October 10, 2003

Wine Snob.

While in Rome...

Oh wait. Where am I? Am I in a bar? Right. I'm in Bordeaux.

While in Bordeaux, take part in wine. Taste it, drink it, experience it. In an attempt to get my education on about the finer subtleties in wine, wine making, and all that jazz, two weeks ago I signed up for a four week course in wine tasting for the hefty sum of 90 Euro. To add to the experience, I'm taking it in French, which initially I thought would be cool because I'd learn all the snobbish words ("It has a taste of 'je ne sais quoi'....maybe 'un peu moulleux'") in French. Alas, it's turning out to be partly a pain in the ass, because there are so many crazy ass subtleties, and technical words that I just can't translate.

Also, sitting through a two hour session of French can get a little tiring, especially when it's 8:00 and haven't eaten since lunch (the best time to taste wine is when you're partly hungry).

The setting is all white (as different colours can affect different tastes....more green, and it will taste more acidic, red, more tannic). The glasses are all the same too, as seen in the picture below.

The first day was spent establishing basic scents (man there are *tons* of them....fruity, floral, smoky, woody, spicy and vegetable are some of the categories). Following that, we tasted the basic tastes: sugary, acidic, bitter (tannins), and the feeling of alcohol (alcohol and water). You also develop a vocabulary to describe wine.

You move from whites to reds in tasting. From sweet to acidic. Also, you're not supposed to swallow the wine (which, initially is sort of hard to do, but you get over it). As such, with all the spitting, it's not really recommended for the first date....or the second. Spitting does have its merits though, as to fully differentiate each wine you are tasting, you can't have aromas and tastes lingering at the back of your throat.

The second lesson was about climate and soil types, as well as different vine types (oh, and I must not forget pruning techniques). It's all quite interesting, and appealing on a geek level. Also taught is a bit about Bordeaux's 57 different appellations.

We ended up tasting the main whites here: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion, as well as a mixture of the two (I'll get on a rant about that in a second).

In the red neck of the woods: Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a fourth mixed one (50% merlot, 25% each of the others).

It was interesting to see the distinctions between the different wines, even though the wine we tasted (mind you, I'm sure the fact that I could barely smell due to a cold didn't help) weren't signatures for each type of wine (they wee all 2002 or 2003...very young). Oh well.

You're tasting, and smelling, and surrounding you looks like this:

Okay, so here's my beef with some of this. One, there seems to be a significant amount of attitude that goes along with wine tasting. Sure I suppose, you learn to evaluate wine and its subtle complexities, but the whole scientific approach behind it is a little dry. I suppose it's similar to photography, where the techniques are somewhat tedious and boring, but ones you start expressing what you want, it becomes much more enjoyable. You learn to appreciate the wine as an art form, but not necessarily enjoy it any more than when shared with some excellent company (say over an excellent turkey meal).

The other thing that bothers the shit out of me is that Bordeaux prides itself on not mixing wines. What they don't tell you, is that they don't allow mixing wines after the fact, from different vintages and/or areas. They still do however, mix various different types of grape during fermentation to maximize the subtle complexities of the wine. The lady teaching the class seemed to have this magic book with percentages of different grapes. Of course, maybe there was something lost in the translation while watching the news and they were explaining the mixing phenomenon.

The last picture (all these were taken on my colleagues fancy Nokia 7560 or something like that) is kinda funny since the guy sitting in the foreground reminds me of my supervisor that I had in Japan (now four years ago).

Posted by bricode at October 10, 2003 02:45 PM
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