Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Diary of a Sommelier Student- La Degustazione-Lessons 5-7

An update on the last month of my primo livello course with Ais.

The past month has been busy, but my Sommelier courses continue... and I continue to be in the front row.  As each week goes by, the challenge of attending a course such as this in Italian is becoming more evident.  In fact, I have been so engrossed in the material, that I haven't had a chance to take any pictures...It is a blast, however.  Here is what has been going on...

Lessons 5, 6 and 7 had to do with La Degustazione-the three parts to wine tasting.  The lessons were conducted by professional sommelier Lucia Pintore.

I missed lesson 5 (Vinitaly), inwhich she discussed the the Visual Analysis.  The visual examination is pretty brief.  It is here where the limpidity (limpidezza) of a wine is observed.  You need to look for any particles that may be present in the glass.  Color; a wide range of colors ranging from greenish yellow to amber for whites, to soft rosè to dark rosè for rosè wines, and purple red to orange red for reds.  Next, its consistency; where you note the level of ethyl alcohol in the wine.  You observe this when you pour, swirl the glass, and observe the tears that form on the inside of the glass.  Wines can be defined as flowing-scarcely consistent-quite consistent- and oily.  If it is a sparkling wine, you would also judge the effervescence  at this time.

Lesson 6-the Olfactory Analysis.
My favorite part of the three part exam.How often do you swirl a glass and inhale?  But, I soon learned, you have to inhale correctly.  Hold the glass at the base, inhale deeply.  Then rotate the glass slowly a few times to release the aromas.  Inhale at various intervals to not only note the aromas, but the different types. Here is where you note a wine's intensity, its complexity of aromas (the variety), the quality, and a description of its bouquet. Though this part of the exam is my favorite, it is not so easy.  You have to train your nose to recognize the different aromas.  Whether they are fruity, mineral, vegetable.  How to tell a mature cherry from a fresh one.  A dried violet to a fresh fragrant one....brain training necessary. 

Lesson 7-Olfactory-Taste Analysis
My most challenging of the three. Tasting a wine's sweetness was easy enough for me....but the pseudo-warm sensation?  This is caused by the alcohols present in a wine; so light, lightly warm, medium warm...you get the picture.  Softness-what you feel from the levels and combinations of poly-alcohols, sugars, and alcohols.  Sharp, scarcely soft, quite soft...Then a wine's acidity, tannicity, saltiness.  Structure-also known as the body of a wine and the wine's  balance were also discussed.  The highlight of this lesson was when we played il gioco del gusto.  Plastic cups were set in front of us filled with a) water and alcohol, b) water and glycerin, c) water and sugar, d) water and salt, e) water and tartaric acid, f) water and citric acid, and G) water and tannins.  We tasted each, then mixed them up. Example:  Tasting water with alcohol alone, you notice how the alcohol cleans your mouth, you can feel its warmth, its acidity.  Water and glycerin?  You feel body.  Put the two trials together, it is smoother, softer, and the warmth diminishes.  Pretty neat.

So I feel much more confident during our wine tastings at the end of each class.  In the past, I must admit, it was pretty much a guessing game.  Lucia Pintore did an excellent job breaking down the parts to the degustazione.

A quick list of the wines tasted during lesson 6 and 7 (I was absent for lesson 5)




Kellerei Kalter Caldaro 2008 DOC Gewurztraminer 13.5 %

Cardamone Colli di Salerno Reale IGT 2004

Per' E' Palummo 2009 Casa D'Ambra  12%

Carignano Del Sulcis Superiore Terre Brune 2003 14%

Until next time...

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