Time For Champagne: WSET 4 Diploma Blind Wine Tasting

We could all use some Champagne about now.

I am deep into my WSET 4 Diploma course by Fine Vintage Ltd. Once no longer sequestered at home from dawn to dusk trying to tame a whirlwind toddler, I will write more about it. But for now, I could not resist sharing this one.

We started blind-tasting three sparkling wines. With no leads on what they might be, cost, or consist of, here is my 10 minute note on the one that shone:

“The wine looks a brilliant, medium intense gold color with fine mousse.

Pronounced, complex aromas smell of strawberry, yellow grapefruit, lemon, chalk, toasted bread, almond paste, and vanilla.

The palate feels dry, with high acidity, medium alcohol, a medium body, and rounded yet crisp texture and supremely fine mousse.

Pronounced intensity flavors taste of strawberry, lemon, toasted bread, green apple, chalk, and clove that last a long length.

This is outstanding quality Champagne with age on it, given the high intensity and complexity both of flavors and aromas, the brilliance of color, the autolysis from extended lees aging and miles of length.

Suitable for aging as the combination of perservative acidity and top quality core fruit will evolve beautifully another five years or more.”

It turned out to be a Blanc de Blancs. All Chardonnay. Not strawberries. Bad taster! Bad! No biscuit!

I had fallen down a rabbit hole of assumptions: I could tell it was Champagne, I thought the class might pick a non-vintage to stay on budget, so of course I found “underripe strawberry” (Pinot Noir and/or Meunier) that was never there. At least Jancis Robinson’s review might have agreed, “I don’t think I would immediately take it for a Blanc de Blancs blind”. It was so ripe and biscuity. Blind tasting is such a mind-muddling affair.

The course proctor admitted they splurged (around $150). Pol Roger was the producer. The mellow, ripe 2009 vintage (declared only in 2008 and 2012) was top class: sourced exclusively from Grand Cru vineyards of Cramant, Les Mesnil, Oger, Avize and Oiry in the Côte des Blancs (fancy name of Champagne’s Chardonnay heartland). It went through full malolactic conversion and then aged in bottle for seven whole years, riddled by hand by the few remeures left in Champagne.

What a treat and what a challenge.


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