So, last time I talked about schooling choices for the up and coming Sommelier wanna be. Now, I want to get into some detail as to what the courses cover. Like I said last post, I’ve only done some of the training options so this is going to be a rather course specific review, but it should give a good idea of what’s covered in the foundation courses offered in Calgary.
On the first night of classes we discussed the general types and styles of wine, what terrior is, and the basics of grape anatomy. All the while tasting through about 10 or 12 wines.
So let us start with that, then. What are the “types” of wine? Well, we've got …
Light Wine – This type represents the majority of the wine consumed today. And by majority, I mean a huge whopping majority. If parliament could get a majority like this we would be buying property on Mars right now. For light wine, there are many sub categories, like red or white, the region it’s produced and grown in, it’s varietal, and so on. There are about as many different ways to categorize light wine as there are to make light wine. Some just work better than others.
Sparkling Wine – Bubbly. This is my personal favourite! I plan on talking about this in some detail later but basically Sparkling is any wine that has CO2 trapped in the wine, similar to how soft drinks do. But how it gets there is very different… usually…
Fortified Wines – Now these ones have more alcohol added to them. Their levels can actually be double what a light wine is. I haven’t had the opportunity to try a lot of fortified wines but I know firsthand that port and chocolate together are divine!
For styles of wines it’s fairly basic to comprehend. There is red wine, white wine and rosé wine. Red wine comes from black grapes spending time soaking with the skins and other bits. White wine comes from either white or black grapes but spends no time on the skins of the grapes. Rosé wines can come from either as well, but will spend a bit of time on the skins of red grapes. The colour of rosé wines is actually very intriguing to me, mostly because it is one of those “book vs. cover” dilemmas. I’ve had a French rosé that was the colour of the soft dusty rosé, the kind of colour that most Grandmothers drape their windows in at some time or another. But the flavor was a hugely refreshing peaches and apricots, with enough tannin to make me want another glass. It was absolutely delicious! But just looking at it, I thought it would be gentle and polite, perhaps a bit too docile. Instead, I walked in on the equivalent of a giggling 5 year old wreaking havoc with mom’s lipstick all over Grandma’s wall. It takes you by surprise. Though you can’t help but smile at how accurate they got the dogs face.
Next, we have Terrior. So big shout out to Wikipedia for the following definition.
“Terroir comes from the word terre "land". It was originally a French term in wine coffee and tea used to denote the special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place bestowed upon particular produce. Agricultural sites in the same region share similar soil, weather conditions, and farming techniques, which all contribute to the unique qualities of the crop. It can be very loosely translated as "a sense of place," which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities, the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the production of the product. Terroir is often italicized in English writing to show that it is a French loanword. At its core is the assumption that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that region. The amount of influence and the scope that falls under the description of terroir has been a controversial topic in the wine industry.”
Terrior has always struck me as more of a concept that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”. It takes so much into account, from soil types to weather patterns to local flora and fauna. It’s such a generalized term, it’s really more of a philosophy than a reference to its actual quality.
Finally, we have grape anatomy. I’ve attached a picture from Practical Winery and Vineyard Journal
This is a MUCH more detailed diagram than I was given, but if you break it down into the parts, it’s pretty easy to understand.
Stalk/Stem – This is where we get some of the tannins in red wine, it gives strike and a back bone to most wines
Skin – This is what we let the juice sit on to extract tannins and flavour for red and rosé wines
Pips/Seed – We get a lot of bitter oils from the seeds.
Pulp/Flesh – We get sugars, malic and tartaric acid, water and proteins from here. This is what we want when we press the grape to get the juice.
This truly is the bare bones of what a wine grape is. However, now you have a basic idea of what you’re looking at.
All in all, this doesn’t really seem like a lot of information. However, you pack this and much more into a 3 hour lecture while your tasting through 10 – 12 types of wine it can leave you feeling a bit giddy and a rather overwhelmed. But when you slow it down, walk through it, and see how it all flows together, it's really not too difficult to grasp.