CAPE WINE ACADEMY – DIPLOMA COURSE – PRE-TASTING EXAM LESSON
Saturday 24 November 2018
It was before the Diploma 3 Theory Exam that was held on the eve of 22 November that I booked the pre-Tasting Exam session on the morning of 24 November. That’s just 36 hours apart and I hadn’t banked on just how testing how tiring the written exam would be, with the dubious reputation of being the most difficult to pass. Nonetheless, Lizette Tolkein is one of the very best Cape Wine Academy instructors, with a superb knowledge and a fun, relaxed manner.
I was re-energised by Saturday morning and so made the well-trodden path to Morgenhof for the half day session of extra learning. Tasting exams are held twice a year. This session was geared towards the December examinees. I plan to take the Exam in June 2019 on completion of Module 4. Nonetheless, the chance for extra learning was too good an opportunity to miss. The Morgenhof peacock thought so too and serenaded me as I arrived.
I had passed course details to my Diploma student and Tasting Group colleagues so I knew some were going. It came as a surprise to us all to find just 2 December exam students in the class. There were 6 of us! Lizette politely told us ‘imposters’ that we were not the main event, in jest, but we nevertheless showed our respect for those closest to the forthcoming exam.
Lizette outlined the exam format and questions together with the tips for answer style. Time is short so bullet points are fine for answers. There’s the obvious advice about correctly reading and answering the question. She reminded the 8 potential single cultivar wines – Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc together with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Shiraz – and their likely countries and regions. Importantly, for all, there’s the shift from descriptive journalist to analyst, from Certificate to Diploma student. This means not needing to write a full tasting analysis to, say, identify the cultivar. There’s only about 6 marks at stake (and a further 2 correctly to identify the cultivar) so why waste time assessing and writing about characteristics that don’t help identify? Lizette described the ‘funnel technique’ to rule in or rule out a particular cultivar or country to be able to narrow down towards a well-argued answer. It is easy to see why the learning and the technique are so important. There will not be just 8 cultivars to think about for Cape Wine Master, nor single variety wines, as all wines will be fair game for identification, blends included.
There was little new in this advice but that does not mean it was not well worth hearing again. Whilst the tips were not new either, many of the wines were and particularly since I have yet to complete Module 4 (New World wines). We tasted flights of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling and, after coffee break, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon from many of the likely countries. I won’t describe each wine here as there are too many. It was especially good to taste the Cabernets Sauvignon from the USA, South Africa and Australia as I have had little practice with the cultivar. Can you believe that we haven’t tasted one single variety Cabernet Sauvignon wine in 3 Diploma modules? Sure, there were many Left and Right Bank examples but these were all blends.
Instead, certain clues and phrases stick out. There’s the ‘gooseberry, pineapple and granadilla’ and ‘purity of fruit’ that is a Marlborough, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc are more alcoholic than Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling is the only aromatic white cultivar. There’s the Old World versus New World differences of ‘fruit supported/fruit forwards, upfront fruit’, in complexity (layered, complex/simple/one dimensional), of savoury/fruity notes, of low/high alcohol and more. Cabernet Sauvignon has a hollow mid-palate whereas Shiraz is full. Tannin structure and complexity are the clue to identify the country of a Pinot Noir. Chile red wines are characterised by their ‘blackcurrant wine gum’ flavours. Australian Riesling shows a ‘lemon squirt acidity’ whilst Old World Shiraz has a nose of ‘puppy dog breath’.
The extra learning session ended (R1000 was really good value for money) and we wished our 2 colleagues good luck in their exam. The 6 of us then went for lunch at nearby Simonsig Estate. It was testament to the amazing friends we have in our Diploma Tasting Group that all went. My energy was fully re-energised by this outstanding session from Lizette. I highly recommend that everyone who takes the Diploma Tasting Exam takes the opportunity I did. You will not regret it.
2016 Nederburg The Winemaker Sauvignon Blanc (South Africa, Paarl)
2016 Twin Islands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand, Marlborough)
2015 Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay (France, Coteaux de l’ Ardèche)
2014 William Hardy Limestone Coast Chardonnay (Australia, Coonawarra)
2016 Zonnebloem Chardonnay (South Africa, Stellenbosch)
2012 Nottage Hill Riesling (Australia)
2010 Weingot Clemens Busch Trocken Riesling (Germany, Mosel)
2015 Jordan The Real McCoy Riesling (South Africa, Stellenbosch)
2017 Casillero di Diablo Pinot Noir (Chile, Central Valley)
2014 Waipara Hills Pinot Noir (New Zealand, Waipara)
2016 Two Oceans Pinot Noir (South Africa, Stellenbosch)
2011 Ferraton Père et Fils Crozes-Hermitage La Matinère (France, Crozes-Hermitage)
2015 Nottage Hill Shiraz (Australia)
2013 Alto Cabernet Sauvignon (South Africa, Stellenbosch)
2012 Echo Falls Cabernet Sauvignon (USA California)
2016 Casillero di Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile, Central Valley)