This is the eighth post in our series about “un-study techniques” for use in wine and spirits studies. Un-study techniques are all about what to do when you need to study…but you just can’t stand the thought of studying. Click here to view our other posts on un-study techniques.
Trade tastings—or consumer tastings—can be an excellent adjunct to your book-and-flashcard-based serious wine (or spirits) studies. With a bit of on-the-ground discipline, tasting events can be used to “fill in the gaps” in your tasting experience and/or to expand your understanding of wine theory. It just takes is a bit of planning.
Here are some ideas to ensure purpose-driven tastings:
- Decide on an educational goal (or goals) for the event. Focus on this goal for your first hour at the tasting.
- To focus on theory-based knowledge, prepare a list of questions in advance and ask the same question of each winemaker or rep. Your focus could be anything– wine making, marketing, food pairings, the region, distribution—whatever topic or topics you’d like to explore.
- To focus on tasting skills, choose one of more of the following:
- Varietal focus: Choose a varietal to focus on; and come equipped with a tasting grid that focuses on that variety. Taste five wines and record your impressions. After tasting all five, do a compare-and-contrast exercise.
- Regional focus: Taste five wines from the same region. Record your impressions and see if you can detect a similar character in the wines.
- Procedural focus: Taste five wines produced using the same technique—such as carbonic maceration, sur lie aging, or cold soak—and see if you can detect any similarity potentially derived from the process. Alternatively, taste five wines of the same “type” (such as rosé or Sonoma Chardonnay), but seek out wines that were produced using different winemaking techniques. Always remember to take notes!
- Topographical or terroir-driven focus (extra credit for this one): Seek out wines that share a topographical similarity, whether it be high-altitude vineyards, limestone soils, or an exceptionally warm vintage.
- Organoleptic focus: If there is a certain type of wine descriptor that you just don’t “get” or don’t particularly enjoy—such as floral aromas, salinity, minerality, black pepper aroma, earthiness, or gritty tannins—ask each table if they have a wine that showcases it. See if this can lead to an understanding or appreciation of these types of wine.
The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… email@example.com