So how many different wines did you drink over the last three weekends? I had about 100. From White Zinfandel to Barolo, Tokaji to Pinotage, Sherry to Port — if it was from a recognizable world wine region, I probably tasted it over 50ish classroom hours in WSET Advanced class. The wines we tasted in the course retailed for anywhere from $10 to $100, came from 15 different countries and ran the gamut of styles, preparations and flavours. To top it off, the WSET threw in some spirits for good measure: in the span of an afternoon this past Saturday, I had Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados (apple-based spirit), Irish Whiskey, Single Malt Scotch, Bourbon, Dark Rum and Tequila (it would have been like a Vegas weekend were it not for the spit cups).
I wanted to post the full log of all the wines we had but couldn’t get it to convert to a form that would show up properly on here, so I’ll settle for a retrospective of my top 3 wines tasted in-course. The first was the 2008 Cote Rotie from Pierre Gaillard ($65), which was an elegant, floral gem of a Syrah from the Northern Rhone valley. Almost unbelievably for Syrah (at least to my New World-exposed brain), it was only 12.5% alcohol, but it still packed a huge flavour punch and lingered forever after swallowing (I did no spitting of the Cote Rotie). The second was the 2005 Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino ($60), which is about as textbook a Brunello as you can find: tawny colour, lithe tannins, and an alluring combo of fresh and dried fruit, earthy yet pure. Last but not least was the insanely delicious 2000 Tokaj Classic 6 Puttoynos Tokaji dessert wine ($80), which absolutely everyone adored: honey, orange marmalade and that strangely alluring vegetal note that noble rot can give to a wine, mixed with lush sweetness, a satin texture and sharp, bright acidity. If you have never tried a Tokaji wine, you desperately owe it to yourself to do so.
My exam took place over two and a half hours yesterday afternoon, and though I would probably be drawn and quartered by the WSET if I discussed any of the questions specifically, suffice it to say that it was much more involved than the multiple-choice test that was my Intermediate exam. We started with a blind tasting of two wines, one red and one white, where we had to assess all of the key components of each wine using the WSET’s official Tasting Approach (as I’ve used here) and then guess the wines’ identity out of a group of options. Next up was a (much trickier) multiple choice test, followed by 5 long-answer questions that lived up to the course’s Advanced designation. (One of them was about Germany, so the wine gods were obviously looking out for me.) By the time it was over, I was simultaneously ready to sign up for the WSET Diploma Course and to never read anything else about wine ever again…neither of those will likely be coming true any time soon, but it was such a condensed and intense experience that I’m still unwinding from it a day later. However, all in all, I shared the class with a fantastic group of people, I had an amazing instructor (thanks Marnie!), and I’m so happy to have had the chance to learn this much about my favourite topic in such a short period of time…now if I can find out in January that I passed, that’ll be the icing on the cake. Official WSET Advanced Completion Celebration Wine Review next!