Develop Your 6th Sense
It’s getting close to September, and that got me thinking about the Intro and Certified exams from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Those exams are September 10th and 11th for Intro and the 12th for the certified exam in Tucson. I have the honor of helping Master Sommelier Laura Williamson with conducting those three days of intense lectures followed by the exams. A big part of that is blind tasting, and that’s my focus for this month on the blog.
This whole blind tasting thing can get pretty geeky, and I want everyone to understand the real purpose behind it (at least what I think of it anyway). As a Sommelier that regularly works the “floor” of the restaurant, it’s wildly important that I understand flavor profiles and structural characteristics of a wine so I can guide a guest around my wine list. I may not have a wine they’re looking for, but understanding what it is they want and knowing the characteristics of their favorite wine helps me match them to something they may have never experienced. I mean, that’s what this is all about — trying something you may never have had!
The Court of Master Sommeliers has come up with a deductive tasting method to blindly evaluate a wine. Here is a brief oversight of each section:
- Sight. Here, you’re looking for clarity/brightness, color/hue/concentration, rim variation, extract/staining, viscosity, gas and sediment/tartrates
- Nose. Proper smelling technique, clean or wine faults, intensity, age assessment, fruit, fruit character, non–fruit, earth or mineral, oak
- Palate. Proper tasting technique, structure, sweet/dry, tannin, acidity, Alcohol, body/texture, flavor, balance/complexity/finish
- Conclusion. This is where you review all the clues the wine gave you and come with an educated guess for what the wine is
- Quality. Does the wine represent its regional and varietal identity?
I have a teacher (Jeff Mann) that I work with who said to me “Let the paint dry before you add another layer.” That could never be more true in this instance, so here’s your layer of primer!
Here’s an example of a Sight/Nose evaluation:
This wine is medium yellow, has a gold rim variation, and a medium-high viscosity. On the nose, it shows ripe yellow apple, banana, and peach. It has mild spice notes of coconut and vanilla, and hints of bread dough.
What am I? It’s hard to tell from just a sight/nose evaluation, but it sounds to me like a new world chardonnay.
This wine is: Copain “Les Voisins” | Anderson Valley, CA Chardonnay 2014 $25
Here’s an example of a Palate evaluation:
This wine is dry, has medium to high tannin, high acidity, medium-high alcohol, a long finish, and is complex. It shows dried purple flowers, thyme, rosemary, tobacco, and green pepper. Hints of dark chocolate, baking spices and dill.
What am I? A lot of nose elements transfer to palate, but not always. After tasting many, many wines, I started a memory bank of general characteristics.
This wine is: Juggernaut “Hillside” | California Cabernet $20
Pick these wines up from the Maynards Market Wine Shop to start honing your wine senses!
Send me your thoughts! If you ever have wine questions, are looking for advice, or just want to talk about wine, please stop in and say hello!
Will Olendorf, Maynards Market & Kitchen Sommelier