On the Wine Trail

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Currently showing posts tagged WSET

  • A little summer reading

    A little summer reading

    It's the quitessential summer activity. Hunting for and finding the perfect summer read. The book you carry in your purse on the plane to your favorite summer beach be it So Cal, South Beach, Punta Cana or Tres Palmas. It's the book you have to come back to...that totally enraptures you. The page turner.

    When you're studying for higher certification in wine, you learn quickly (or maybe after failing a few exams) that all your time -- and that includes summer at the beach reading -- needs to be dedicated to study. But no matter how much you love wine (and I do), it gets old. You yearn for the poetic cadences of Pablo Neruda or the inspired writings of Gary Snyder. But that is not on the summer menu.

    And so, in keeping with my new vow to never purchase a new book (full price) ever again -- I can't afford my own growing library -- I visited my favorite second-hand book purveyor in Washington. I saw the above little book snuggled in the dusty corner of the bookshelf and figured it couldn't be a bad investment since my last Diploma Class - Fortified Wines -- was fast approaching. So I exchanged $10 for the book and off I went. 

    It was at least three weeks later that I brought myself to open up yet another clinical wine exposé, and on Sherry no less. A wine I have never, by choice, consumed before, during or after a meal. I was graciously offered the chance to accompany a group to Spain about six years ago and the trip began with a high speed train visit from Madrid to Jerez to explore the greatest sherry bodegas. It was all so foreign (I speak Spanish fluently so it definitely wasn't the language). To me, Sherry seemed an antiquated beverage best left for the septuagenarians who wandered into the front door of my restaurant. I had no idea of its place within a meal or an evening. But I have to say, I totally immersed myself in the wine and food and for that moment....I got it. I understood Sherry. But that was a long time ago, and old habits die hard. And Sherry was not one of my habits.

    So, I opened the book and buckled down. The book was published in 1955 and I assumed, from the get-go, that much fact-checking would therefore be required on my part. Frankly, I wasn't sure what I could possibly gain from reading this book. Chapter 1 -- Sherry...A Wine Unique. It was obvious this book was of a different time. It's character was extolled as:

    "Finally, this sturdy and determined Sherry alone among
    wines will withstand the effects of tobacco; it can be drunk
    with a cigar or cigarette or pipe scarcely removed from the mouth
    and retain all its aroma and character."

    And while I couldn't relate to this particular musing, I could appreciate the story of Sherry on this human level. There was something in the tone of the writing. Its manner. Something that made Rupert Croft-Cooke's book speak as more a story than as a straightforward placing of facts.

    "Driving into the town now is like reaching an oasis,
    for its gardens are vivid with flowers and the whole town seems shady,
    luxiriant, full of fruit and bougainvillea, a rich, happy
    busy place in which sunlight strikes through the roadside trees."

    I can see it.

    There was something in this that made me read on. And on.

    And as I turned page after page and delved into its ensuing chapters, I realized something; that buried between the pages that smell of the cold linens sheets in a mildewy basement of my childhood home, I found my summer page-turner. Lucky for me, Mr. Cooke wrote "Sherry" as one of a trilogy of books on fortified wines. I took one moment away from reading to locate both "Madeira" and "Port" from an online thrift books retailer. They're on the way to my door as we speak.

    Summer, it seems, isn't over yet. 

  • Long Road

    Long Road

    No one said it was going to be easy so it's not really right to complain. I criticize in my mind those who abandon what they love for the easier route. But looking at this road map on my floor...I have to wonder. No amount of studying can make me enjoy wine more. No amount of knowledge can help me to better appreciate the comfort of luscious fruit or the mysterious appeal of an intricately woven nose. One could argue (me, for one) that all this study makes me appreciate those things less! I have spat out more great wine than I have actually swallowed. So...why? I suppose it's because with some things, pure pleasure....absolute ease...while fun, isn't rewarding. You can't make a full life out of always taking the easy path. Wine is a lot more than what's in the glass to me and that's what makes it intriguing and gives it life. Like a person you want to keep around for a while, you want to know more. And I guess that's the key. The journey to get to know someone is as tough as the two people themselves want to make it. So mastering all this will take as long as it takes for me. But I want to keep it around....so I'll plod on. And hope that there are more passes than fails.

  • I don't want Ozone in my Wine

    I often complain to myself about the restrictive language of the WSET critical method of evaluating wine. I am forever getting red-marked for using words that aren't part of "WSET language". I spend a lot of time telling people that its okay if you don't smell "garrigue" or "gooseberry", "boxwood" or "pear drop"--frequently used terms that, though industry standard, mean absolutely nothing to the average wine drinker but culturally significant in England.  I have spent a lot of time scratching and pruning boxwoods and buying weird British confections online so that I can implant these "aromas" into my mind. With that I kick and drag my way into the WSET way. Well I had an "ah ha" moment today. I was reading a new wine blog of some note that I found via researching the Bronco Wine Group. There among the columns was the tasting note of a recently popped bottle of Cava. And among the notes for this sparkler was the following: "aromas of muted ozone...". So here I am, the champion of developing personalized language but I have to say, I found this one to be too wacky. I'm not sure what ozone is supposed to smell like--Pollution? Garbage? Mildew? I know I can't buy it online to see for myself. Since I live in a fairly populated city, do I smell it every day already I don't know even know it? I can imagine an examiner reviewing tests for the WSET getting this one and scratching their head. How to judge? What to say? What did these words communicate to the average taster?reader? I consider myself pretty average and I say, not much. Just questions....and not the good kind.

    So I get it WSET and fully accept it now. Just in time for my next exam.