- 24 Jun 2019
- Camilla Wood
The Conduit Magazine - July 2019 Article
by Camilla Wood, Owner/MD The Somerset Wine Company
School’s Out, Wine School’s In!
Those famously defiant Alice Cooper lyrics “School’s out for summer” always buzz around my head in early July.
It’s the end of a long school year; children and teenagers the world over are looking forward to the academic inertia of the summer holidays. Well, while this might be the case for many, never fear there is still some learning to be done in this most languorous of summer months… But this kind of education happily involves a healthy dose of wine drinking! As an Approved Programme Provider of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) courses, July sees us kicking off our Wine School programme with a new member of staff and two Level 1 courses - with Level 2 to follow in the autumn. So what to expect from wine education? It really starts with an awakening of all the senses…
In this most glorious of seasons, our senses truly come alive: the sound of birdsong as dawn breaks, that vermillion-hued sunset, the vivid lime green of hedgerows, the vibrant yellow of buttercups, the taste of jersey royals tossed in butter and mint and, that most powerful of senses, the smell of freshly mown grass, or the rather less fragrant alternative, a newly fertilised field.
In wine tasting, smell is the most kingly of our senses. As my wine hero Jancis Robinson said “If I could give one piece of advice to any newcomer to wine it would be: don’t forget your sense of smell.” You only need remember how bland food tastes when a nasty head cold blocks your nose to realise how our sense of smell is so intrinsically linked to our taste. When tasting something, special molecules are released which awaken nerve cells in the mouth, but also in the more discerning ones in the top of the nose where our olfactory system lies. We sense flavour as an aroma first via this nasal area where flavour-sensitive nerves are stimulated. Thereafter specific messages are sent to the brain about the particular flavour. Clever stuff and we therefore need to practise hard at this sense when tasting wine!
Smelling a wine offers the first whiff of aromas which will then illicit clues as to what it is to come next when you taste the wine on the palate - and if the two match up then a certain quality is guaranteed, resulting in a pleasurable tasting experience.
When teaching wine tasting and appreciation we often refer informally to the senses via the
5 S’s :
See - to assess the wine’s colour to give clues to grape, country of origin, or age
Swirl - to aerate the wine in the glass and bring out its aroma compounds
Sniff - here our sense of smell is fully operational - what fruits can you smell, are they (if red wine) red forest fruits, or deep black fruits such as blackcurrant or damson; are they fresh and juicy or baked and raisined? Are they concentrated or quite simple? Can you detect a whiff of oak? Are there some meaty, savoury notes associated with age on the wine?
Sip or Slurp - here you get to drink! Bring the wine into your mouth, suck it in as if through a straw, get some air involved, rotate it around the mouth letting it touch the sides and back of the tongue and throat where you can detect acidity levels on the sides of the tongue and alcohol on the back.
And finally, Swallow or Spit, Savour the wine or Summarise (even more S’s!). Take the time to identify the kind of fruits you taste, is it simple or complex? Do you detect any oak flavours? Think about the acidity level in the wine - is it too high and acerbic or too low and therefore too sweet and jammy? Is the alcohol in balance, or too high, hot and burning as you swill the liquid around your mouth or do you conclude all is in balance? Lastly assess the finish on the wine or rather how long the flavours linger in the mouth. Did you enjoy it, was it simple or complex? Was it memorable or just good for the money?
If you find any of the above interesting and fancy learning more about wine, why not sign up for one our of courses? Mastering any subject is about learning the jargon and the WSET provides this global lexicon for wine tasting. Our next Level 1 day course is on Saturday July 20th at the Market House in Castle Cary 9am - 5pm (£160 including a light lunch). It is a fun and interactive day, perfect for wine enthusiasts wishing to gain confidence in tasting, learn about principle grape varieties, major wine regions, wine service and storage and food and wine pairing. The day concludes with a multiple choice exam and a certificate for all who pass (it’s easy - we make sure you do!). The courses make great gifts and are also suitable for over 18s wishing to work in the hospitality sector. For more information please call us in the shop on 01963 548228, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website under News & Events/Wine School. Enjoy practising your smelling techniques in this most fragrant of months. We hope to see you at a course in the future!
TEL: 01963 548228
The Deli Castle Cary
Mob: 07717 396635 Shop: 01963 548228
Opening Hours: Mon - Sat 9am - 6pm
All other times by appointment
LUX Guide 2017 'Best West Country Wine & Spirits Purveyor'
Runner Up as 'Newcomer of The Year' in the Drinks Retailing Awards 2016
Finalist in Muddy Stilettos 'Best Somerset Wine Merchant' 2016 & 2017