Tag Archives: Wine Tasting

Wandering through Germany: Part 1 – Pfalz

Earlier this year I went on a trip to visit some of the German wine regions. I was in Germany for a work trip supporting our European sales team and decided to do a speedy tour through as many regions as I could during 3 personal days I took at the end of my trip. It was an amazing experience which I was fortunate enough to share with my friend and (at the time) fellow MW student, Martin Reyes.

We visited the Rhine, Pfalz, and my personal favorite, the Mosel.

I was extremely impressed with the quality present in the Rhine and Pfalz. Clearly we don’t get the good stuff in the US! In Pfalz we visited two wineries, Weingut Knipser and Geoge Mosbacher, both of whom changed my idea of wines outside of the Mosel which admittedly I have had a very, very small sample set up until this visit.

Weingut Knipser

 At Weingut Knipser we were hosted by Volker Knipser who was enlightening, not just for the wines but also for his eloquent statements which I felt driven to write down.

On Brands: “We are not a region for brands. Our name is our brand. You can be sure if you have a Knipser you have a good wine.”

On Reputation: “You can only work on your name. That is all you have!” – I could not agree more!

On Terrior: “ Wine is a mosaic. The site is a part of the picture but also important is what you plant, how you train, and what grows. The cellar, not so much but the producer is important.”

Their 2011 Blauer Spatburgunder was amazingly elegant and aromatic made from native yeasts. “If you are looking for body, look to other varieties” – Volker Knipser on Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir). I was starting to think this guy is a genius!

The 2009 GG (Große Gewächse meaning “Great growth” or the German equivalent of Grand Cru) Mandelpfad Spatburgunder was amazing! Super aromatic with lovely soft supple tannins and fresh acid.

At Gerog Mosbacher we were treated to a lovely tour and tasting of some amazing Rieslings. Of course a super friendly winery dog accompanied us on all of our wanderings here.

Georg Mosbacher Pfalz sm

Here the current proprietors, Jürgen Düringer and Sabine Mosbacher-Düringer were our hosts. They were incredibly enlightening on the German wine classification system which was still completely greek to me until this point and the VDP’s (Verband Deutscher Prädikats or the German Quality Winegrowers Association) role in German wines. If you are a wine person, particuarly a Riesling person then it would probably seem that the VDP own most of the acreage in Germany however according to Sabine only 4% of the wineries in Germany belong to the VDP. They are invited to join by consensus of current group members. We tried several Rieslings grown on three different soils; Sandstone, Soils from near the forest, and Calcarious soils. The Sandstone had a decidely mineral flavor with lemon-lime hints, orange blossom, pear and apricot. The near forest soils had very sweet fruit, light minerality, apricot and grapefruit. The Calcarious soils were zesty and more linear in focus with sweet hay and very ripe apricot flavors.

2012 Deidsheimer Mäushöhle Riesling Trocken (Sandstone)

2012 Forester Musenhang Riesling Trocken (Near the Forest)

2012 Wachenheimer Gerümpel Riesling (Calcarious)

We also had a fantastic discussion regarding the aroma of petrol in Riesling. Jürgen weighed in on this and stated that his opinion was that Petrol showing up within the first 2 years is definitively a fault in the winemaking process that comes from high pressure in the press and a high level of phenolics in the juice. However if it shows up after the wine is 10 years old it is the normal Petrol aroma of an aged Riesling. He also stated that atypical aging disorders come from sunburn, drought years or green phenolics from un-ripe years.

It was truly fascinating stuff!

Their top two wines were the following

2012 Pechstein GG (Basalt soil) – Stone and Chalk

A Very mineral driven, rich palate with linear acid which is almost Mosel in style. Lime zest and flinty characters on the nose and palate.

2012 Ungeheurer GG – Zesty and Fruity

Ripe apricot, melon and cantaloupe with light minerality and ripe, rich fruit on the palate with a concentrated long finish.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 – Rhine!

Georg Mosbacher cellar Pfalz

Life After the MW Exam: Hindsight’s Look at My Past 4 Years

Three weeks ago I was one of the 98 students to attempt to pass the rigorous Master of Wine exam. Full details of the exam questions are posted here.  However unlike the majority of other students (in Napa at least), I was taking the full exam for what will be my last time.  I originally went over the possible exam outcomes in detail in an earlier post but the short version is I fail both sections again, pass one or the other, or pass both.  Naturally, I’m hoping for the latter but only time will tell. I think very few people outside of the program truly understand the level of dedication and commitment it takes to even attempt to sit the exam, much less actually pass it.  I was reminded of this while reading the comments generated by a blog from Dr. Vino last week. 

 There seems to be a great misunderstanding about the purpose of the tasting portion of the exam particularly.  The Practical exam (as it is called) is not a parlor game where one has to name the wine, vintage, variety, and producer but a logical deduction based on what is tasted in the glass and clues given by the questions themselves.  Case in point, one particularly popular question format in the past has been 4 wines in a flight, same variety but from 4 different countries.  Initially this could mean any number of potential varieties however students are generally discouraged from chasing “flying zebras”.  Thus while Gruner Veltliner may be found growing in 4 different countries it is highly unlikely that you are actually dealing with Gruner in this question.  If it is Practical Paper 1, the white wine paper, the odds are that it is Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, or Pinot Gris since those are more internationally used varieties and incidentally the varieties that show up the most over the past 13 years of exams.

 How do I know that?

 Like any good MW student, I’ve studied the past 13 years of exams in great detail of course!  They are available on the MW website in the student section and are really like manna from heaven to people interested enough to take the time to really get to know them.  The exam is not a fixed thing however and changes can happen in the design from year to year.  Imagine my surprise when this year’s Theory paper 4, Contemporary Issues, after 4 years of being pick 2 of 5 questions switched back to the 2005-2007 format of the “pre-fix menu” (Pick one from section A and one from section B) similar to that of the rest of the exam (Theory Papers 1-3 require 2 questions from section B).  Of course that format only came into existence in 2005 where before that there was one compulsory question and then 4-5 options for the additional essays needed.  Personally, I liked the 2008-2011 formats but not being an examiner I have no control over it.  Also, since I did not pass my attempts in 2010 and 2011 perhaps this minor change will yield better results.

 For myself, part of the fun of the exam (yes, I know, I’m crazy to think it is fun on some level) is seeing how the examiners are able to never ask the same question twice but cover the same material regardless.  Take the following two questions from Paper 2 for example…

 In order of priority, what quality assurance procedures should a producer have in place to avoid contaminated or defective wine? (Paper 2, 2011)

 As the Quality Assurance manager of a contract bottling operation, what actions will you take when microbial contamination is found in routine samples taken off the bottling line? (Paper 2, 2009)

 Both cover QA but each question needs to be answered in a very unique way.  The first asks for an order of priority of QA procedures while the second asks for actions that will be taken once contamination is found. If one had written a practice essay for the 2009 question and then answered the 2011 question in the same way one would likely fail. Not because of lack of knowledge about QA but because you didn’t answer in the question that was asked.  This is a common theme on the examiner’s report which is released after results are announced and goes over the common pitfalls and what the examiners were hoping to see in the answer to each question.  It is another invaluable resource for the MW student and I think I can safely say that any student that does not read it is setting themselves up for failure.

 Now, after 4 years (6 if you count the WSET programs) of all my free time being spent studying, tasting, analyzing, and compiling information in an effort to mentally “master” the wine industry, I find myself with some down time.  Time that I’m sure will come to a swift and fast end around the middle of October when my husband and I are expecting our first child. I know I didn’t mention that but, yes, I did just sit the MW exam 5 months pregnant! It definitely added an extra dimension of challenge to the whole thing, if it wasn’t challenging enough.  Regardless of the outcome of this exam, I’m happy.  I’m happy with the level of knowledge that I’ve reached and skills I’ve developed through the program to constantly seek new knowledge which I know I will continue long after the stress of the program is forgotten.  I’m happy to have met all the wonderful people that are in the program or involved with the institute in some way.  I’m very blessed to have been given opportunities to travel and speak with some of the top experts in the industry worldwide.  Most of all, I’m happy that I did not give up, ever, regardless of how depressing or challenging the program was.  I’ve always been serious about getting the MW certification and I would have always regretted it if I hadn’t gone for it, 100%. I know that even if I fail this third time, I tried my best, studied my hardest, and worked tirelessly towards that goal.  That is all anyone can be expected to do and it gives me peace to close this chapter of my life and move on, either through the rest of the program or not.  I’m excited to see what the next phase of life brings with a more personal distinction…Mother.      

 

 

Harvest 2011 – Week 5 – Things REALLY get moving…

This week we’ve started seeing far more grapes than the previous week.  Our Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc were joined by our first Chardonnay of the season!  Fruit quality looks really nice and acids are still staying put thanks to the more moderate day time temperatures as well as the cool nights.  The Alexander Valley reds are showing signs of the same incredible color that 2010 brought us and we should start seeing Lodi Cabernet and Merlot being harvested over the next two weeks.  For Asti it seems after a crazy end to last week, Week 6 will come in like a lion and go out like a lamb as we enter the first slump of the season.  This will give us a chance to catch our breath and take stock of how things are going.  The weather for week 6, however is forecasted to be a good deal warmer than week 5 with several days topping out around 100 degrees!  Hopefully they won’t go much above that so we can avoid the September heat spike that we saw last year. 

 

I’m playing with the first Alexander Valley fruit from this season which is a Gewurztraminer from a vineyard in Geyserville which was harvested last Wednesday.  It’s packed with flavor and did retain some acid which is fantastic for the variety that is famous for losing acid like a woman loses last season’s out of style shoes.  I’ve set it up for a long, cool fermentation so the yeast can form the beautiful terpene compounds that make up the fruit and spice notes in the final wine.  I’m also playing with some Pinot Gris from Lodi with a couple of different yeast strains so that should be interesting to see how it goes.

 

As promised here is the red variety group from Week 4’s interesting varietal tasting!

 

Latitude 50 N Sekt Trocken Rose  Germany  $14.99

Light and Bubbly

With amazing aromas of strawberries and cotton candy this wine offered fantastic quality for the price.  A medium- dry style balanced with crisp acid and intense citrus flavors.  It’s a blend of Portugeser, Dornfelder, and Pinot Noir.  A perfect bubbly for everyday drinking at a great price, all of us decided to go in on a case!

 

Studert- Prum Wehlener Nonnenberg 2008 Dornfelder  Germany ~$25.00

Elegant and Floral

I have a soft spot for this variety because it’s one of the first reds I ever worked with in Pennsylvania, of all places.  However this also showed to be the hardest variety to find in the tasting. It’s known for intense aromas of Strawberries and cherries and this wine did not disappoint.  It was dry with moderate acid, medium alcohol and smooth tannins.  It’s worth the search as this was one of the best Dornfelders that I’ve ever had!

 

E. Pira Chiara Boschis Dolcetto d’Alba 2009 Italy    $19.99    

Elegant and Floral

This variety makes a light and easy to drink red which is perfect for lighter fare.  Moderate aromas of cherries, bramble fruits, red plum, and figs introduce the wine which has a dry palate with medium + acid and moderate alcohol.  The tannins are firm and structured but ripe.  This is a great food wine. 

Umathum 2008 Zweigelt Burgenland Austria    $16.99

Spicy and Smoky

This was a dark brooding wine with smoky gamey notes complemented by black cherry and plum.  The palate is dry with medium + acid, moderate alcohol and strong structured tannins.  Zweigelt may be a good alternative to Merlot or Syrah for those seeking something different.  This one was really nice.

 

Montebuena Rioja 2009   $9.99

Power Punch

Made with 100% Tempranillo this wine is true to form with aromas of cherries, raisins, lemon zest and vanilla.  The palate is dry with medium acid, moderately high alcohol, and strong, textured tannins.  Right now Spain is offering some great value for the money.  Anywhere else this would easily be an $18-20 quality wine.

 

Quinta das Maias Tinto 2004 Dao   $11.99

Power Punch

Another value to be had currently is dry reds made from Port varieties.  This wine is a blend of 60% Jaen, 25% Touriga Nacional, 10% Alfrocheiro and 5% Tinta Roriz.  The nose is intense with aromas of coconut, almonds, vanilla, and cherries.  American oak is clearly a favorite with this producer.  The palate is dry with moderate acid, medium + alcohol, and a full body filled with flavors of cherries, dried dates and raisins.