Our third class of the WSET Intermediate Level course was led by, Rendell Thomas from WineStyles in Brookfield. Rendell’s session focused primarily on chardonnay and pinot noir and the regions best suited to these two varieties. As a sidebar, we also got a glimpse of an unsual variety from South Africa called pinotage, a cross between pinot noir and cinsault.
Chardonnay is a resilient and forgiving variety and has been grown with much success in a many of regions and climates. For this session we concentrated our efforts on Burgundy and California, two places known for their outstanding chardonnays, but made with vastly different styles. What is most intersting are the range of aromas and flavors that can develop depending on where the chardonnay is grown and the processes used make it. Cool climates, like Chablis, create wines with lots of acidity and flavors of green apples and citrus. Warmer places, like California’s Napa Valley, tend to yield fuller bodied wines with pineapple and mango flavors. The hand of the winemaker can have a dramatic effect as well. Malolactic fementation and aging in oak can create buttery and spicy notes that can either improve or detract from chardonnay’s delicate aromas and flavors.
Pinot noir, on the other hand, is a finicky grape variety that is difficult to grow and only thrives within a narrow range of regions and climates. It too, can be made in a variety of styles depending on the place and the winemaker. Again, Burgundy and California were the the regions selected for comparison. Burgundy is the classical home of pinot noir and is one of the two grape varieties (gamay being the second) allowed to be grown there. Here the cool, well drained slopes of the Côte d’Or, yield some of the most delicious (and rare) wines in the world with delicate red fruit flavors and light tannins. Winemakers in California are creating pinot noir in several styles ranging from cool climate, Burdundian style wines, to full-bodied, jammy wines with dark cherry flavors and well rounded tannins. Similar to chardonnay, techniques like malolactic fementation and oak aging can create buttery and spicy notes that can dramatically effect this delicate wine.
Next week Jessica will guide us through the intricacies cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sauvignon blanc.
Wines Tasted (Class 3):
- Mischief & Mayhem 2006 (Chablis, France)
- Domaine Renaud Mâcon-Villages 2008 (Mâcon, France)
- Hess Collection Chardonnay 2006 (Napa Valley, CA)
- Benzinger Pinot Noir 2006 (Sonoma, CA)
- Winery of Good Hope Pinotage 2008 (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
- Volnay (Argh…Can’t remember the producer, but it was incredible!) 2006 (Burgundy, France)