Next month, I take my Certified Specialist of Wine exam, which is the first step in becoming a Certified Wine Educator. And in preparing for the exam, I am finding it in many ways, a more thorough and specific curriculum than when I took the 1st level MS test.
For starters, I find myself going over more of the specifics of general viticulture and how those processes pertain to the various winemaking grapes. There seems to be more time spent on the common traits of grape personalities (their general aromas and flavors in their resultant wines) and specifically how still, sparkling and fortified wines are made.
What I really enjoy about the study guide provided by the Society of Wine Educators (the organization charged with certifying the CSW and CWE students) is that each chapter on a given subject is authored by an expert in that particular field. For example, Alfredo Bartholomaus, president of Billington Imports, which represents such brands as Catena and Cousino-Macul, pens the chapter on Argentina, and Sharron McCarthy, VP of Wine Education for Banfi Vintners, writes the chapter pertaining to Italy.
Currently, I am going over Fortified Wine Production, and specifically Sherry. I am not a fan of Sherry, though I appreciate and respect the level of difficulty that goes into Sherry, which not unlike Champagne, is one of the most difficult processes in winemaking.
The juice is then tasted and classified either fino or oloroso. Fino sherries are much drier, and can be either manzanilla, amontillado or fino. Oloroso sherries are sweeter and are broken down as oloroso or rayas. These wines are classified by a simple criteria of color, clarity, aroma and flavor. The lots that are the palest, clearest, most aromatic and least bitter are the highest valued and end up as finos.
There are six types of sherry:
Fino is thought of as the driest. It is light and delicate, with a salty, nutty quality.
Manzanilla is only slightly sweeter and darker than fino. There is more body, color and alcohol than fino.
Amontillado is even more maderized in flavor and aroma. And thanks to Edgar Allan Poe, is probably the most known of the sherries here in the U.S.
Palo Cortado is an extremely rare sherry that results rom no flor. It possesses the aromas of an amontillado yet the color and flavor of an oloroso.
Oloroso is a sweeter style and can be quite dark in color. It possesses a higher alcohol content and more glycerol notes than a fino.
Raya is more aromatic and seems more oxidized and maderized than oloroso.
Over the month of May, I’ll be filling you in on what I am reviewing next, and maybe you too can learn a bit more in the process.