WSET Level 3 Week 4
I think week four of our WSET Level 3 course might have been my favourite so far, as whilst technically we spent the evening in South London, virtually we went on a trip to the regions that produce some of my favourite wines – Germany, Austria and Alsace. I even discovered a new wine region that I’d never even heard of before – Tokaj in Hungary.
Having road-tripped through the Mosel Valley this summer, I realised what a good excuse this course is giving me to go on more ‘educational’ wine-drinking holidays. Having tasted the wines in situ, enjoying the spectacular view of neat rows of vines beside the meandering river Mosel, Melanie’s explanation of how the steep slopes and reflected sunlight from the river make this region the producer of world-famous Rieslings really came to life.
Moving on to Alsace, we learnt how the Vosges Mountains protect the wine-growing region from rain-bearing, westerly winds, and how this, combined with the prevalence of sunlight and steep slopes, gives rise to the Alsace Grand Cru wines – the region’s best. We taste a Riesling from this area, whose characteristic high acidity and good intensity of stone and citrus fruit flavours, with a certain roundness to it, earn it a ‘good’ assessment from our class, with a ‘drink now: suitable for ageing or further ageing’ (Riesling is a white wines that can develop well with age).
We round off our session with a sweet Tokaji wine – confusingly with a different name to that of the region where it’s grown (Tokaj). Whilst German Rieslings haven’t quite shaken off the association with being sweet’n’cheap, from when the UK used to bulk import such wines in the 1970s, Tokaj is renowned for its sweet wines, which are top quality and anything other than cheap – a shame, because the 2011 example we taste is absolutely delicious and leaves me wanting to explore more of what Hungary has to offer…
If you are interested to learn more about German Wines, visit the wines of Germany webs-site, dedicated to raising awareness of German wines in the UK.
WSET Level 3 - Week five
It’s week five of our WSET course and we’re really getting into the swing of things. Saying Auf Wiedersehen to Germany and Bonjour to France, we head off to taste our way through Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.
We start off in Burgundy, where the we appreciate the effect of the region’s range of climates and winemaking practices on the two white Chardonnays we taste. The youthful Chablis Premier Cru has notes of green apple, lemon and minerality from the cooler climate in which it’s grown, whereas we taste some riper peach and even banana and creamy, buttery flavours in the Les Aigrots wine from the warmer Côte de Beaune.
The advantage (other than for our bank balances) of visiting these regions through our wine glasses rather than physically trekking out there there is that, with the pop of a cork, we jump from southern Burgundy to the Atlantic coast and Loire Valley.
Here, we taste two famous examples of white grape varieties, one Sauvignon Blanc and one Chenin Blanc. The Pouilly-Fumé delivers on the expectation for a flinty edge accompanying its notes of gooseberry, grapefruit and blossom. Not to be outdone, the Vouvray sec we taste is a fine example of a wine from its region and grape: dry, with hints of stone and citrus fruit alongside a deliciously toasty, coconutty note. To ‘very good’ wines and, unusually for a white, the latter even has ‘potential for ageing’ (if you can bear the wait).
Finally, with a hop, skip and a jump down the coast, we’re revelling in the deliciously balanced sweet Sauternes wine we try: its deceptively high acidity keeps the sweetness in check, allowing us to relish its deliciously complex array of flavours, which range from fresh grapefruit and quince to gingerbread, honeysuckle, marmalade and even a hint of mushroom. Sound like a strange mix? Try for yourself, it’s irresistible and has a Melanie-approved assessment of ‘very good’. Not bad for a Monday evening in February.