Monday, 22 April 2013

WSET Diploma, semester 2, day 5

With day four and the Rhone Valley behind us, we set off for Italy.
I'll admit it. I've been dreading Italy. Such a diverse country with a massively convoluted infrastructure, fragmented regionality and more grape varietals than you could shake a multi-named stick (branch, twig, pointing device) at.
After an introduction like that, you'll be waiting for a statement along the lines of: "What a lot of fuss about nothing! All very simple, really". Well, sorry to disappoint.
I've often been told the key to Italy is to think if it as a group of regions rather than as a whole, which is a perfectly sensible piece of advice on the face of things. Until, that is, you realise you've just given the same problem a different name!
Let's take a look at the lesson.

What you'll need:
Six glasses, a pen, as much writing paper as you can carry and, quite possibly, a dictaphone.

What to expect:
If you're taking the diploma in London, prepare to be spoilt. Not least by the wine selection (our highest Outstanding Per Day - OPD - rate yet) but also by the lecturer; Michelle Cherutti-Kowal, a very-nearly-MW with a remarkable passion for Italian wines coupled with a knowledge which would be intimidating if she weren't so happy to share it.
I'm losing count of how often I've said this, but here we go again: read up on the subject first. Failure to do so will result in spending the day furiously scribbling barely legible notes when you could (and should) have been listening to genuinely insightful appraisals of relevant, current regional developments. Trust me: (see pic below!)

One of twelve pages of notes which turned out to be almost unreadable

This is the first of two days spent in Italy, covering the North West (Piemonte, Lombardia) and North East (Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige).
I don't want to over generalise here, but I also don't wish to begin a catalogue of tasting notes, so I will simply summarise as follows: high acidity. This is no joke. If you live in this part of the world and don't fancy a career in winemaking, you could make a fortune as a dentist.

Pleasant surprise of the day? Pinot Grigio. Yep, I said it. Who knew?! That oft-mocked, commercial, thin, uninteresting, watery acid/alcohol combination can actually come good. I reserve the right to be sniffy about the high-volume low-concentration commercial wine flavoured alcopop style, but there's a awful lot more to the variety than the brands who sponsor cookery programmes on Channel 4 would lead you to believe. Notably, the 2010 Cesconi Pinot Grigio Vigneti Delle Dolomiti (via Liberty Wine) had a length, depth and breadth I simply would not have thought possible before today.

New Zealand Syrah, Pinot Noir and Riesling
For the afternoon we set sail to New Zealand. If you we're hoping for a break from acidity, you're out of luck. Cue, Kiwi Savvy B! It's a whistle-stop tour of the islands, but with 75% of the country's wine coming from three grape varieties, and most of that from on area, this is understandable.
I've sung the praises of New Zealand's wines often enough on this blog, so won't go any further down that road, but there were some great samples in the line up.

Day six takes us back to Italy - I'll put the link here when it's ready.

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