It’s time for another post about my wine education journey!
While I mentioned that most of the Wine Production Section in this program is theory-based, WSET does encourage us to do weekly tastings so that we get comfortable with what is referred to as the SAT: Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine.
Each week WSET suggests the specific wines we should sample, and then we’re encouraged to do tasting notes and choose these wines systematically to help illustrate the lessons from that week.
For instance, the first week the recommendation was a high-quality Burgundian Red and a high-quality Pinot Noir from another region to illustrate the impact of natural factors like climate and soil on the wine — or what is often referred to as terroir.
“Terroir is the belief that the place where grapes are grown and wine is made imposes a character on that wine. The idea starts with the soil in which vines are grown but also encompasses the influence of the environment, the elevation, the angle toward the sun and the people who tend to the vines and make the wine.” —As defined by the WSET
The two wines mentioned above, while made from the same grape variety, have different characteristics because of where each one was grown. For instance, a Pinot Noir from Bourgogne is known to have more earthy characteristics with a lighter body than one made in Sonoma County, for comparison, that will be fuller-bodied with more red fruit characteristics.
This week, we were asked to taste a Pinot Grigio versus a Pinot Gris to help illustrate how human influences and culture can affect wine style.
A Pinot Grigio from Italy is often called a “simple wine” — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — because of the way the grape grows in Northern Italy, and because Italian winemakers tend to do very little to the wine. Whereas a Pinot Gris from Alsace is often made to be off-dry — which means it has just a hint of sweetness that a winemaker can encourage in various ways. They are often aged in older French oak for a few months — which adds depth and texture — which is the main reason this is not a simple wine. Same grape, but two different wines because of how the wine was made.
I love a good tasting exercise like this one because it always helps to give me an idea of how the same wine varietal can have very different characteristics depending on a very specific set of variables. Even though you couldn’t taste the wines along with me, I hope following along with what I’m learning added a little something new to your wine journey!
Until next time, cheers!