting tastings including themed blind tastings, international tastings on Tuscany, New Zealand, Alsace and more, as well as some tastings to discover the truly great wine producers of Spain, as we dig deeper into specific regions. As always, the newsletter for the following month will be up on the 1st March but if you’d like to know more, make sure you join the group for information on our tastings and check out the short video below and the full interview on podcast just above it! 🙂

Barcelona Wine Tastings Newsletter: February 2017

Every month I send out a simple newsletter to the members of Maestrazgo Wine Club; a small group of wine-lovers who meet once a week to explore the world of wine together in a small tasting room in Barcelona. For more information on Maestrazgo Wine Club and how to book a wine tasting in Barcelona,check out this page for more information.

Winter ploughing

February: After a long, cool winter this is the last month of dormancy for the vines; sap is just starting to stir and circulate in the plant and vine growers across Spain will be finishing their winter pruning and selecting the buds they wish to produce fruit for 2017. The soil should be freshly ploughed, allowing aeration and deeper penetration for rainfall. Growers will be adding fertilisers and organic matter that will gradually break down, adding nutrients for the plants rapid growth in Spring. This is also the last time of the year to finish repairs on trellising systems and to make any major changes for the coming growing season; once it starts, it goes very quickly indeed!

Hello Wine Lovers! Welcome to the 14th Edition of the Maestrazgo Wine Club monthly newsletter. It’s been a real treat to kick-off 2017 with you all with two fantastic tasting events, and now we find ourselves already one month in; time really does fly! Due to my awful study schedule (2 exams on the same day in early March – how cruel) there will only be one additional tasting open during the month of February. A real shame but the month before these exams get quite intense and I wouldn’t feel comfortable organising multiple topics that I couldn’t give my undivided attention. Fear not, however, for March is right around the corner and we’ll be back to full speed before you know it! Until then, there are 10 spots available for our first ever tasting exploring the portfolio and life of Spains wine-making families and producers, starting with the iconic Palacios family with projects from Rioja to Priorat, and then all the way across the country to Bierzo. Strap yourselves in!

Events: Maestrazgo Wine Club:
2th February – ‘International Wine Tasting: Blind Tasting’ – Full – 30 euros/person
23rd February – ‘Spanish Wine Producers: The Palacios Family’ – 10 spots available – 25 euros/person

Articles: I probably spend too much of my time reading online articles about wine. However, as a result I can find and select a choice few to share – here are my three favourites from last month!

1. ‘Essential online wine stats” by Richard Hemming MW. This is about the geekiest post I’m ever likely to share, but I’ve had questions before at tastings about where I get my statistics from, where I learn the specifics of regions and how I learn the trade structures of certain countries. I’ve been slowly building up my resources but last month, Richard Hemming MW shared the sources he used to study for his Master of Wine qualification and blew mine out of the water. Be warned; this is pretty much only statistics but for those of you who want to navigate around the world of wine numbers, it’s a goldmine! https://www.richardhemmingmw.com/blog/essential-online-wine-stats-and-resources-free

2. ‘Coming of Age” by Matt Walls. This is a very relaxed, well written piece looking at general consumer trends and how they are affecting the world of wine. The pattern is the same as elsewhere; we want it and we want it now. Whilst this is encouraging a lot of smaller, lesser known regions to shine with their accessible, fresh and fun wines, it does have a knock-on effect when it comes to stocks of mature wines. Conclusion? I definitely need a cellar http://www.timatkin.com/articles?1749

3. ‘Under the spell of the volcano’ by Yolanda Ortiz de Arri. This is perhaps something to wet the appetite as we will be exploring the island wines of Spain in March. Spanish Wine Lover explores the island of Tenerife, largely defined by viticulture and home to some of the highest vineyards in Europe, some of the oldest vineyards in Europe and a plethora of grape varieties designed to make you say “,,,What?”. Another well written, detailed article that has definitely confirmed my desire to explore the wines of the Balearic and Canary islands with you all! http://www.spanishwinelover.com/learn-228-tenerife-wines-fall-under-the-spell-of-the-volcano

Wine of the month: I’m constantly on the look-out for wines of real quality and value; I rarely purchase anything over 30-40 euros a bottle and more commonly you’ll find me drinking in the 6-25 euro range.

Finca Villacreces 2014: Is there a better wine from Ribera del Duero for around 20 euros a bottle? If there is, I haven’t discovered it yet. Finca Villacreces, along with Tomas Postigo, has been a winery I’ve been drinking right since the very beginning of my wine adventure here in Spain. From the first sip, I knew I was onto a good thing and my only regret was not buying larger quantities of the older vintages, 10 and 11 especially. Named after the estate itself and made from a blend of 86% Tempranillo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Merlot, this should be a modern wine. Except it isn’t, at least not in style. 14% alcohol, high acidity and a soft, richness speaks to a more restrained style of Ribera del Duero and one that I can’t get enough of. Plummy and intense in youth, fading to chocolate, coffee and dried fruits with some bottle age; this is a wonderful wine. 2014 is proving to be a very good, consistent year for Ribera del Duero with lots of purity and freshness in the resulting wines, Finca Villacreces included. If you find a bottle, snap it up and give it a go!

Wine Facts
Some fun and interesting facts about the world of wine. Terminology, myths and FAQs; as science becomes more ingrained in our industry, we discover new and exciting realities every day!

1. “What do the legs/tears mean on the side of the glass after swirling?” – A lot of people get very interested in the visual appearance of wine as it slides down the sides of the glass. Whilst interesting, it is not an indication of quality and is usually related to high alcohol or sugar levels in the wine, as alcohol evaporates faster than water creating surface tension. The next time you drink spirits, swirl your glass and you’ll see an even slower drop down the sides of the glass!

2. “How do you know if a wine is corked?” – This one can be tricky as not all corked wines are easy to spot. The culprit is a chemical known as TCA (trichloroanisole) which usually forms due to natural fungi from the cork tree reacting with the chemicals used in the cork making process; namely chlorine. Small amounts of TCA are often undetectable or don’t spoil the experience of the wine. However, if your wine smells suspiciously like wet cardboard/rotten wood/wet dog, this could well be TCA. Always re-cork this bottle and bring it back to the store you bought it from; whilst they are not obliged to exchange the bottle, all good stores will.

3. ‘Finish’ – This is a term used to describe how long the desirable flavours stay present in your mouth after swallowing/spitting the wine. The ‘desirable’ part here is very important as it is common for wines to leave an after-taste but this is not always pleasant and can consist of a acrid bitterness or a stinging sensation from a level of unbalanced alcohol! Whilst there are some minor faults in a wine that can be smoothed over by clever wine-making, long, complex and enjoyable finishes are usually the mark of a truly lovely and well-made wine.

Social Media
These newsletters only come out once a month and there is a limit on space for content. If you use Social Media and want to keep up with regular wine updates and occasional rambles, feel free to connect with me on any of the following platforms.

Blog: winecuentista.com
Facebook: Wine Cuentista
Twitter: @Wine_Cuentista
Instagram: wine_cuentista

That’s it for this months newsletter. I hope you enjoyed it and please, if you have any suggestions or things you would like to see get in touch! Either respond to me here or email to fintankerr@winecuentista.com I can’t wait to see you all soon for more wine, food and good company. 🙂

Fintan

Barcelona Wine Tasting: The Wines of Bordeaux

Bordeaux Chateau

Bordeaux: potentially the most famous and widely recognised wine region in the world but not exactly at the height of fashion at present. Bordeaux itself is a port-town sitting on the river Garonne leading to the Gironde estuary on the west coast of France; a key to its enormous commercial success. It is France’s largest produce of AOC quality wine, with over 112,000 hectares planted with vines and almost a quarter of all quality wine in France is produced here. Not only that, but many of France’s most prolific wines and producers hail from this cool, wet part of the country with prices for the 1st growth wines stretching into the stratosphere, particularly since the 2009 and 2010 vintages when Asia first ventured into the fine wine market in force. However, all the glamour and wealth from the top estates paints a false picture; the top Chateau make up a paltry 5% of total production. The rest is shared between an increasingly impoverished and struggling group of producers, numbering over 7000 at the last count. As a result, the market of Bordeaux is particularly complicated with a younger generation of wine drinkers unable to purchase the top wines and the majority of producers struggling to make ends meet against the new waves of more accessible, New World wines.

Historically Bordeaux was first catalogued as a wine producing region by the Latin poet Ausonius (after whom Chateau Ausone is named) but in truth began to define itself during the 17th century and is largely in part due to the unquenchable thirst of the British. With preferential treatment in London for Gascon merchants and a reprieve on all taxations for products shipped from Bordeaux, England slowly flooded with Bordelais wine, surviving even the 100 Year War between the two countries. Another nation with an enormous impact was the Dutch, whose industrious merchants drained the marshy Medoc, paving the way for some of the most important Chateau we know today, as well as creating an enormous market for inexpensive white wine. However, like much of Europe, phylloxera coupled with two World Wars led to severe difficulties and many vineyards weren’t replanted until the 1950’s, when the trade started to recover in a big way. Wine purchases, ‘En Primeur’, as futures became the norm as Chateau could no longer afford to hold large stocks of wine in reserve, the American market became increasingly interested, and a succession of fine vintages in the 1980s triggered global interest. In 2017, it’s hard to feel much sympathy for the trials and tribulations of the Bordelais as the prices seem to increase every year, regardless of the vintage.

Bordeaux-Wine-Map

Geographically speaking, it’s easiest to think of Bordeaux in terms of the ‘left bank’ and the ‘right bank’; quite literally the regions of each side of the Gironde estuary as it splits into the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers with Entre-Deux-Mers, ‘between two seas’, the large area in the middle of the two. There are over 50 appellations within Bordeaux itself but the most famous vineyards and wines are to be found in the well drained soils of the Medoc and Graves on the left bank and St. Emilion and Pomerol on the right. The climate is moderate maritime, influenced greatly by the proximity to the Atlantic ocean and as a result, the wines are very mild in style, or to quote Jancis Robinson MW: “Marked by subtlety rather than power.” Grape varieties vary but tend to be focused around Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with the former being more prevalent on the gravelly soils of the left bank and the latter finding itself on the cooler clay-based soils of the right bank and all throughout Entre-Deux-Mers. Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot make up the other important red grapes of the region, with Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle only making up 10% of plantings for white and sweet wines in the south.

The part where Bordeaux gets complicated is its many classifications and trade structures; it is indeed the most heavily classified wine region in the world with only Pomerol exempt from a ranking system of sorts. The most famous of these was the 1855 classification of the Medoc which has largely defined the most famous Chateau in the entire region of Bordeaux. Sauternes and Barsac were classified at the same time separately for sweet wine production. Not to be left out, Graves decided to create their own classification for their Chateau in 1959 and St. Emilion has updated their own classifications as recently as 2012, albeit with some very high profile legal battles in the process. Small wonder most consumers find Bordeaux to be a tricky region to navigate and this is before getting onto the topic of negociants, en primeur tastings, expanding territories, foreign investment and critical opinion, with Bordeaux to be a big market for some of the worlds most highly acclaimed wine writers and wine merchants. Still, there’s simply no better way to discover a region than by drinking a few glasses of its wine as we delve into it, and on that note, here are the wines we chose to help us navigate our way around the region:

Haut Lafitte

Le Petit Haut-Lafitte Blanc 2013 – The second white wine of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Grand Cru Classe wine from Pessac-Leognan; a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon. The white wines of Bordeaux, whilst only making up 10% of total production, are considered by many to be the finest white wines in the world. Typically the wines express a cooler climate expression of Sauvignon Blanc with lots of citrus, white stone fruit and gooseberry aromas with a softer, more floral aroma depending on the level of Semillon and/or Muscadelle. These wines are often oaked and in the case of Le Petit Haut-Lafitte Blanc, for 10 months in 50% new oak with consistent lees stirring. There’s a wonderful balance of toasty oak, crisp acidity and fresh fruit flavours with a wonderfully complete texture. Delicious stuff!

Fourcas Dupre

Chateau Fourcas Dupre 2010 – Now we head to the Listrac-Medoc, one of the lesser appellations of the region and the highest in altitude. Typically on the left-bank of Bordeaux you’ll find a higher concentration of Cabernet Sauvignon, at the most northerly limit of where it will ripen. The key here is the well-drained gravel soils that help retain and reflect heat back onto the grapes, giving them the extra boost they need in the final weeks of the ripening period. Chateau Fourcas Dupre is a good quality producer focusing mainly on red wines, with the Fourcas Dupre being their ‘Grand Vin’, with two other atypical wines with a majority of Merlot in the blend. Still tightly knit together after almost 7 years of age, this is an outstanding value-for-money purchase and showcases how good wine from the ‘lesser’ appellations can often be. Fresh, structured and full of young fruit, slowly evolving into the typical graphite and cedar of left bank Bordeaux.

Haut Bergey

Chateau Haut-Bergey 2010 – Back to Pessac Leognan now for a look at a wine with some pedigree; Chateau Haut-Bergey. Purchased in 1991 and renovated heavily by Sylvain Garcin-Cathiard, Haut-Bergey now produces around 50,000 bottles of their top wine every year. A blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon and 46% Merlot and aged in 30% new oak for 16-18 months, this is very much a modern expression of Pessac-Leognan. The 2010 we drank was only just starting to show itself, tightly wound and full of graphite, dark fruit, toast and licorice. Given time, this will be a real beauty and is really very representative of a high quality vintage, where wines will typically take a little longer to open up and express themselves. The wait is usually worth it!

Grand Pontet

Chateau Grand-Pontet 2007 – Ah, the ever popular right bank of Bordeaux. St.Emilion, with its cooler, clay-based soils is the spiritual home of Merlot with many of Bordeauxs most highly acclaimed wines hailing from both here and neighbouring Pomerol. Cabernet Franc also thrives here, adding perfume and freshness to the, sometimes, very ripe Merlot wines. Chateau Grand-Pontet has been in the hands of the Becot family since 1980, themselves no stranger to Bordeaux with several other properties in the region, and is a wonderful expression of St.Emilion Grand Cru wines. 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc is blended and aged in 80% new oak for between 12 and 18 months before the final blending and bottling. Powerful and full of ripe, dark fruits, violets, chocolate and a lovely note of cedar lingers through into a very long finish. The ‘Wine of the Night’ by popular consensus and little surprise there! A wonderful wine with a reasonable life still ahead of it.

Botrytis

Chateau Doisy-Vedrines 2009 – A tasting of Bordeaux wouldn’t be complete without a beautiful Sauternes to finish the evening. Some of the most famous sweet wines in the world hail from this corner of wet, misty France where the perfect conditions for botrytis (Noble Rot) are to be found in the regions of Sauternes and Barsac; close enough to the Garonne river to create humid, misty mornings which are then swept away to be replaced by warm, dry afternoons. This results in slightly dehydrated grapes, full of flavour and concentrated with both sugar and acid. Chateau Doisy-Vedrines is actually located in neighbouring Barsac but is allowed to use the Sauternes appellation, as with all producers located within Barsac. This is a much lighter, fragrant style of Sauternes with a clear expression of botrytis; bitter orange, marmalade and candied peach. There is a wonderful integration of oak here and I can’t think of a better way to finish an evening than with a bottle of this and a plate of good, blue cheese. Still incredibly young with a long, delicious evolution ahead of it.

Another wonderful evening with a great group of people, with wines to match the uncharacteristically cold, wet weather in Barcelona. There won’t be any further international tastings in February but from March 9th onwards, expect to see weekly wine tastings, right in the heart of Barcelona city centre. For more information contact me through our page here, whether it’s to join an existing wine tasting or to organise something privately with your friends and family.

Barcelona Wine Tasting: The Lesser Known Regions of Spain

Header - Manchuela

Spain is a vast, wine producing country; the third largest in the world, in fact. With more acres dedicated to viticulture than any other country on the planet, and leading the way in exports by volume, you might expect the wine-drinking world to be quite familiar with the vinous offerings from our corner of it. However, not only is this not the case but even within the major cities of Spain itself, the wines you’ll find in many bars and restaurants tend to centre around some of the largest, best known regions in the country. This makes complete sense from a commercial perspective but it is a little sad that some perfectly good wine is passing us by untasted, simply because the wines have such a limited market here.

The other factor to consider is that some regions simply don’t produce a great deal of quality wine, hence their respective obscurity. The reason that DO Ribera del Duero, DOQ Priorat and DOC Rioja are amongst the most prestigous regions within the country is their ability to produce reasonably large quantities of good quality wine, year after year. This is a problem for producers who do make excellent quality wine in the lesser known regions, as it’s considerably more difficult to be heard when the label on your bottle says “DO Cigales” instead of “DO Ribera del Duero”. The same is of course true for other wine producing countries as well, just ask any producer in the south of France or Italy, eastern Germany or even some of the lesser known regions of California, South Africa and Argentina. This week, we’re going to focus on five wines from the lesser celebrated regions of Spain and well… celebrate them!

 

Marko White

DO Bizkaiko Txakolina (Basque Country). When it comes to cooler climate white wines in Spain, Rias Baixas, Rueda and Ribeiro tend to dominate proceedings. However, in 1994 DO Bizkaiko Txakolina was created in the Basque Country, in the very north of Spain. Whilst still considerably warmer than most of northern Europe, this is a chilly, wild part of the country by Spanish standards and so it comes as no surprise that the majority of the production here is white; a perfect pairing with the local seafood. White wines tend to be produced from Hondarribi Zuri ,with some 80% of all plantings, supported by a mixture of Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, Folle Blanche and other international varieties. The wine we’ll be tasting is Marko 2015 by Oxer Bastegieta, a family winery better known for their small production of high quality wines in Rioja under the label “Oxer Wines”. Crisp, clean and very acidic; DO Bizkaiko Txakolina in a glass!

Vara y Pulgar 2012

VdlT Cadiz (Andalucia). If you haven’t come across ‘VdlT’ before, it simply means ‘Vino de la Tierra’ and is a step down from DO in the appellation pyramid, coming from a broader geographical zone with laxer regulations when it comes to the production of wine. VdlT Cadiz was originally created to take advantage of the surplus of Sherry grapes, in order to make light, dry wines for the local markets of Jerez, Sanlucar and Puerto de Santa Maria. There are, however, one or two very brave and amibitious producers using older, almost extinct grape varieties in tiny quantities, such as the Compañia de Vinos del Atlantico, a project set up in 2002 to showcase these sorts of wines from across 18 lesser known regions of Spain. Vagar y Pulgar 2012 is such a wine, made from the exceedingly rare Tintilla grape variety, considered to be a mutation of the medium-bodied, floral Graciano from Rioja. Whilst they didn’t make it into our tasting, Barbazul are also a good producer of this variety, blending it together with French varieties for a rounder profile.

 

Finca Sandoval 2010

DO Manchuela (La Mancha). This is a great example of a wine producing region that should be doing better than it currently is. Whilst located inside the enormous DO La Mancha, having separated in 1982, it has considerably more rainfall, cooler winds, greater concentrations of limestone in the soil and opportunities to grow at altitude; basically, there’s no reason why top quality wine can’t be made here. Like most of Spain, the cooperative structure is vitally important and that might be holding proceedings back a little in terms of innovation and risk taking, whilst producing a large quantity of young, fresh wines for the local market. To showcase the potential here, we’ve gone for Finca Sandoval 2010, produced by the Finca Sandoval estate. Famously created by veteran Spanish journalist, Victor de la Serna, in 1998, it takes a more modern approach to the appellation. Blending the native Monastrell and Bobal together with a healthy dollop of Syrah and then ageing it in new oak for 11 months for the stabilisation of colour, addition of flavour and some extra tannin brings this style into a new, modern era without overwhelming the flavour of the grapes themselves. Delicious stuff.

 

Terrer d'Aubert

DO Tarragona (Catalunya). With the creation of DO Montsant, DO Tarragona has very much sank back into the production of young and easy red wines, some interesting sweet and rancio wines from Garnacha and produces a surprising amount of white grapes which head to Sant Sadurni d’Anoia to be turned into the most basic expressions of Cava. This anonymity does no favours for the region and so it’s left for quality-minded producers to make their own success and hopefully, put DO Tarragona back on the map. Vinyes del Terrer is such a producer, and we’ve chosen their Terrer d’Aubert 2010 to showcase it; an unusual blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha, aged for 14 months in 5,000 litre French barrels for a long, slow ageing with minimal oak flavour. Fresh and clean, dominated by black fruits, graphite and floral notes; are we drinking young Bordeaux here or Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon? I’ll let you be the judge.

Traslanzas

DO Cigales (Castilla y Leon). DO Cigales is a large but relatively unknown wine producing region, not far from the considerably more illustrious DO Ribera del Duero. Historically important for producing stunning rosé wines, it has now turned its attention to replicating the success of its neighbours by focusing on Tempranillo as a grape variety for red wine production and indeed, has not only the same limestone bedrock as the rest of its competitors but also large, ‘pudding stone’ rocks that lie on the surface of the vineyards reflecting the suns heat. Bodegas Traslanzas are one of the more celebrated producers in the area and their signature wine is a beautiful expression of Tempranillo, with lower alcohol (13.5%) and enormous amounts of freshness, even after 8 years of age. Telmo Rodriguez, famous wine-maker and terroir-guru, claims that the soils of this area are absolutely perfect for Tempranillo production but the truth, as always, is in the glass.

Whilst there are many, many more areas, wines and producers to discover, I’m very much looking forward to sharing some of these lesser known areas in this weeks tasting. There are, at the time of writing, still three spots available so if you’re interesting in attending, it will be on Thursday 19th at 19:00, 25 euros per person. If you’re interested in a spot, please contact me at fintankerr@winecuentista.com for payment options.

Thoughts on: Judging Quality in Wine

wine-judging

So, I spent the entire of yesterday learning how to taste and analyse sparkling wines as objectively as possible, in exam conditions. This ranged from cheap and simple Prosecco to incredibly expensive Vintage Champagne, Lambrusco to sparkling Shiraz and a little bit of everything in between from all corners of the globe. As usual, the WSET method of tasting focuses mainly on the students ability to correctly analyse a wine, breaking it down in terms of flavours, aromas and the structure. However, at the Diploma level a great deal more emphasis is then placed on your ability to qualify the quality level of the wine, ranging from ‘poor’ to ‘outstanding’ with a substantial amount of justification needing to be given regardless of your decision.

I’ve always appreciated the methology I’ve learnt from studying with the WSET; it’s a very rigorous, methodical approach that forms a solid foundation for practically any sort of tasting you’ll be required to do professionally in the industry and can easily be built upon to be a little more flexible. Essentially, it’s designed on the following framework:

Balance – Is the wine balanced? Does anything stick out unpleasantly, or does any one part of the wine overpower the others? Sometimes very acidic wines can become a little tart if the flavours aren’t concentrated enough. Sweet wines can taste cloying and sloppy if the acidity is too low to support the sugar concentration. Alcohol can be quite aggressive and hot if it’s unreasonably high in the context of the wine. Even something you really enjoy in a wine, say bright, fruity flavours, can make a wine quite disappointing if everything else falls flat by comparison.

Length – How long do the desirable flavours last for? Some wines can be quite basic and still be well balanced. Some wines can be quite basic and give the impression of quality, often due to manipulation of oak, lees contact and extraction. A good, long finish however, is essentially impossible to achieve without healthy, top quality grapes and as such, is a mark of real quality.

Intensity – How intense are the flavours in the wine? This is something I find is often misjudged as it’s easy to confuse power and size with intensity. You can have a 15% ABV Barossa Shiraz that has real intensity on the palate but at the same time, a 9.5% ABV Riesling from the Mosel Valley can pack just as much of a punch. Intensity is the strength and impact of those flavours and how they’re delivered. I recall Jancis Robinson MW referring to her first experience with Musigny Grand Cru as being like ‘an iron fist in a velvet glove’ which very much encapsulates the concept.

Complexity – How complex are the aromas and flavours in the wine? Is it a young, simple wine or is there a level of development there? Can you easily distinguish between primary fruit flavours, secondary influences of wine-making and the tertiary effects of bottle ageing? Does it improve the wine as a whole?

wset-outside

Now, it’s fair to say that this system isn’t perfect. I’m sure many of us can think of a wine that is absolutely delicious without being overly complex. I’m sure that, as individual consumers, some of us like wine that is sometimes a little bit unbalanced providing it’s in favour of an attribute we happen to particularly enjoy. It’s also been noted that certain wine styles, particularly those with levels of brett, volatile acidity and other ‘faults’/quirks fare quite poorly, regardless of how tasty they are. This is where individual tasting scope and common sense comes into play; the system is after all, just a foundation to be built upon, not a stand-alone all encompassing solution. On a more personal note, below are three additional factors I subconsciously process when drinking wine outside of exam conditions:

Provenance – Is the wine easily identified? Put simply, I want wine to taste like the grape(s) it’s made from and the place it comes from as I appreciate tasting flavours and styles that have been built from decades of consistent work, regulation and tradition. Innovation is important but it has to have a solid basis other than some mad wine-makers personal philosophy if I’m going to part with hard earned cash in order to acquire it.

Accessibility – Can I drink this now or do I have to wait for a number of years before opening it? Put simply, a lot of high quality wines are quite aggressive when they’re very young and require time in the bottle for the components to integrate, soften and become more expressive. This is a problem if you live in Barcelona and rely on good friends with wine fridges to store your modest collection. As a result, I rarely buy wine anymore that I won’t be drinking within a year or two at the latest. This is a really personal one and if I had anywhere remotely appropriate for long term ageing, one I’d scrap in an instant. Probably.

Most importantly -Is it delicious? The most subjective factor of them all. Do you want to pour yourself another glass of it? Is it good enough that you’d want to share it with your friends? This may be no more objective than Alice Feirings consideration of ’emotional impact’, but it’s less pretentiously presented (I hope). I may be a wine geek but if I’m rushing to share a wine with someone, it’s far more likely to be this point than anything else.

I suppose the most important consideration of systematic tasting and analysis is to have a few criteria to go by, regardless of what they are. This is ultimately how we develop our own preferences, tasting experience and slowly start to unravel and learn the world of wine from a practical point of view. As soon as you start to stop and think about a glass of wine, your relationship to wine starts to change; for the better, I hasten to add! If you don’t already, the next time you drink a glass of wine take 30 seconds to ask yourself ‘What do I like about this wine?’ It’s well worth the time!