I recently found out that my first WSET Diploma Unit classes won’t be starting until May, 2018. This is totally fine, as it gives me plenty of time to prep . . . but maybe too much time. I can’t see immersing myself solely in all things viti and vini for six months.

I’ve decided I need something else to occupy my brain during this time as well – so I’m going to register for the Italian Wine Scholar certification thru the Wine Scholar Guild.

Italian wine scholar

I’m definitely not as confident about Italian wines as I am about French. I don’t drink a lot of Italian wines and when we visited the country in 2010, I was just beginning to have an interest in wine beyond California and Washington. If I’m going to successful in the WSET Diploma, I need to have a better grasp on Italian wine regions, the DOC/DOCG system, and all those obscure grapes that you don’t see much of outside of Italy!

So, I’ll likely be putting together several outlines in the upcoming months that are Italy-centric. I’m also going to try and teach an “Intro to Italy” class at my store sometime early next year . . . because I learn something best if I’m actually having to TEACH it to someone else. 🙂

I wouldn’t call Soave (or the grape it’s made from – Garganega) “obscure”, but it’s definitely not found much (if at all!) outside of Italy.  I’ve had some good Soave, but have yet to drink one that rocks my world.  Here’s the outline on Soave.

Viticulture: Crossings

My best friend sometimes calls me Tracy Flick. Coming from her, it’s meant as a term of endearment (I hope) due to my “go getter” attitude when it comes to wine studies. But anyone who has seen the movie Election knows that Tracy Flick was not a very likable gal – she had an annoying and incessant ambition that rubbed people the wrong way.

Tracy Flick
Me in my WSET class?  Let’s hope not. :-/

While her persistence (nevertheless) 😉 got her ultimately where she wanted to be, Tracy’s know-it-all attitude and hyper-preparedness bugged the crap out of almost everyone along the way.

Admittedly, I can see a hint of Tracy Flick-ness in me. Case in point: I’m registering for the WSET Diploma next year. I’m just waiting for the schedule to come out at the Neptune School of Wine and then I’ll decide if I want to head down there for classes, or do the first units online. In the meantime though, I’ve already started in on the “recommended reading” from the school’s website.

Right now, I can FEEL your eyes rolling at me.  And I totally get it.

Am I prematurely popping the cork on this? Perhaps. But I’ve never taken a viticulture class, so a lot of this material is relatively new for me. By doing advanced reading (and outlining, of course!) I’m hoping all this information will sink in my brain better.  Then, when it comes time for the actual Diploma classes, I won’t be cramming all this in because a lot of it will already BE there. 🙂

One of the first topics tackled in the textbook (Viticulture by Stephen Skelton) is vine crossings. Something that intrigues me, and baffles me (the latter usually is the case with anything remotely science related). Recently in the wine community, there seems to be a renewed interest in exploring vine crossings (also called vine breeding) due to climate change and an increased focus on organic and biodynamic farming methods.  The primary goal of most vine crossings is to produce vines that are disease resistant, can be grown with little to no chemical intervention, and that are capable of thriving in more marginal climates.

But just because we CAN create new varieties with these traits – should we? I have such limited exposure to crossings (although I have yet to meet a Zweigelt I didn’t like!), that I’m not going to opine on this.  Very un-Tracy Flick like, I know.

However, I did find this piece on Jancis Robinson’s website quite interesting . . . it was written by an MW after sampling several wines produced from newer vine crossings:

“But my real conclusion was that I didn’t really want to drink any of them that much, whatever level of scientific knowledge and endeavour had gone into the breeding of them. Maybe I should be more concerned about the environment and less hedonic but it seems like an awful lot of work to produce not very exciting wines. If a site is not suited to the production of existing varieties with high quality potential – because of climate restrictions or disease pressure or both – perhaps it is better not to try to grow wine grapes there? They may make it possible to produce wine, or different styles of wine, in marginal climates, but that doesn’t seem sufficient reason to go to all that effort to produce wines that are drinkable but not exciting.”

I think it will be interesting to follow the development of vine crossings and hybrids and see whether they gain acceptance in an ever-changing wine world.  I’d be more on board with giving these a chance since they have valid and compelling reasons for their creation as compared to something utterly ridiculous like, say, blue wine.  Now I’M rolling my eyes.

Here’s the outline on Crossings for a little more information.