Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Method

To some, the act of a wine enthusiast or wine professional sniffing, sipping, and (maybe) spitting a wine, effusing about this scent or that taste in an effort to describe the wine, and, in some circumstances, guess the wines origin, is the ultimate in snobbery and/or geekdom. If this is your opinion, you may want to wait for tomorrow’s post.

Sommeliers (wine professionals trained in the service of wine and spirits), wine retailers, wine educators, and wine enthusiasts often challenge each other to determine the age, origin, and grape varietal in a bottle of wine that is served to them blind (that is, the label is covered or the wine is poured elsewhere and the glass delivered to the taster). By tasting blind, the individual is not influenced by any preconceived notions regarding the particular grape varietal or the relative cost of the particular wine.

The Court of Master Sommeliers (, a London-based group dedicated to improving standards of beverage service in hotels and restaurants through education, teaches students in their programs using what is referred to as “The Method.” This technique uses a series of deductive evaluations regarding the color, clarity, aromas, flavors, acidity, alcohol, and tannin levels in a wine. Each wine is evaluated in a similar fashion each time and, given the proper training, and sufficient repetition, patterns begin to emerge that provide clues to the taster as to the potential identity of the wine.

Several friends have observed that they could never properly guess wines in this manner because they do not smell or taste all of the things they hear someone saying about a particular wine. The two biggest things that foil a beginning taster is a lack of vocabulary and, as noted above, a lack of sufficient repetition. As to the vocabulary, it is not necessary to arrive at the same flavor and aroma combinations/descriptions as any of the persons tasting with you (although it does help in conveying your findings), but it is important to look for the trends in your tastings and remember when certain flavors or aromas are linked to specific grape varietals or wines from a particular country or specific wine region. Remembering trends in the tastings will come with tasting many wines while using an objective set of criteria such as the Method.

I also tell beginning tasters that there is really only one criterion that matters – do you like the wine or not. Everything else beyond that is gravy, and it is up to the individual to pursue.

No comments:

Post a Comment