Classic Wines from Classic Regions
The wine tasting portion of the Certified Sommelier exam tests a person’s knowledge of a list of classic wines from classic regions. The classic white wines include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Viognier, Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio and Gewürztraminer. The classic red wines include Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah / Shiraz, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Malbec and Nebbiolo.
From this list you need to know their classic regions. For example, while Pinot Gris may be grown in Oregon and be the #1 white wine, that state isn’t considered a “classic region” because it has yet to develop a consistently recognizable style. The classic regions for Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio are Alsace and Italy.
So, if you are studying for the Certified Sommelier Exam you need to know CLASSIC WINES from CLASSIC REGIONS.
Classic Styles of Classic Wines
If you are preparing for the Certified Sommelier Exam not only do you need to focus on classic wines from classic regions, you need to experience wines that are typical representatives of those regions. For example, it is possible to find winemakers in Margaux France that produce wines that are “New World” in style and can be mistaken for a Napa Valley Cabernet. So, you need to learn the typical profiles of classic wines from classic regions such as a Sauvignon Blanc from Sancere, California and New Zealand.
Knowing Wine: From Recognition to Total Recall
Having completed the wine instruction of the Intensive Sommelier Training at the International Culinary Center (graduation is on March 13th) and essentially traveled around whole world via the wine bottle, I now want to revisit and restudy everything we covered in class and go more in depth. It is one thing to cram a lot of information into your head and rely on your short-term memory for an exam, it is another to retain that information and be able to recall it permanently. So, I want all my notes to go from my short-term to my long-term memory so that I really know it.
There are also different levels of depth of knowledge about wine (or anything else for that matter).
For example, one person may hear the Star Spangled Banner and recognize it as the United States of America’s National Anthem. But the person many not know the words to the song or anything about its origin and say, "I know that song."
Another person will hear the song and be able to sing along with it at a baseball game, they know most of the words but they don’t know its history.
Then there is the person who can sing the song because they know all the words and they can tell you that it was composed by Francis Scott Key who wrote it to commemorate an event that took place on September 14, 1814, when U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812.
It is that third level of understanding that I want to have of wine and the only way to do so is to keep reading, studying, writing and tasting classic wines from classic regions.
Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy
For my first return to a classic wine from a class region I have chosen Tuscany Italy where the classic wine is Chianti. If you want to read more about this region check out my review in “Unit 4-Day 3: Tuscany”.
The 2008 Santa Margherita Chianti Classico Riserva is an excellent representative of Tuscany, Italy. This wine is imported by Terlato Wines. If I had to choose a major brand as a favorite, it would be Terrlato as they own some of my favorite wineries including Sanford Winery and Vineyards in Lompc in Santa Barbara County as well as Chimney Rock Winery and Rutherford Hill in the Napa Valley which I have visited and reviewed on my California Winery review blog.
Here is a short bio on Anthony Terlato from the Santa Margherita web site:
“In the 1970's, Anthony Terlato became the #1 importer of premium Italian wines. He believed there was an opportunity for quality Italian wines beyond traditional Italian restaurant wine lists, and he believed wine lovers were ready to experience a truly high-end Italian white. While in Italy, he explored a range of regions and varietals and determined that Pinot Grigio was the wine that could revolutionize the perception of Italian wines in high-end restaurants. In a restaurant in Italy, he ordered all 18 Pinot Grigios on the list and tasted every one. When he tasted Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio from the Marzotto family, he knew he had found his varietal and the proper relationship. Tony has been called "the father of Pinot Grigio" and "one of the most accomplished wine personalities on the planet" for pioneering regions, varietals and brands from around the world. Pioneering the Pinot Grigio category in America with Santa Margherita, he created the most successful brand and established Pinot Grigio as a much-loved varietal around the world. Crisp, elegant Santa Margherita remains the leading Pinot Grigio brand and still captures the imagination of wine lovers across the country. We raise our glass to Anthony Terlato - an innovator and pioneer who created the Pinot Grigio category and opened the door for Pinot Grigio and many high-end Italian wines.”
The 2008 Santa Margherita Chianti Classico Riserva is a opaque, dark ruby wine at the core with a hint of garnet at the rim with minimal rim variation, it is day bright and has medium+ viscosity with thick running tears. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of sour cherries, cedar, tobacco, dried herbs, dried roses, anise, a touch of black olive and a hint of black pepper. On the palate the nose is confirmed with additional notes of dried meat, new leather and a hint of chalk. It is dry with medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, it is medium bodied, moderately complex with a medium length finish. This wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. It is a solid everyday drinking wine that retails for about $20.
If tasted blind this wine is recognizable as an Old World wine by the chalky minerality. The earth and mineral characteristics of old world wine regions cannot be duplicated in new world wine regions. From the notes this wine might be mistaken for a Nebbiolo (Barolo or Barbaresco) but they tend to be lighter in color with more garnet at the core and the tannins tend to be more aggressive. This wine might also be mistaken as being from Bordeaux but the sour cherry notes is the key to recognizing it as not being French. There is also something that is definitely Italian about this wine that is difficult to define.