Have you ever felt like a wine lover who really has no expertise in wine? Until last August, some of us at the Château definitely did. Of course, we loved wine and we understood the basic techniques of winemaking. We also embraced our company philosophy, convinced that the conversion to biodynamic viticulture is an essential step towards our future. But knowing about vineyards others than ours and tasting like a pro? That was another story. So, when Ecole V opened its doors, we made sure we were the first ones to enroll in the WSET level 2 intensive session.
A Hands-on Classroom
Forget academic lecturers in dark classrooms. Our back to school experience felt much more like a field trip. After settling down in a bright room located at the heart of our 18th century Château, our teacher took us on a tour of the winery. Crouching down between the vines, she explained the complexity of the soils and the cycle of the grape. We crossed paths with the head winemaker, giving him the opportunity to enlighten us about the winemaking process. We then visited the cellars, where we detailed the journey of the grape, from the vines to the glass. As we were standing between the barrels, the process suddenly felt very real.
Tasting for Breakfast
9:30 AM. Time to go back to the classroom. With 50 wines to taste in two days, we had a busy schedule ahead of us. After going through the first chapters of the coursebook provided weeks before and studying for 12 hours at home beforehand, the more serious matter began. Who could have guessed we’d be so excited to taste wine long before lunchtime? The first samples calibrated our palates and warmed us up for the upcoming appellations. From its appearance to its quality, we analyzed every aspect of each wine. “Autolytic”, “herbaceous”, “under ripeness” or “kernel” are now part of our vocabulary. Wine after wine, our nose and palate became sharper. With the help of the systematic approach to wine tasting, we managed to spot more aromas and flavors, and eventually succeeded in describing the wine structure and balance as well, all by ourselves.
A Friendly Atmosphere
Of course, we were not all on equal footing. Some of us were experienced Sommeliers and wine writers, while others had no professional background. The atmosphere, however, remained friendly and relaxed – we were there to learn, not to compete with each other. The lunches we shared in the restaurants in Pommard let us clear our minds and reflect on our newly gathered techniques and knowledge, not to mention networking over pizza. As for enjoying a drink together after a long day of tasting? We have to confess that we opted for anything but wine.
From pinot noir to chardonnay, malbec to sauvignon, we covered over 12 different grape varieties, and as many vineyards across the world in just two days. We learned how to taste a wine and talk about it, at any time of the day – spitting is the key. We were initiated to the wonders of food and wine pairing, and even covered spirit tasting. Don’t swallow that tequila though, the exam is right around the corner! After a quick reviewing session, we had to close our books and rely on our memory and new skills only. Which region of Australia is known for its rieslings? How would you describe a Margaux in its young years? What is the effect of a salted meal on the wine? And to our surprise, over the hour of our exam, the answers came to us. Maybe it was the location that inspired us. Maybe it was the WSET trained teacher, relentless and thorough in her explanations. Most certainly, it was a combination of all the above, resulting in our whole class passing, either with merit or distinction. Guess what? We are already training for WSET level 3.