Saturday, 19 October 2013

Off to Dijon!......"Do you have what it takes to be a world class sparkling wine judge?" part 2

Working at Plumpton College can be hard work, lectures to prepare, students to advise, assessments to set and mark. When I first start teaching, I naively though that after the long hours I had experienced as a winemaker I would now have a more normal "9-5" workload and consequently lots of free time. When the Principal of Plumpton College warned me that I would have to work hard, I smiled and said fine, sure in my belief that winemakers know plenty about hardwork.  I soon discovered I was wrong and the Principal was right.  Those first years of teaching were tough, lots of late nights, early mornings and weekend work. However I survived those years (helped by many therapeutic summer holidays in Italy to relax) and settled down with the teaching. However Plumpton College is dynamic environment and there is always something extra to be done. The course content and structure is always being revised to makes things better, there is always new staff to interact with offering new ideas & knowledge that make you re-evaluate what you know as well as new developments such as the new MSc in Viticulture & Oenology. Another thing that keeps us busy in student study trips and one I have been involved in is leading a group students to judge at the Effervescent du Monde sparkling wine competition.

To become a judge a Effervscent du Monde, you must participate in a training session, which was run yesterday. This year we extended the invitation to UK grape growers, wine makers and people in the wine trade. We had an excellent response and over 20 people participating in the training session.

The training is crucial, as the Effervscent du Monde are trying to improve accuracy and precision in its judges. This is very important with sparkling wines as they are more difficult to judge then still wines because they are very influenced by the way there are served.  This was highlighted in the lectures given by Professor Richard Marchal from the University of Reims, that showed that Mousse and Effervescence are influenced by many factors including shape and cleanliness of the glass, amount of wine poured, wine temperature and time from pouring. This in turn impacts wine aroma and flavour. Professor Marchal used this information to inform us how the wines should be served and importantly how the wines should be judged.

Professor Richard Marchal talking about Effervescence and foam

We also hosted Jean Claude Buffin, who discussed how the du Monde wine shows are conducted. The aim of the competition is to improve the accuracy and precision of the assessments.  He also discussed at great length howjudges may be influenced in the decisions they make and steps that can be taken to reduced this problem.

Part of the judging sheet for Effervescents du Monde

After this we participated in a series of tasting session to practice the judging system using a variety of sparkling wines including Champagne, Cava, Prosecco and of course English Sparkling wine. It wasn't long before the would-be judges got the hang of the new judging system and started to give some consistent results in their assessments.

You can also read Laura Clay's blog post on the day here

So now that training is over, its time to plan our trip to Dijon for the actual judging. Of course going to France and Burgundy means that the the trip can be enriched with some extra activities. On this years itinerary we hope to include the the following:

Cellars of Champagne Drappier
Hospice de Beaune Burgundy in barrel

I can't wait and if its a good as last years trip (read about here) it will be a great wine experience.

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