I admit it: I was a little anxious. Yesterday was my exam for the WSET Level 1 Foundation course. I’d studied and paid attention in class, yet occasionally had the feeling in the pit of my stomach that I used to get before I wrote an exam. And it’d been a while since I’d studied for anything. While the course was only three weeks, there was a lot of great information shared not only in the study guide but in class as well. The wealth of knowledge of instructors Paul Giudici and American Wine School Founder, Marianne Frantz, made the class so interesting and fun; their love and enjoyment of wine was infectious. We studied about the seven noble varieties, styles of wine and how other factors like oak, tannin and acidity affects the wine. We also e xplored the appropriate temperatures for serving wines (including varying temps for white and sweet and sparkling. Not all reds should be served at room temperature). We looked at the importance of correct glassware and why to keep it clean: Dust and detergent residue can adversely affect the taste.
The final night’s class on food and wine pairing ~ the one I missed, was in addition to my study notes that, thankfully, I had with me. I learned that: Sweeter and savory dishes can amplify your perception of bitterness, acidity and alcohol burn in your wine. Foods that are higher in acidity and salt can enhance your perception of the wine’s body, sweetness and fruitiness. Until this class, when I’d choose wine with a dish, I typically thought only of the standard, safe-and-sure pairing principles: White wine with lighter meats and fish; reds with beef and certain pasta dishes. I’ve since learned that it goes much further than that, in order to get the best taste experience. It’s good to consider the salt-to-acid ratio, not just in the food but also in your wine. For instance, if you’re having a dinner that’s packing some major Chili heat, you’d want to pair it with a lower alcohol white or low-tannin | low-alcohol red. Since Chili heat increases the perception of bitterness, acid and alcohol burn, pairing with a high alcohol wine would be like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. Yowza!
Once I turned the test paper over and read the questions, my nerves fell away. And to celebrate after the exam, I cracked open an ’02 Tempranillo. It was lovely and creamy; deep purple in color and tasted of rich, ripe raspberry.
I really enjoyed my time at the American Wine School and I hope my schedule will allow me to take the other levels in the WSET Foundation series. If you’re looking for a great, fun way to improve your wine knowledge, I recommend checking out the AWS | WSET Foundation series classes.