Viticulture Week 11 – Home Sweet Home

In Course notes by Classtoglass

This has been the craziest week since the start of this course on February. Amidst a WSET exam Tuesday, moving house Wednesday and two days of wine chemistry experiments Thursday and Friday, there has not been time for much else. Oh, except for a cheeky Shiraz masterclass on Wednesday night!

Alas, we have now all but moved into our new, significantly larger, Class to Glass HQ – photos to follow when we have fully set up our mission control. I think I have my university work under control – sort of!

Top 3 things I have learnt this week:

1. Probably best to do exams sober

Tuesday the Winemaking class of 2017 sat their first sommelier exam, WSET1. WSET or Wine and Spirit Education Trust is a British institute that has become internationally renowned for their wine and spirit tasting courses and exams. There are three main levels. Level one is designed to give those working in the hospitality industry a basic level of knowledge about wine selection and service.

There are eight grape varietals covered at level one:

  • Pinot Grigio
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Reisling
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Shiraz

For each varietal we learnt how to recognise them from their aroma profiles and the foods that pair well with them. We also covered the storage, opening and service of wines.

As you can imagine, this involved tasting a lot of wine. Yes, I did spit (a few), however, by the time it can to the exam I was feeling slightly impaired. Probably best to do my other exams sober I think. I can expect the results in a couple of weeks – fingers crossed!

2. Shiraz Masterclass

Despite being up to our eyes in packing boxes and with custody of a hire van that had to be back on the other side of the city 30 minutes before the start time, we still found time to wine! Having discovered Shaw + Smith at the Halliday Top 100 last year, we were delighted to have to opportunity to join them for a cool climate Shiraz masterclass on Wednesday night.

Nine wines were being showcased in three flights. The first were French wines form the Rhone Valley. Despite originating from Europe, I have relatively little experience of quality French wines. I was blown away by some of their meaty, truffle aromas, which seemed at first to overpower the fruit. They were so complex and elegant.

The second flight included wines from three cool climate regions of Australia. The difference was remarkable, yet clear parallels could also be drawn. The Aussie wines seemed so much more fruit forward, but also had hints of the meaty notes seen in the French wines. The third flight were wines from Shaw + Smith and all three were absolutely stunning. Deliciously fruity, with unique aromas and flavour profiles.

Afterwards I had the pleasure of meeting Head Winemaker, Adam Wadewitz. The philosophy of using sustainable management techniques and minimal intervention to get the very best out of their outstanding fruit, was inspirational. I would definitely like more to do with Shaw + Smith in the future in some way.

3. Sweet Home Laboratory

Thursday and Friday I took part in an intensive wine chemistry workshop, where I put my own rose through its paces. I discovered heaps of information about my brew, including that it was not protein stable, filtering altered the pH and that it has low volatility. Unfortunately I did not have a large enough sample to repeat the experiments – but I really wanted to. In fact I really wanted to do much more. I just felt so at home in the lab.

SO this is the third most pivotal thing that I have learnt this week – I am at sweet home in the laboratory. Maybe this is a realisation that may shape my winemaking future? How exciting. I am looking forward to repeating all of these experiments with my leftover rosé wine after bottling.

I will give more details about the wine chemistry and results in a later article for my kindred wine nerds out there.

And breathe!

Next week is the last teaching week of the semester, although most of my units have finished now. Full focus will be on completing my assignments, including a marketing strategy for Class to Glass and some reports of my winemaking. A little revision wouldn’t go amiss either.

On top of all that I have started to look for vintage positions for 2018, I need to bottle my rosé creation and we need to move the remainder of our stuff from Port Melbourne – including our heavy Shiraz. Thanks for readying – have a great week!

Until next time…