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Become a Great Wine Taster

Lesson 4 of 21

Exploring Varietals: Whites with Oak


Become a Great Wine Taster

Lesson 4 of 21

Exploring Varietals: Whites with Oak


Lesson Info

Exploring Varietals: Whites with Oak

we're going to explore varietals with oak and really, we're gonna see first. How again? Review. How does oak feel in a wine? What is OK, actually, due to a wine, then used two examples where we're gonna keep some of the variables constant, and we'll let some of variables float toe understand about really about the world of wine at large again via tasting eso you three wines. You have Louis chardonnay. Which facing you is in glass? A, um, the last one on the list. Actually, the geese and sauvignon blanc that doesn't have any oak in. That's in glass beast. That's a good reference point to keep between the two. And in glassy We've Mason Laurey, Mayor. So, um, which is actually from from Burgundy? So white Burgundy and again it said doesn't say, actually, back to Jay's question. It doesn't say chardonnay anywhere on the label says Mayor. So But over time, like after the segment, you're gonna understand that marceau actually means you're drinking chardonnay from Burgundy in France. Um, so t...

he first thing I'd like you to do is pick up and smell all three glasses. Okay, So Louis chardonnay, which we also taste in the last segment has lots of this stuff, right? Lots of vanilla, lots of cinnamon, lots of the toast, all of which comes from the oak barrel, right. The Mason Laurey also spends time in an oak barrel, but it's very actually, this is. This brings me to an analogy I like to use, I think about I think about wines from the Old World versus wines from the New World is almost the difference between going to the cinema and going to the movies. And I think these two lines you that so smell these two. Well, while I tell you this little story, the two bookends when you go to the cinema, you're generally not in America and you go and it twists and it turns in two hours later. Just when you think you know where it's going, it goes somewhere completely different. And the conclusions you know, something that you didn't even imagine right. And when you go to the movies in America, goes bam right in the 1st 60 seconds, you know, you know, like how the next 89 minutes are going to go on. It's big and loud, and it's American. It is what it is. And I think that that actually can you can see that generally speaking, in the whites, of course, exception solve rules. But I think that generally speaking, that's a great idea for how to think about these wines. And so on the two bookends, you have two glasses of chardonnay, one from France and went for America. And I think you can feel that. Do you feel the difference? Is there that makes sense? And what did they have in common? Is this And do you feel that in both of these do you guys feel the oak? Okay, so with that said, I want you to grab glass B and C so glass b smell it. What did it smell like? Sweet smells fruity and sweet fruit. Okay, great. And floral. Exactly. Okay. And how about glass? See, there's so much more going on And be what? Just from smell. Okay. Maybe it's mawr effusive. It's more about the movies. New World, right? Yeah, right. As opposed a glass. See what's what's the one thing that glossy has that B doesn't Spice Spice. Okay, great. That's all we need to say. Where that spice come from the barrel. Okay, great. That's the important point. And that's what I mean. If you're doing this at home or when you do this at home, it's really important to have that moment you have tow. Isolate the piece. We understand. What does wood contribute and where It's really obvious what it contributes. In the case of the California Chardonnay, it's a little bit more subtle here in the mirror. So So that's why I really want to do that exercise. And when you do that, does everyone find that spice? You work with me and don't don't say yes. If you didn't find it, you got to find it when you find it, then you own it, then that's what would taste like. That's what would does. And you put that in your pocket and it's there. It's yours forever. That's a big part of your context when you understand what would actually tastes like that's huge through and feeling that. Okay, great. So we don't need the middle glass any longer, other than for reference if you want to come back to it. But what I want to dio is due Glass A and C and work through the method again, right? So when you use the method, we're gonna build your context. We're gonna understand if we if we say that these have both seen would. And we'll talk about how, in a second you know what? How do we understand the world of wine by virtue of tasting. So pick them both up and keep them straight, and then look at him on the weight background again and tell me about the color is one more deeply colored than the other. Okay, so which one is more deeply colored? A and A is the California Chardonnay? Exactly. And so what does that tell us? Think back to our last segment. It talks a warmer climate, okay. And so that makes sense. So the Napa Valley tends to be a very warm place, or California does, and then glass see, which is the more so just from Burgundy has less color. So you might surmise what? It's a cooler climate, and in fact, it is quite cool. I was there last week, and it's downright cold right now, so that's pretty cool, right? So just from looking at it, you've learned something about the place you feeling that See how this these little clues attached to actually, you know why the wine is what it is and what the place is about. Okay, great. So the next thing we're gonna look at is the brightness. Is there anything to be learned here? Any observations you wanna make sees brighter. Okay. Thank. See his brighter ones. Brighter. Pardon me. Catches the light more. Which one does? I'm sorry, C c. Okay, great. So it sees. Perhaps a little bit brighter. That's fine. Which is which is the mayor? So then let's talk about sediment. Is either one have sediment? Great. We blow right by that. Um, we'll talk more about that in reds. Tomorrow is either one bubbling. Neither champagne. That's important. And then the viscosity. So let's let's do the Lewis, um, California Chardonnay again. Napa Chardonnay. Just like we didn't last episode and get it going. Let's talk about that viscosity. How slow those tears fall. It's slow, isn't it? Okay, so we've decided that this equals what viscosity, medium plus media plus viscosity, which corresponds to an elevated alcohol level right? Which again come back to color also speaks to a warmer place, right? so more alcohol, More color, warmer climate valley. So let's do the viscosity on the mayor. So to get that going again, and how quickly does that fall relative to the last one? And how thick or those tears? It's faster? Exactly. Okay, So if they fall faster, it's How does that relate to viscosity? Lower viscosity? Exactly. Faster they fall, the lower the viscosity. And so we would then surmise it, as Laura Viscosity has, what, lower something else? Lower alcohol? Exactly. That has lower alcohol. You had less sugar in less rightness. Exactly, because it's from a what kind of climate. Cool, cooler climate Isn't that cool? That's pretty. That's pretty cool. I think that's pretty amazing. You can just look at that and say, Okay, I know, because when you're done with this, you have this pocket full of context. I know based on my context that even without the things next to it, when I pick this up and I look at it and it doesn't have a lot of color and it does have medium viscosity, this is probably from a cooler climate, so already you can begin to tap in and understand what this place is all about just from looking at it. Any questions on the visual? A comfy with it? Okay, great. Let's keep going with. Smell them both. So let's start with the Lewis and enlist the California Chardonnay again. Enlist what we smell. Terms of fruit, peaches, pear, peaches, pears, dress, Citrus. What kind of Citrus Orange? Okay, rage. Any other fruits you want to add to the list Grapefruit at all? Sure, Absolutely. If anything you smell is actually there, it's true. There is. They're the only right answer. Is the one that relates to you. Really? It's true. Yeah, it's really important just to just to talk. I mean, when we related to our lives, it becomes meaningful to our lives because meaning to our lives, it enriches our life. And that's the whole point, isn't it? I think it is. So there's grapefruit. What color is the grapefruit? But think about it. The last time you had a ruby red grapefruit versus, like that gross white grapefruit. Not that I have an opinion about these things, really read it is right, right? So which one's more ripe? The red one? Yeah, and that's what's happening here. Isn't it. It's cool. Okay, great. So now let's go. Them yourself. What do you smell here? Just in the way of fruit. Apple. Raspberry. I love that apple. What color is the apple green? I couldn't agree more. Right? And green apples, horses, red apples. That's a big difference, right? I'm gonna add lemon lime lemon line. Great. Okay, so have lemon lime raspberry, which I love. I think that's really cool that you actually can smell red fruits in white wine. It's it's really interesting thing that happens. I love it. So let's describe the fruits on the Lewis you would say just related back to this, where there's more exotic or more subtle on the California Chardonnay. Not that when we just smelled the one before, more exotic right, more ripe. Right? So here. And the one we just smell the mere So we just got done. Smelling is where is more subtle. Exactly. So you're heading this direction, right? Sorry. It's during toe. Make sense. We all feel good about that. Okay, Great. So now let's smell for Earth. Back to the Lewis. Anything earthy? No, it's it's pretty. It's got a lot of fruit in a lot of wood. And here's where it gets tough. So back to the missing Lori there. So anything earthy e. I think it's definitely earth here. Yeah, so that's the first thing to do is, say, and a really good way, like just diligence on your part is a taster because again, this is This is the stickiest piece for people is like I don't know what I smell like. The first thing is, Is there more than just fruit and oak? Okay. And if it's floor OK, that's fine. Just keep going. Is there more? Is there more? And if you find something more maybe that you said like I know I like it. I don't know how to name it yet, but you do like it. Maybe that's earthy thing. There is something there, and you've said, Yeah, it smells earthy, so that's great. So you could say over the first step is yes, it's earthy in the second step is what is the earth smelling? What's the tertiary element here? I think I don't like wet rocks. Wet rocks. Exactly. Beachy beachy. Okay, I agree with that. Totally. Yeah, it's kind of like a limestone or oceanic or seashells. I totally get that. How about for yourself in the rock part? Okay. Any other earthy things you want to add? Everyone. Sand in some sand. Okay, cool. But it definitely has an earthy quality to it. That's neat. And so, if you remember from the last lesson we talked about, there's a synergy generally speaking between the grape in the place. So she in this case, chardonnay in Burgundy, where chardonnays from where it does best arguably, and because it has that affinity for the place, it's able to express the place. And that's why we get this this earthy thing, right? That's pretty cool, isn't it? All right, I think that's pretty amazing. Okay, so if you didn't know what these were and you were working with the two of them in the case of the Napa Chardonnay, the okay, it's got a lot of fruit. It's got a little what a lot of wood Richmond talk about, but there's no Earthsea would begin to surmise that its new world or old world, a new world, and in this case, it has more subtle fruits, and it does have earth. So you're gonna begin to surmise it's from. You're the old rule of the old world, says Pretty interesting, isn't it? Is starting to make sense. You feel it. Okay, great. So let's talk about would back to the Lewis. We're always gonna go in this order a c A c. Have you even know heavy vanilla? I agree. Lots of and lots of toast. Yeah. You guys get the toast thing? Not really. So let's talk about butter, too. But, like, just think about here. Okay, let's talk about smoke also. So for me, the toast is actually like the toasting of it where you're taking something. It's almost caramelization of it. It becomes toasty. If it's smoky, that's enough. That's another flavour. But these are the actual chips that do have a smoky quality because you char the barrel. It's not just raw oak. When they build the barrel, they charge the inside of it, and sometimes they do so more heavily than others. But that does contribute that smoky flavor, right? It's pretty interesting. Also a warm smell because the toasters kind of I kind of want yeah, yeah, but it is. It does have that one. It speaks us that we tend to when we smell things we don't. We tend to extrapolate beyond the actual smell. Like you said in the last lesson, it's no sweet what we can't per we can't actually feel whether it's sweeter, dry based on smell that you smell something that would then we extrapolated is going to be sweetie. Reminds us something that we've had, which is sweet. That's pretty interesting. So year you're taking it to that place of one. I can smell toast. And I know what toast is warm. Yes. Yeah. Okay, so not everybody puts butter on their toast. But you said you smell something. Butter, is that correct? Yeah. When I think of the toast smell like buttery or kind of creamy. Okay. And you smell that on this California shortening? I think I dio I definitely didn't butter popcorn. Exactly. Okay, cool. So that's a really great point. And it's very much worth noting. Do you smell it on the other one? No. No. Okay, great. So that come. That's actually called diacetyl. And that's that's the compound that actually is often used in fake butter flavoring on popcorn and may remind you of the toast. And it happens There's a secondary fermentation that happens, um, in certain wines, and it's you elect to do it or not. And it's a malolactic fermentation, so malolactic and you turning the acid like malic acid that you'd find in a green apple into lactic acid like you get in milk. And when that secondary fermentation happens after alcoholic fermentation, it produces diacetyl. It's a by product, and it smells like the butter popcorn, and that's what you get it there, right? And so when you smell that, that tends to happen in certain places that smell the levels of Dasa till where you get your actually perceiving that buttery smell that happens in certain places more than than in others, even though the conversion still happens, you know if it happens in Burgundy, for example, it's not as strong as it happens when you're in California, which is pretty cool. So there's a great nuggets say, Oh my God, smells like butter smells butter popcorn. Therefore, it's the malolactic fermentation, that conversion that makes the diacetyl so therefore, it's a big piece of what happens with California Chardonnay is not cool. And what if you don't like the diacetyl? Don't drink the chardonnay. It's simple, right? Okay, so, feeling good about this and sense of place, right? Okay, cool. So let's talk about We've got lots of O on Lewis. Let's see if we find it on the Mason Laurey. Marcel Social There is out right way Discussed this a second ago. We compared to this, so we know it's there. What is it smell like Cinnamon. Exactly. Is it as forward as it was in the California Charny? It's not, It's not. It's much more subtle, but it is there, and that's the key. So the first step again, just like the Earth is like, is that there isn't it? Well, it is there. But then, like how big is it like, how egregious is it? And we're here. It's screaming here. It's whispering. And so I know that this is done mostly in brand new oak barrels and a note. Baril don't barrel only has so much to say when it's brand new. It it has the most to say. At that point, the 1st 1 you put in there is going to extract the most from the barrel, and all those flavors are the volume's turned all the way up. I know that this is put into a barrel. Um, so it does, of course, take on the slavers. But that there has already been used once. So there was wine in the barrel. The wine came out and then they use it again for this. And so a lot of those those really primary big flavors have been taken out already. And so it becomes. It becomes much more subtle as I think you're seeing, and that brings up a really important point. It's like, Why would you to choose to do that? Any ideas to use a new barreling me like, Why did you choose to wear that scarf today, Right? It's It's not what you wear, it's how you wear it, right? And so if yeah, totally, I think that, you know, if we put this wine in a less a less forward barrel barrel that has already been used, the fruit would maybe feel that ungainly. But because it's so big, it can wear the barrel really, really well and in this case where everything's very subtle and we talked about it, you said, I don't really know what's there just No, I like it and its earthy. But it's not screaming. You know all those little settled things. If we put that in a new barrel, it would all be covered up. Anyway. Tasting takes nothing but the oak. And then what's the point? Right? If you lose that sense of place via the winemaking, then you know, then we can just drink margaritas. You know, there's no point. Yes, no out over time. So as the wine ages in the bottle, does that Does that change The taste of the wood? Does this time change the taste of the wood? Correct. It does. Um, it doesn't like, go away. But because the whole wines changing, you know, where is it differently, Right. So today, where the fresh fruits interact with the wood in a certain fashion, you know, in five years the you know, the hazel and the honey and the secondary Romans that happen only via patina, they'll interact with the wooden different way as well. Even those in the bottle. It's exactly well, sure, but it's in the bottle. But remember, this is a piece of tree bark, and so there is an exchange of oxygen that happens, and that's where that patina happens, right? Makes sense. Yeah, yes. What if you don't taste any oak at all? Does that mean that it's a different kind of barrel or its means? Great question. It means that it was either, um, made in very, very old wood. So nobody makes okey Riesling, for example. Well, taste some reason in the next segment, but frequently reasoning is Asian wood. But those barrels air 50 years old or seven years old, and that and they probably totally coated with tar. Terek acid is precipitated out of the wine, so they're like glass, and they have. They have almost nothing to say in terms of an oak flavor, but it just it's a place where there's a little oxygen exchange and very, very little. So in the case of very, very old wood that has nothing to say or if it was, eight are made and aged in cement or, as is more common, stainless steel. It's also gonna have nothing to say. Cement may, but but you're talking about basically in nerve vessels, vessels that aren't going to contribute any flavor, and then you're like, OK, so, for example, if you come back to this guy, he's and sauvignon Blanc. This is made in stainless steel, which doesnt flavor it at all. And therefore, we don't taste any of the things we do taste here. Cool. Right? So we feel good about the levels of oak and why you would choose one thing versus another. Makes sense, doesn't it? Okay, cool. Anything else we smell? I want I want a few few pieces from both from all of you. I have 1/4 floor. It's a little more terroir on the burgundy. OK, cool. I'm good with that. So forest floor. Which means you're right, you're on a hike and it's the fallen leaves and stamp dampness. Exactly. That's pretty neat, right? So, again, it gets back to a sense of place. What else do you smell? But this one is tough for me because I don't smell a lot. It z very noses. I can barely smell much. Okay. My knows it's pretty strong to know it's subtle. It's definitely settle, especially relative to the other one. When we when you juxtapose things right, you know the bright lights. Come on. Right. So yeah, this feels really subtle. If we serve it to on its own, You might be like Oh, wow. Okay. I really get it. I still think there's some pair in this one. Okay, great. I'm totally good with that. Spicing us to it. My God. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Kind of. Yeah. And that again comes from the wood. Yeah, yeah, but it's not as much as it's the capital. Yeah, I like your whisper. That's my new favorite wine. Words still whisper. Is that cool? Not use whatever words you want. I'm still in it. It's all yours. It's all yours. It's yours forever. What else do you smell in either wine and use anything personal like, um, I'm not. Maybe to You don't have to reveal your personal life. Yes, but no. I mean, this one does remind me of, um, flowers a little bit like I used to go to a rose park. And so, um, it wasn't really strong smelling the roses unless you got close. But there was just, like, this kind of more subtle, like you knew you were in a flowery area. Yeah. I love that. I'm with you. Totally. I go sticking my nose into all kinds of things and including roast, but I know that it is sort of a subtle quiet. It's almost peaceful feeling. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's neat. What else do you smell? And then three personal, by the way, which is great. And it's exactly way to approach it, and it's kind of fun, right? So now you're back in the Rose Garden. That's need please for the California. Probably a little extra like sawn wood. This thing freshly sawed? Yeah, freshly, son, would I totally agree with that yet? The neck. Cool. I remember that until you said, but it definitely I need a list. I need a list of things to pick every time he says something like, Yes, that's also But then just keep it. Put it right in your pocket. Like now he's building your context and vice versa. Yeah, I got the butter. Popcorn now is like a light bulb. It smell like I think what you said in the California. Yeah, definitely. Yeah, It's definitely tropical fruited. It's warm here, right? Yeah, like if you have a context to go to, Like with the buttered popcorn. I mean, that's how I like I always smiling now because I I see myself have a at a theater when that when they're pumping it on their Aiken? Totally. But on the day I didn't see Olsztyn, yeah, did I could pick that up? That's pretty cool. That's awesome. And you last thing. So in this one, a smell like raspberries and strawberries going weird. It's not weird at all. That's great. No, I think it's great and speaks to really the rightness of the wine. Yeah, like when you get that I frequently in reasoning, which will taste in next segment do find red fruit flavors where the fruits are just really exaggerated. There's a lot of it, So, yeah, I think that makes great sense. Yeah, And hear more Citrus like like lemons. More lemons? Yep. So less ripe. Yeah. Okay. So again, we're starting toe. You know that The whole thing here is that as we keep smelling, we keep gathering evidence that it continues to corroborate our previous our previous observations. So when we just looked at the two wines, we thought, Ok, the mayor, so looks like it has less alcohol. Unlikely comes from a cooler place. The Napa Chardonnay looks like it comes from a warmer place and has more alcohol in here now, now that we've smelled them or observations say the exact same things, right? Says that the Napa Chardonnay has more exotic fruits, Right? You're starting to head this direction. Um, and it's probably due to coming from a warmer place. Where is the mayor? So, as you just pointed out, is lemons a little bit less and less ripe and more subtle? Thank you. Said pair. Also so more subtle fruits. And you're starting to head this direction, right? I had a couple votes on this one particular question. Does the deter Geant you use when washing up the glasses haven't impact on the tears? Kind of like what we were going through. Yeah. I can definitely have an impact on it. Like the whole cascade. No streaking thing. I have no idea what they put in that stuff to make it not streak. But then you're like drinking it too, which, you know, um I mean, we're using nice one glasses. I use these at home. These are actually Salto. There's no nicer wine glass. This is like helium. Do you like them? Yeah, they're pretty nice. Um, we have two rules in the house. One, um And that goes for anybody who comes over is that you never wash him the same night that you drink out of him because, you know, you will feel like we can do it, But you really ought not do it because you're gonna break them. Um, but to I just use just like a regular just soap and sponge so or even just water try to use this Little is possible because it definitely will flavor it.

Class Description

Do you cower when presented with the wine list? Feel at a loss while walking the wine aisle? You are not alone! Many of us struggle to differentiate between the subtleties of the world’s oldest beverage. But wine is not destined to be difficult! Join Master Sommelier Richard Betts for a fun and informative guide to buying, tasting, and enjoying wine.

Become a Great Wine Taster is your guide to wine varietals, trends, and tastes. You’ll learn Richard’s “wine is a grocery, not a luxury” approach to wine while exploring the differences between regions and the history behind them. Richard will teach a simple method for looking at, smelling, and tasting each wine so you understand the nuances and the provenance of the drink in your glass. You’ll study the important factors and features of winemaking by exploring ideas through related varietals. Richard will discuss:

  • Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – the impact of climate and oak
  • Riesling, Viognier, Gewurztraminer and Zinfandel – balance, sweetness, and alcohol content
  • Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio, Gruner Veltliner, and Chenin Blanc – important grapes, small subtleties
  • Cabernet Sauvignon and it’s subjects – regional expression of the ubiquitous reds
  • Pinot Noir – temperamental grapes and growing in France, California, Oregon and Australia
  • Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo – wine production in Italy and Spain
  • Syrah/Shiraz, Grenache and friends – blends and winemaker’s intent

You’ll also learn about the unique ways we modify wine, like making it sparkle, heating it, turning it into Port, and so much more! This class will help you get more comfortable with wine, remove much of it’s mystery, and show you how to integrate it into your everyday life.

Pair your appreciation for wine with knowledge in this accessible and educational class. Join Richard for Become a Great Wine Taster and never fumble over wine selection again.


a Creativelive Student

This course was amazing. As someone who felt really intimidated by wine before, I finished the course feeling a lot more confident and excited to try out my new wine knowledge. Great instructor with great content. Would definitely recommend!


Good course, needs to identify wines to set up tasting. It was fun to do with friends. Perfect to watch in the segments.


Fabulous! I've passed the Introductory Exam for the Court of Master Sommeliers, but, never ginned up (pun intended) the deductive tasting. This did it. There are several of us who purchased this course and are doing out best to re-create the tastings and memorize the map. Thanks so much for the class and for Richard Betts.