Sorry for the hiatus - I moved, and that took a while, and I haven't gotten internet in my new place yet. I have taken it upon myself to schlepp (a word that spellcheck recognizes) myself all the way to the coffee shop that is blocks- blocks!- away in an overwhelmingly committed effort to reconnect with you, the reader.
I'm in the process of taking the Level 1 Court of Master Sommeliers exam right now - there are two days of classes, followed by a written examination. Today was day one of the classes, and I have to say that it's a really fun experience. Listening to people who are passionate about wine and in there element talking about it is an engaging and thought-provoking experience. Some of the material covered was a bit rudimentary (it is level 1) for my knowledge base, but it was peppered with enough kernels of new knowledge to make it an invigorating experience.
It also reminded me of the joys of blind tasting. When you're presented with fairly typical examples of a variety/region, it is fascinating to deduce what it may or may not be. My previous deductive tastings have all been themed, and I think that's the wrong way to do it. Comparative tasting can be very good for knocking solid tasting notes into your mental library (which you can hopefully pull out later), but developing your ability to utilize deductive reasoning when determining the typicity/quality of a wine seems far more rudimentary, and I think must be a necessary foundation upon which to build comparative knowledge (which is then utilized in deductive tastings, so it's all related). Briefly, deductive tasting goes like this (shortened because I'm into the whole brevity thing and paraphrased because I don't have the exact terms right in front of me):
All wines are blind. Hopefully, the bottle is not at all seen (even bagged) and there are no indications as to what the wine might be (such as, for example, knowing that it is on a list that is particularly heavy in one category - that will skew your deductions toward that category).
Step one: Visual.
Clarity: Is it murky, cloudy, hazy, clear?
Brilliance: Is it dull, bright, star-bright, incredibly-freaking-brilliant?
Color: For whites, is it watery, straw, yellow, gold, etc? For reds, is it purple, ruby, garnet, orange, brown?
Intensity: Is the color low, medium, high in intensity? Somewhere in between one of those?
Viscosity: Low, medium, high, what? Are the legs tinged with the color of the wine?
Some other stuff that I'm probably forgetting.
Step two: Aromas.
One: Is the wine sound, or faulted?
Two: Name three fruits.
Three: Does the wine have any earth qualities? If so, what?
Four: Does the wine display the presence of oak? If so, new, neutral? Any idea on what kind? Other notes?
Five: Other notes?
Six, Seven, More: Notes on dryness, body, fruits (name 3!), oak, tannin, alcohol, acid, other.
Step Three: Initial Conclusion.
Start with Old World or New? From there, go to country. From there, region within country. From there, grape variety(ies). Vintage. At this step, multiple options can be explored.
Step Four: Final Conclusion.
After considering the multiple options brought up in Step Three, this is your final determination of what the wine is, right or wrong (and you will very, very often be wrong). State your opinion with confidence! What is the grape variety(ies), country of origin, region within that country, level of quality (village cru, 1er cru, grand cru, et cetera?)? Finally, vintage.
Then... The big reveal!
Sorry, you were wrong. Try again later.
So that's pretty much what I've been doing today. It was fun!
Disclaimer: I probably cocked up the description of deductive tasting completely there. I in no way claim to be a master anything, and should not be thought of as a definitive source of knowledge. Go here instead.