Master of Wine – Warm Up Tasting

Reviewed: 1st July 2013

I had the opportunity to attend a Master of Wine (MW) exam practice tasting recently.  Brendan Jansen, who is an occasional contributor to these pages, recently sat his second part tasting exams and wanted to do a quick palate check before flying out.  Brendan put together a smart tasting to help him focus his thinking.

The MW qualification is uniquely challenging.  There are less than 300 people alive world-wide who have passed the examination process.  Brendan argues that becoming a doctor was much less challenging than the MW process!

As an observer, one of the biggest hurdles appears to be the financial aspect.  Candidates need to taste very widely. Indeed, they need to be experts in all the great wine regions around the world.  The cost of tasting the great wines appears very prohibitive to me.  Candidates also need to cover all the other major regions, including those that are not known for quality wine.  (This is also a big hurdle for me :).

With the current tasting, Brendan asked a series of questions.  With the Chablis for example, the aim was to examine the characteristics of each wine to establish the features that a 1er Cru wine possesses that separates it from a Village wine etc.


Sylvain Mosnier – Chardonnay – Chablis – 2010 (17+).  Attractive, lemony fruit on the nose.  The palate is quite lean, but really builds in the mouth.  Textured, but more perhaps from lees stirring rather than new oak.  The wine has good attack and mouth-feel, the minerals a gentle kiss on the finish.  Excellent value current drinking.

Sylvain Mosnier – Chardonnay – Petit Chablis 2011 (16.6).  Closed, cold, but with potential evident on the palate.  Lean, but also linear, with little in the way of winemaking influences.  The palate is quite good.  While there is not much in the way of fruit density, there is a slipperiness to the fruit and good acid to close.

Sylvain Mosnier – Chardonnay – Chablis – 1er Cru – Beauroy – 2010 (17.8/18).  The most powerful of the three and a wine of real presence.  The nose has perfume and even honeysuckle aromas.  This has more richness and density to the fruit, while the winemaking influences are more pronounced.  There is a nice nutty character to the palate as well as the typical minerality and a hint of curry leaf.  The finish is dense and textured, with an almost chewy mouth-feel.  The oak is present, but not overt.  A very enjoyable wine that will take 3 – 5 years to really fill out.

Marcel Martin – Sauvignon Blanc – Touraine – 2009 (17).  Aromatics are gentle on the nose, but more pronounced on the palate.  Very French in style, the richness of the fruit is balanced by tangy freshness.  The palate has honeyed minerality, is nicely developed and the finish is round and quite rich.  Long, the acid really carries the fruit weight through to the finish.  Drying, this leaves me wanting another sip.

Baland-Chapuis – Sauvignon Blanc – Sancerre – Le Chatillet – 2011 (17.7).  Very drying wine that is more about texture and mouth-feel than overt fruit.  This builds in the mouth and is a wine of some depth and power.  Whilst very drying, the finish is balanced and persistent.  Ideally suited to food now, a few years will see this come into its own.  A lovely wine.

Chapoutier – Marsanne – Hermtiage – Chante Alouette – 2007 (17.5).  Nice aromatics here, with pineapple, almond, apricot and cinnamon.  Textural finish that, whilst not overly long, is very persistent.  There is a touch of smoky bacon to close. Interesting wine that has supple fragrant fruit, though the texture really is the key here.

Philippe Gimel – Grenache/Shiraz – Saint Jean Du Barroux – 2007 (18.3).  Lovely perfumed nose of roses and spice.  The palate is sweet and ripe, with a seam of tar and rosewater on the mid palate.  The texture on the finish is a highlight.  Very long, the dusty tannins caress rather than dominate adding depth and texture to the very long palate.  A superb wine now, or in 5 – 10 years.

Norton – Malbec – Privada – 2007 (18).  Amazing colour that is very deep, yet brilliant red.  Dense, impenetrable nose.  The palate is redolent of coffee, chocolate and ripe fruit.  The finish is powerful, viscous, textured and chewy, showing licorice and vanilla oak to close.

Alamos – Malbec – 2011 (17.5).  Elegant, tight and  restrained.  The nose on this displays quality blackcurrant fruit, mint and pencil shavings oak.  The palate shows quite tight, sweet fruit and oak.  The fruit is rich and dense, the palate showing superb mouth-feel and presence, though in a more forward style.

Chateau Dufort-Vivens – Cabernet Blend – Margeaux – 2nd Growth – 2009 (17.7/18.2).  The balance is the key to this wine.  There is quality fruit on the nose, with hints of dried herbs adding complexity.  Bay leaf and spice come forward on the palate and the length and texture are excellent.  Classic Bordeaux that needs time to build.

Buller – Muscat (Petit Grains) – Fine Muscat – NV (17.5).  Lovely amber hue that still has life to it.  The nose is very intense, with Christmas cake / plum pudding aromas.  The palate is intense and deep, yet in no way cloying.  Incredible length and persistence with enough acidity to balance the fruit.  I defy anyone not to like this wine.  At $10 from Dan Murphy etc., this is a steal!

Cockburn’s – Late Bottle Vintaged Port – 2006 (17.8).  Incredibly dense colour.  The nose is deep, rich and powerful.  Whilst an LBV, I am sure that this will still age for some time.  There are bright red fruits and a wonderful, spicy texture.  Long and near seamless, this is a lovely wine.  Intense fruit on both the nose and the palate.  The finish is almost chewy, yet silky.