Try as I might to focus a group of eight eager students to the professionally evaluated qualities of “armoa and bouquet”, body, acidity, tannins, and the hunt for flavor markers of specific fruits (fresh and baked), vegetables and herbs, earth, and various forms of tea, leather, and smoke, an epiphany hit me. If the point of my tastings are to educate people about winemaking and help them develop the vocabulary to describe wines they like (and don’t), then wine tasting really comes down to:
- What do you see?
- What do you smell?
- What do you taste?
- What do you feel?
Two equally well made Champagnes were in our tasting lineup last week: J.Lassalle’s Brut Preference and Fourny & Fils Blanc de Blanc Brut Nature. One tasted of apples, minerals, and a “wildflower walk”, like a fresh meadow. There was also something slightly funky about that one. Just a little bit funky, like “a bite of brie”, said one taster. The other was not apple-y at all, more like apricots, honey, vanilla, overripe pineapple (this one got a few laughs, but, sure enough, once vocalized, several tasters concurred), cement, and something grassy, but not fresh like a meadow and flowers, more like dry hay.
The point wasn’t that one was better than the other, but to differentiate the two. You may prefer a more apple-y Champagne one day, and one with more stone-fruit, ripe flavors, the next. Being able to describe what you like to a wine shop owner, or restaurant server, will help build a bridge from your experience to theirs, and with good luck, lead you pleasantly along your wine exploration journey.
Both of these Champagnes lingered on our palates, and finished clean, not sweet. Like all well-made wines, our interest was piqued and we took another sip.