Matt Kirkland was an attendee of the WSG’s first Study Trip to Tuscany with Jane Hunt, MW. Here, he shares some of the insights he gleaned from the trip.
Quality in wine can be assessed based upon balance, length, intensity, and complexity (and typicity when not tasting blindly). As the workhorse grape of central Italy, Sangiovese had a checkered history relative to quality. It is a high acid grape, with relatively high tannins; and quality demands a balance of these structural components. The goal of this essay will be to discuss the acid/tannin balance, its impact upon quality, and the implications for “mouthfeel” of the resultant wines. The harmonious balance of quality can be achieved with pure Sangiovese (Brunello de Montalcino or some Chianti’s, or with blends as in Chianti or the “Super Tuscans”); the key is taming the interplay of tannin and acid on the palate. The journey through Tuscany is a delectable discovery of vinous diversity, unified by the grape.
“In the bad old days, Sangiovese tended to be overproduced which accentuated its tendency to exhibit high acid and unripe tannins… Sangiovese’s dominant viticultural characteristics are that it can vary as much as Pinot Noir in its sensitivity to place and that it ripens relatively late.” Jancis Robinson, www.jancisrobinson.com/learn/grape-varieties/red/sangiovese
Autumn in Champagne is a spectacular time to explore the region. The countryside and vineyards are abounding in rich palettes of color and the intoxicating fall fragrance instills a unique sensorial experience. Champagne is like laughter as it fills my senses with joy, especially when the cork pops and the bubbles burst with song!
The educational experience created by the Wine Scholar Guild is a first class escapade! The inception of our tour and taste of Champagne, guided by Master of Wine, Essi Avellan, brought us full circle through the entire region with a sprinkling of the styles between Houses, Growers and Coopératives. Our adventure began with an introduction to the infamous Champagne Houses of Ruinart and Roederer.
Sadly, time has marched on, since the fantastic Bourgogne Immersion Trip I took with the Wine Scholar Guild lead by Andrew Jefford, October 23 – 28, 2016. Everyone on the trip was definitely a “wine nerd” but the group was composed of a mix of wine industry professionals, wine students of all levels that had “day jobs” and just wine appreciators. I had been on a few wine trips previously that were organized by friends or non-winegroups like Backroads (biking and wine). However, I had never gone on such a blockbuster, action-packed wine trip as this one. So for future participants here are 5 items to keep in mind so you have an incredible trip.
Meeting Andrew Jefford today could easily lead one to believe that he was born knowing enormous volumes of information about the wines of the world, and has always been able to explain them in the manner of a poet laureate. As the leader of a 2016 Wine Scholar Guild study tour of Southwest France, his presentation (with global parallels) to a small but diverse group of educators and wine professionals was quite natural, charming, articulate, insightful, and generous.
Group feedback about Andrew includes these admirable qualities: knowledgeable about local context, well prepared, flexible and adaptive, clear "voice" (speaking and writing), exceedingly patient, gifted at capturing the essence of ideas with beautiful words, an amazing ability to write great tasting notes in record time, erudite yet accessible. In short, it is a privilege to be tutored in person while traveling with Andrew Jefford.