I arrived to the seminar about 2 minutes late thanks to the train supposedly having engine problems and having to stop for nearly 20 minutes. Luckily, I discovered some of my fellow Wisconsinite sommeliers were on the train, so we all showed up late together. The three Master Sommeliers that were moderating the seminar (Master Spellman, Master Kruth, and Master Alvarado) greeted us at the door with a handshake and we quickly took our seats at a table covered with glasses filled with a spectrum of gold and yellow liquids.
We went around the room and introduced ourselves. The room was filled with sommeliers from Chicago, California, and Wisconsin; plus a dentist that specialized in root canals who just wanted to know more about wine to better enjoy it. How random, but cool. When it got to me, I kind of froze and spit out something about being a Certified Sommelier studying for my Advanced and also a wine writer. No mention of my day job (which I'm sure my Wisconsinite colleagues thought odd) and no mention of my WSET studies. Oh well. Let's taste.
We had 15 minutes to smell, sip and ponder the seven wines in front of us. I went through the Court of Master Sommeliers' process of deductive tasting where you jot down notes about everything: color, alcohol, viscosity, acid, brightness, rim variation, concentration, aromas... you get the picture. You then make a few educated guesses about the wine's age, region, and quality level. I got through five and a half of the wines before they decided to start going through them.
After the first two, I thought I had it down. I nailed the vintages and was doing fairly well with the quality levels. The Masters started talking about various aromas that could clue you into a certain sub-appellation. Things like "baby-diaper" for Puligny-Montrachet, "hazelnut" for Chassagne-Montrachet, and "baked brie" for Meursault all made perfect sense once they said it.
Some of the pointers the Masters gave for exams:
- Don't feel like you need to guess the exact oak type (French vs. American) unless you are positive
- Don't be afraid to say a wine is "unclean" if it is a little oxidized.
- Chardonnay always has some sort of apple aroma - whether it be red apple, baked apple, dried apple, or green apple.
- Alcohol doesn't lie, but acid can. When trying to determine a region or vintage based on the alcohol levels, if the wine tastes 'hot' (high in alcohol), the vintage was either warm or the region is.