As you possibly already know, I am studying for my certified sommelier exam conducted by The Court of Master Sommeliers. One of the components of the exam is a blind tasting of 2 wines. The Court, being ever so thoughtful, has devised a deductive tasting method that I first learned about last year at the Intro exam. It’s essentially an easy way to break down information into clues about what a wine is based only on sight, smell and taste. Before I get into tasting grids, viscosity, clarity, faults, new oak- I want to start at the beginning. I need to remind my nose of what black pepper smells like, chocolate, vanilla, the subtleties of different citrus fruits. All of these things matter in the world of blind tasting and identification. They are clues.
A Master Sommelier gave me some good advice; just start smelling stuff. Smell the flowers at the farmer’s market, pick up produce at the grocery store, dig around in your kitchen cabinets. Smell, smell and smell some more. Train the nose to understand that you are smelling coconut and sawdust as opposed to vanilla and cocoa. The latter being a telltale sign of French oak and the former of American oak. French oak= Old World. American oak= New World (for the most part.) I’ve seen some really super expensive “aroma kits” that are like a smell encyclopedia come to life. However awesome they may be, I can’t drop $400 on some vials of liquid. Therefore, I must do as my Master says… dig around in the kitchen.
Berries, herbs, tea, vanilla, black pepper. Fun times. I might next be seen around the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silverlake foraging for wild herbs, picking grass samples and possibly smelling dirt. Don’t be alarmed.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the “Master series.” I am going to break down the tasting grid and then get to the fun stuff. Blind tasting. I am putting not only myself to the test, but my friends as well.