I know that the tasting portion of the D3 WSET Diploma Exam can be one of the most intimidating. Indeed, when I took my Level 3, my nerves overtook my tastebuds, and I found myself second guessing my tasting notes the whole time. To help me gain more skill and confidence in those skills, I’ve been taking some tasting classes geared toward WSET Diploma with a Master in Wine in preparation for my exam. And I recently had my partner help me with a blind tasting mock exam, which I’d like to share here.
The goal is to help those of us who are preparing the WSET exams key in on wine evaluation (following the SAT guidelines) as well as how to correctly draw conclusions about the wines tasted and communicate the justification for those conclusions.
Following the WSET taste testing format:
Wines 1–3 relate to Unit D3 of the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines All are made from the same region. Describe them under the headings below.
Follow along on my tasting notes and see if you can figure out what the common region of origin is. Note: This exam also, for two points, asks examiners to determine the grape variety (but not qualify that determination). I’ve included my deduction in each tasting note below. However, I’ll leave the wine reveals to the very end of the post. Good luck and have fun!
I’ve gotten some feedback that many folks studying for the D3 WSET Diploma Exam are interested in calibrating their palates and practicing their tasting and note-taking techniques. Those of you who are preparing (or have taken) the WSET exams know that there are very strict criteria about how how to evaluate the wines (following the SAT guidelines) but also about how to correctly draw conclusions about the wines you’re tasting and how to communicate those conclusions.
I’ve been taking some tasting classes geared toward WSET Diploma with a Master in Wine in preparation for my exam. Over the holiday, I thought it would be fun to have my partner help me with a blind tasting mock exam.
Following the WSET taste testing format:
Wines 1–3 relate to Unit D3 of the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines All are made from the same or predominantly the same grape variety. Describe them under the headings below.
Follow along on my tasting notes and see if you can figure out what the common grape variety is. Note: This exam also, for two points, asks examiners to determine the country of origin for the wine (but not qualify that determination). I’ve included my deduction in each tasting note below. However, I’ll leave the wine reveals to the very end of the post. Good luck and have fun!
Larger and more spread out than the Northern Rhone, there’s no denying that we’re going to cover a good bit of detail here. With its varied terroir, the Southern Rhone comes with a larger variety of grapes grown and wine produced—good news if you want a diversified tasting experience. Indeed, most wines here are blends—red, white, and rosé, though red undeniably dominates. And, as The Oxford Companion to Wine (Fourth Edition) notes, though some winemakers do experiment with Syrah (the dominant grape of the Northern Rhone), here in the south, it’s far too warm for the grape to “ripen gracefully.” Thus, it is Grenache—at over double the planting—that is the Southern Rhone‘s most planted red wine grape.
After Alsace, the Rhone Valley is probably my next favorite French wine region. The diversity in terrain, climate, and soils, makes for a whole host of grape varieties and wine styles. Much modern winemaking in my home state of California takes its literal and figurative roots from the Rhone, so the history, along with comparative tastings, are of particular interest to me.
Today, we start with an overview of the Rhone Valley. A lot will focus on signature grape varieties of both the Northern and Southern Rhone, as well as some key terms and facts that will help us moving forward. Because my text doesn’t go into the winemaking history of the region, I’m not going to cover that in detail during this series, though I may drop an interesting anecdote here and there if it is relevant to the material being discussed. If interested, The Oxford Companion to Wine (Fourth Edition), does have a good historical synopsis. And if you’re interested in the California-French Rhone connection, I highly recommend American Rhone: How Maverick Winemakers Changed the Way Americans Drink by Patrick J. Comiskey.
Alright, alright, alright…it is the exciting conclusion to our Bordeaux series, looking at the business side of things. If you haven’t read through the France Overview, Bordeaux Overview, the Left Bank, and Right Bank articles, please do-so, as there are a lot of key terms and facts that will help this section make a bit more sense. Also, check out the Bordeaux tastings, as it puts a lot of that knowledge into palate-perspective.