Eve, our Trainee Manager in Richmond has been studying hard for her WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) exam. Catch up as she continues her studies…
My exam is fast approaching and all this reading is making me thirsty. The WSET Level 3 book is not merely informative and essential to my study and development but it has also been taking me on a very lovely journey. A journey not only focussed on this beautiful liquid we so adore but a journey around the world, its many countries portrayed by the wines they produce. Their geographies, histories and personalities echoed in our very own wine racks, poured into glasses in bars, pubs and living rooms around the world.
I guess what I’m referring to is terroir; the idea that a wine from a specific place should represent that specific place: its soils, its climate, its topography and the interactions encountered when these factors collide. The factors that make that place who and what it is. These wines give us a little taste of a place we have been, have yet to see or would love to visit. More than anything else, this is what I love about wine.
Today, in a world where we have access to so much from so far away; where travel is cheap and easy; where the trade market put the whole world at our fingertips, on supermarket shelves; where we can make that ‘exotic’ cuisine in our own homes or wander around Greenwich Market and nibble on a little piece of a distant place made in front of us in our own city.
In a world where modernity allows us to get our hands on fruit and vegetables out of season; where we can buy ‘just add meat’ kits to make ‘Mama’s’ lasagne and Mexican Fajitas with one small sprinkle of packeted spice, it is refreshing to hold on to something authentic, something real. Granted, viticulture and vinification like everything else have undergone huge transformations, with new machinery and modern techniques allowing growers and winemakers to make up for too little rain or too much wind, but the reality is that the best and most interesting wines still echo a region’s character and that beautiful, elegant, delicate, blush-coloured rose, nicely chilled and sipped in our garden, transports us to a little white balcony on a warm evening in the south of France, gazing out on to the Mediterranean Sea.
This is the wonder of wine. This is terroir.
One of my favourite chapters in the book is about Italy, its history and its hardiness. Italy always bounces back. Some of the oldest vineyards in the world call Italy home and some of the best wines in the world are made in these vineyards. Italy’s wines echo Italy’s culture maybe more so than in any other country. They are creative, rustic, authentic and true to their roots. Simply made but with complex flavours; rich and delicious.
Much like Italy’s cooking, it’s wines are made from local ingredients, indigenous grape varieties, which produce vivacious and stylish wines that are both juicy and spicy. Mmm. All of these factors, for me, very much earn Italy it’s title of ‘Oenotria’ – land of the vine.
Even writing this, I want to be sat on an Italian piazza at dusk, sipping Chianti overlooking a beautiful lit up fountain whilst nibbling on taleggio, so as you can imagine reading an entire book about wines from around the world whilst stuck in my bedroom in Twickenham is total torture!
The WSET, if nothing else, makes you want more. More information, more knowledge and well, if I’m honest, much more wine. It makes you want to drink wine in the right settings with the correct food; in the right weather with the best book or your favourite film, listening to the perfect music. It encourages you to think and to engage with what it is your consuming and it is the knowledge gained from studying that really makes you appreciate the wine, and its origins, that you hold in your glass.