As I made my way to The Wine Parlour on this rainy Monday in South London, I wondered what Melanie had in store for us this week… it is already week three of our WSET Level 3 course! Never failing to surprise, when we arrived we were confronted with our first ‘mock exam’ – two wines to taste and describe on two, very blank, pieces of paper.
So far, we’ve had Melanie prompting us about what we need to describe and, of course, giving us clues as to what we might be identifying in the wine. But apparently there’s no time like the present to give it a go alone and so we got peering, sniffing, swirling and sipping and spent 30 minutes scratching our heads and changing our minds. The WSET Level 3 exam has a separate blind tasting element to the exam, so this experience is very valuable.
Whilst going solo was an unnerving experience, it taught us the kind of valuable lessons you only learn by making the mistake yourself. For example, don’t forget to state the wine’s development in the nose section (we’re not at WSET Level 2 anymore) and… be strict about time keeping! Half an hour disappears surprisingly quickly when you’re deliberating just how much saliva your mouth is producing after a sip (an indicator of acidity) or peering into your red wine glass and wondering whether you can see the stem clearly enough for its colour to be described as light rather than medium.
Finally, Melanie rewarded us with our cheese and charcuterie platter and a detailed account of the winemaking process: once they are harvested, the grapes are taken to the winery, where they will be treated, fermented and left to mature in accordance with the kind of wine that the winemaker wants to produce. Whilst some elements are common to the process of making any wine, some choices – for example length of skin contact or the kind of vessel used for maturation – can be used to achieve a certain style of wine. The grapes have not quite reached our glasses yet, but they’re certainly getting closer…