WEST Advanced (Level 3) – Session 1

WSET3 booksI have recently started the Level 3 of the WSET award in wine and spirits. Level 2 concentrated on the main international grape varieties (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Syrah/Grenache), and the main wine producing regions. I’m hoping level 3 brings me that step closer to better appreciating some of the more outlandish varieties as well as providing a more in-depth understanding of the wine producing regions of the world. But most of all the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine® should give me the robust framework to analyse properly every wine I taste. It is very structured, precise and detailed but for objectivity purposes, does not leave room for “poetic” descriptions of fanciful aromas and flavours that have more to do with the personal aromatic and flavoursome experiences of the taster than providing a meaningful description of the wine to others. Every single aspect of the wine tasted is assessed. It is split, expectedly, into 4 categories: Appearance, Nose, Palate and Conclusion. In this series of posts I will give you my tasting notes of the wines tasted at each session and hope you will find them a useful guide for what to expect if you were to consider buying them.

IMG_20130407_2117131. Muscadet Sevre et Maine (Sur Lie) 2011, Domaine de la Tourmaline, 12%

Bright, pale lemon in colour, subtle and light aromas of green apples and a certain saltiness coming from the lees. It’s bone dry with a sharp acidity, quite light in body but rather intense, sharp flavours of green fruits (apples, pears) and lees (saline, biscuity notes) and a decent length. It’s a good Muscadet from this region, typical of the style with fresh, zesty acidity and salt, perfect to go with oysters and other seafood. It’s good to drink now and it will not improve further. At £7.99 (or £6.99 if you buy 2) from Majestic, I would get some more of that ready for the (unlikely) summer.

IMG_20130407_2120222. Beaujolais-Villages 2011, Georges Duboeuf, 12.5%

Clear pale ruby with a purple rim, a nose of strawberry and violet, rather youthful and lively. It’s dry, almost high in acidity (medium +), little tannins (medium -) and a rather light body which contrasts with vibrant and sharp red fruit and floral flavours, much like on the nose. A decent length, it’s a typical Beaujolais, light, fresh and drinkable and this is a fine example of the style. £8.49 (or £6.99 if you buy 2) again from Majestic.

IMG_20130407_2122153. Bodegas Bilbainas, La Vicalanda de Vina Pomal, Rioja Reserva 1994, 12.5%

A clear and pale tawny colour (the garnet can still be seen at the very core but age has definitely taken its toll) and a fully developed nose of stewed fruit and oak flavours like leather and cedar wood along with some savoury notes too. It’s dry and still has a bit of acidity but the tannins have gone smooth and silky. Similar flavours are found with stewed fruits like raisins, wood and vanilla, a rather long finish ending with some spice. We thought this was good but not the best example of what Rioja can do and we wondered if it may have been past its best. This wine currently retails at £16.24.

IMG_20130407_2124114. Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2001, Hilltop Neszmély, 11.5%

Clear, medium amber it has fully developed, medium aromas of oak (vanilla) and botrytis (honey, toffee) but also orange zest or marmalade. A very fine balance of aromas of spice, sweetness and zest, very appealing and inviting. On the palate it’s lusciously sweet but with a vivid acidity and pronounced flavours similar to those found on the nose and it provides a satisfyingly medium to long finish. It is very good to drink now but due to the intensity of flavours and the pronounced acidity it is still capable of ageing for a few more years. It is sold at £19.5 for a 50cl bottle in M&S.

IMG_20130407_2125385. Churchill’s Estate Douro 2009, Portugal, 14%

This wine was tasted blind and there were three possible conclusions: Barrossa Shiraz, Chianti Classico or Douro red. It’s clear, medium intensity ruby, going on purple on the rim. Clean, medium intensity and developing nose of black fruit, pepper spice and toast undertones. It’s bone dry with a decent level of acidity (medium +), medium ripe tannins and you also get the warmth from the high(ish) alcohol. The spice and and black fruit are quite pronounced and it has an almost long finish with a bit of greenness. It’s a good wine, ready to drink now but has enough tannins, acidity and fruit to age. £11.49 (£9.99 if you buy 2) from Majestic. Not being too familiar with Douro reds the spiciness sent me towards the shiraz. I also thought there was some oak in there but I guess it was the sheer warmth and spice. Oh well, can only get better 😉

IMG_20130407_2127076. Springfield Estate, Roberson Wild Yeast Chardonnay 2010, 14%

Clear medium lemon with a watery rim. Clean, quite pungent and still developing nose of leesy, yeasty notes but also some sharp lemon citrus and undertones of stone fuits like peach or nectarine. It’s dry, acidic, quite high in alcohol and a medium body. It has pretty intense flavours of citrus, green apples, some stone fruits and of course the creamy, yeasty flavours enveloping it all. A pretty long finish and one can also pick up some malolactic fermentation. It’s a very good wine which is good now but can definitely improve further over a few years. £13.74 (or £10.99 if you buy 2 South African wines) from Majestic.

IMG_20130407_2128557. RM Nicholson, Rustenberg Chardonnay, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2011

A clear, bright, pale lemon with a slight green hue, it has rather intense aromas of vanilla, coconut and toast with some citrus (lemon) quite far behind. Just off-dry with quite high acidity and alcohol and the body follows.

Creamy and oaky flavours are predominent with some sharp lemon in the background. The finish tends to be quite long but overall this is out of balance: the oak flavours overpower the fruit and I would not drink more than a glass of this. Depending on your taste it could be a good one but for me tends to be simply acceptable. It has potential for ageing but I don’t know if I would like what’s to come. £12.49 (or £9.99 if you buy 2 South African wines) from Majestic.

IMG_20130407_2131188. Crozes-Hermitage 2010, David Reynaud, Organic 12.5%

A clear, just medium ruby with a purple rim. The nose is clean, with medium intensity and developing aromas of black berries, black cherries and a certain smokiness. It’s dry with medium + acidity, medium tannins, alcohol and body. Medium intensity of black fruits, smoke and spice (pepper) and a herbal finish which again is of medium length. It’s very good now but will age a few more years. This wine can be purchased for £19.50 from Reserve Wines in Didsbury.

IMG_20130407_2133509. Knock knock Shiraz 2008, Barossa, Australia 14%

It’s a clear, deep ruby at the core but going on garnet on the sides with good legs. The nose is fresh and clean of medium + intensity, still developing. Alcohol can be picked up, black jammy fruits and vanilla from the oak. It’s dry, not very acidic (medium -), almost low in tannins (medium -) but quite high alcohol (medium +), medium body and intense flavours. It’s rich in black fruits with hints of oak and vanilla. The length is good but this is slightly out of balance with the alcohol being overly present. Overall it is good or acceptable (again some like this type of wine) but it is unlikely that it will improve with age although it may still keep for maybe another year.

To sum up an interesting and broad selection. In session 2 we visited Burgundy and Alsace, tasting notes coming soon.

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