WSET Day One – an education in wine

This week I finally started the WSET Level 2 Award in Wine and Spirits. At long last, I’ve decided I can finally afford the course, in terms of both time and money, now that I am no longer studying financial planning exams for my day job.

It’s always a weird experience when I first walk into a classroom full of fresh faces I’ve never seen before. From primary school all the way up through university and beyond, it’s always been both intimidating and exciting to start a new challenge and meet new people – and hopefully make new friends.

Admittedly, much of the first class covered things I already knew about wine, but on the flip side I learned quite a few things I hadn’t been taught before – ranging from the way units of alcohol are coloured to how a wine’s colour is assessed and categorised – so it was a learning experience overall.

Now, to the bit everyone cares about – wine. We tasted three different wines on the first day, one red, one white and one a rosé moscato.

We started with the white wine, a medium-bodied dry verdejo that was loaded with green apples, peach and honeydew melon on the nose. It was high in acidity and had tart green fruits on the palate, mainly gooseberry, more green apple, as well as citrus fruits and floral flavours.

This was the RC de Vinos Lime Leaf Verdejo 2010 (Laithwaite’s, £6.99). It’s a good wine but it left me wanting more. I could see myself drinking this on a hot, sunny day out on the patio, but I probably wouldn’t want to buy it in large quantities. For the price, however, this is good value for money and does everything a fresh, crisp wine ought to.

Next up was a malbec (also known as cot) from Cahors, France. The L’ombre due Cedre Malbec 2008 (Laithwaite’s, £9.99), from Pascal and Jean-Marc Verhaeghe, has been billed as an award-winning wine but seemed to be lacking somewhere.

The wine was clear and bright, showing a medium purple robe. It had blackberries, black cherries, prunes and figs on the nose, along with cloves, cinnamon and just a touch of vanilla to tell us there has been an oak treatment of some sort in this wine.

However, on the palate this wine just didn’t deliver what I had hoped. It was fairly high in tannins – which never scares me off – as well as a lot of acidity. But the fruit and spices that were on the nose just seemed to be missing in the mouth, giving this wine a great big empty hole where all the flavour should have been.

This fruit might have needed some time in a decanter to reveal itself, although I wasn’t confident this was the case. It was an acceptable wine, and would suit anyone who liked high tannins and something that presented a challenge.

The third, and final, wine we drank was a moscato, the Giant Steps Nine Tails Moscato Rosé 2011 (Laithwaite’s £8.99).  This is a type of wine I wrote about not long ago when I covered wines to drink with chocolate. Showing a clear, pale salmon colour, this has a light fizz to it and notes of tropical fruit, strawberries, ripe peaches, lychee fruit and flowers on the nose. It’s medium-sweet and fairly acidic, low in alcohol at 5.5%, with decent length and a light, fruity feel in the mouth.

I personally found this one too sweet for my liking, but I can see how it could be appreciated as an aperitif on a hot, sunny day.

While my heart longs for more complex and interesting wines to taste on this course, I appreciate that it isn’t about wine snobbery and is instead designed so I am exposed to as many different styles and varietals as possible.

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