Tasting and comparing wine

I’ve been lucky that through my work supporting the International Wine Challenge, I’ve been able to taste a huge number of wines. This has really helped my WSET Diploma studying. And with my exam on fortified wines only 4 weeks away I need all the help I can get.

I managed to taste a range of tawny ports that I normally wouldn’t have had the chance to try. These included a Taylors and a Ferreira 20 year old, a Calem 40 year old and the piece de resistance was a 1957 colheita from Kopke. The comparative tasting has taught me two valuable lessons.

Firstly read the label and understand it. I had no idea that “colheita” meant a vintage from a single vineyard so this highlighted the significance of the 1957 Kopke. Secondly, I know that every wine is different, sometimes subtly, but it is only when you try them side by side that you truly understand what that means. There was a subtle difference in the fruit characters between the two 20 year old tawnies but it was only because I tasted them alongside each other that I spotted the difference. Tasting in this way really does hone the nose and palate.

At the time I happened to be reading Jancis Robinson’s excellent wine tasting workbook and she recommends a similar approach. She suggests tasting a number of wines of different vintages but from the same Bordeaux chateaux, or trying one particular grape style like Syrah/Shiraz but tasting examples from the new and old worlds as a comparison from the same year. I’m totally convinced that comparative tastings such as this hone your tasting skills and I’ll continue to do this.

The one downside of course is the cost of opening multiple bottles at the same time but at least you get the pleasure of finishing them off after the hard work of slurping, swilling and spitting!

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Reader Comments

I know what you mean about having multiple bottles open. My thought on that is yes, I can keep all for myself and they will be consumed! Or you can always “twist” a friends arm to come over for a small wine tasting to “finish off” the lot!
Also like Jancis’ suggestions on tasting, for example a certain grape, etc. It would be a good exercise for me, because I usually get out of hand when I enter a wine shop - like a kid in a candy store, I want one of each! But for education purposes, those are great suggestions.