Seeking Advice on Selecting Appropriate Wines

I am part of a tasting group comprised of people preparing for the Certified Examination. Everyone has been through the Intro Course but I'm not sure we're always bringing wines that are true representations of the classic style and that we would see in an exam setting. How do you go about selecting wines for your tasting groups? How do you ensure a wine is appropriate?

Thank you in advance,

Jeff

  • I am very interested in hearing from more experienced people on this topic, but I just purchased a large chunk of the wines to blind taste based off of the Resources tab on the masters website. I sell wine and taste with customers all the time and they are encouraging by helping me blind taste a couple of times a week, so I sent them the same link as a reference point. 

  • This is tough. The best way to be certain is having someone who is experienced (and mindful) picking the wines. If you don't have that as a resource, chart out all of your paradigms of markers for classic/testable grape varieties. Then, when you are tasting, see if they line up and build a list of what matches so you don't repeatedly bring the same wine that doesn't fit.

    I know there are groups and Seattle and Dallas that have done this, but I don't currently have access to those lists. Reach out to some folks in those cities and see if you can wrangle them. Fernando  Beteta (MS) keeps a list on his website, too, of producers he has found to be classic. Keep in mind, though, that a super classic producer can go off the rails in weird vintages. 

  • The best way to do this is find out what's classic to be in the region and just look up the producers on where your going to buy them either wine.com, k&l or etc and find their tech sheets and make a list. When you compiled a list find a MS or MS candidate or someone who's done a tasting group before and get their opinion. Now take it from me who's done the research asked MS's and Master candidates to look over the list, everyone will not agree on certain producers. From their it's going to be trial and error. When I started my tasting group 3 years ago I probably have looked over 500 producer websites to see what they do. It's going to take some time but you'll learn so much more doing it this way. It's my 3rd year running a group and now I just have a list of classic producers that are my go to's. If you can find a list from someone as base that will be helpful but I would still look up the producers on that list. Even if they say this producer is classic, look it up anyway's because that person may have made a mistake. Good luck, it's going to be hard work but so rewarding afterwards. 

  • Do not overthink or resort to “analysis paralysis”. Concentrate on wines which are representative of their original or main geographic location. It is unlikely that you will get blends with the possible exception of Bordeaux or GSM. Chenin will always come from Loire, likely Vouvray, Malbec from Argentina, likely from Mendoza, Riesling from Mosel (likely Kabinet), Sav Blanc from Marlborough, Zin from CA etc. I found Tim Gaiser’s wine markers most helpful - they are sort of “down and dirty” and comment on regional diffenrences.

  • Kayla, that's the safest and easiest way to do it.

  • I know we constantly talk about how theory is the core of everything, but... theory is the core of everything. Winemaking info is widely available these days, whether through the importer or producer's websites, and if you marry that information with a concrete understanding of what is typical to the region, you can know if a given producer is working in a classic style.

    I do agree that it's nice to have a running list of producers or wines that are not classic, but I also think the discussions that can evolve when a wine is not quite typical can be valuable, and the more so the more advanced you are in your tasting (so if you're prepping for the certified, take this with a grain of salt or put a pin in it for later). What is the wine? What are the elements that are classic? What are the elements that are out of whack? Can you separate them out?

  • Well said Mia. I think that wines evolve with time too, and I'm not referring to bottle age, but rather stylistic shifts, farming practices and new personnel. Do the research beforehand and keep a running list for use in the future. After the tasting update the sheet with the group's impressions so that you know what will work and not work for future tastings. Also one of the biggest mistakes I see people make is buying inexpensive/inferior bottlings from regions that are just inherently expensive and require you to throw the $100 down to get a classic example - think Hermitage, Cote d'Or, Barolo etc. 

  • Thank you for the suggestions. I don't see the list on his website but I'll contact Fernando and see if he can help.

  • The answer to a question like this is almost always "Put In The Time", isn't it?

    Thanks for your answer. I appreciate it.

  • I'm sure that you are absolutely correct. One issue in our group is that we are all pretty new to all of this and lack an experienced palate/taster to help us when we're not sure.

    What resources have you used to develop your understanding of what is classic?

  • This has already been said but I think it’s huge to lean on the people around you who have done this before and simply just have more experience than you (at least for now!) when I was studying for certified I constantly asked my peers questions about what to taste and what not to. Being in a tasting group of experienced people really helped with that. Also this is a little off topic but investing in a coravin is huge. Being able to taste wines that can be sometimes hard to differentiate side by side without having to open the bottle so you could save it for another purpose later was so huge. Really helps solidify a lot of things and saves you money in the long run because we all know studying for the blind tasting isn’t cheap 

  • I hadn't thought of this purpose for a Coravin...thank you.