I’m so proud my WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) level one wine certificate and pin badge was delivered to my door today. I passed, I still cannot believe it because this course really is for people who are autistic about wine. I can say that without any offence intended as i’m a paediatric occupational therapist who specialises in Autism. I’m a lot of things but Autistic is not one of them. If I was to take a standardised assessment on personality type I would be more chaos disorder.
The WSET level 1 Award in wine (wine spirit education trust) is a one-day course designed for people looking to work in the often daunting world of wine.
The course introduces you to the main styles of wine, principle grape varieties and other examples of wines. This will enable you to read many wine labels and know what to expect from the wine inside the bottle. You will also cover wine service as well as the theory of pairing wine and food: you will discover that some simple rules make this subject easy to understand.
It may be level one but it’s certainly not easy and you will be asked to sit a written exam at the end of the day.
I’ve decided to split my write up of the WSET level 1 Award in wines into a number of posts as the course covers so much about the world of winemaking.
What is wine?
To put it simply wine is fermented grape juice. The grapes are crushed to release their sweet juice. Alcoholic fermentation is needed to change the grape juice into wine.
Parts of the grape
There are two principle types of grapes. White grapes and black grapes. On the inside these grapes look very similar. The key difference between them is that black grapes have deeply coloured skins that also contain tannins.
The level of alcohol in a wine is usually measured as ‘alcohol by volume’ (abc) in other words, 10% abc means that 10% of the liquid is alcohol.
Grapes are the fruit produced by grape vines. Grape vines can live for several decades. Once they reach maturity, a couple of years after they are planted, they produce a crop of grapes every year.
How Grapes Grow
Every year, a grape wine flowers in the spring. The flowers become grapes are picked in the spring. The flowers become grapes, which then ripen during the summer. The grapes are picked in late summer.
This is part of a cluster of grape vine flowers. It’s made up of many individual flavours and each flavour will become a grape.
Flowers Become Grapes
After flowering, each individual flower is transformed into a small grape. All grapes are hard and green @ this stage.
(photo of flowers becoming grapes)
As grapes ripen a number of changes occur.
The grapes swell with water.
Sugar levels in the grapes rise.
Acid levels in the grapes fall.
Flowers become riper.
White grapes change in colour from green to golden.
Black grapes change in colour from green to purple.
Where Grapes Grow.
Grape vines need the right levels of sunlight and heat in order to grow and produce good quality fruit. If its too cold or too hot they cannot do this where the winter is cold enough for them to rest.
As a result, most grape vines grow at latitudes on the globe that provide the grapes with the correct amount of sunlight, heat and waste. They are shown on the map below.
Cool climate regions.
Regions with cool climates are close to the poles. Examples include Germany and Northern France. The average temperatures are low and the sunlight can be weaker than in regions nearer the equator. In some years, grapes can struggle to ripen at all. In cool climate regions it’s common to grow white grapes.
Warm climate regions.
Regions with warm climates are close to the equator. Examples include parts of Australia and parts of California. The average temperatures are high, the sunlight is more intense, and grapes ripen consistently. In warm climate regions its common to grow black grapes. Black grapes – more heat and sunshine – riper fruit stronger flavours.
Effects of climate on the grapes.
Climate can have a defining impact on the characteristics of the grapes. Generally speaking, the colder it is, the lower the levels of sugar and the higher the levels of acidity in the grapes. At the other extreme, the warmer it is, the higher the levels of sugar and the lower the levels of acidity in the grapes. The grapes flavours also taste riper in warmer climates.
Making White Wine.
Making Red and Rose Wine.
Watch this space for part two of my WSET level 1 Award in Wines write up to learn Types and Styles of Wine, How to read a Wine list, Storage and service of wine and loads more from the fascinating world of winemaking.