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Lifting the Lid on Fermentation – Lallemand seminar

The technical nature of this seminar made it an incredibly useful event for both MW Theory students and MWs who want to keep their scientific understanding of winemaking up-to-date. The highly-qualified line up of speakers included Ann Dumont, Dr Anne Ortiz-Julien and Anthony Silvano from Institute Supporters Lallemand as well as Masters of Wine, Sam Harrop MW and Dirceu Vianna Junior MW. The seminar started with an overview of the role of different yeast strains in the process of fermentation and continued with a preview of how Lallemand’s yeasts can help to tackle different winemaking challenges, such as reducing VA production in high sugar musts. Topical issues such as whether commercial yeasts lead to standardisation and whether indigenous yeasts contribute to terroir were also discussed.

Sam Harrop MW gave a thought-provoking presentation about his philosophy regarding winemaking and the choices that he has made when producing his own wines so that they best show a sense of place. If those attending the seminar weren’t already convinced of the importance of yeast, the tasting that followed left us in no doubt. Three samples of Sauvignon Blanc were presented, each fermented using a yeast strain that enhanced a different thiol (all other winemaking processes identical). The three wines were notably different in style, showing aromas from boxtree to passion fruit. Perhaps more incredible was the influence of different yeasts on two samples of Merlot (all other winemaking processes identical). One sample was a little hot and jammy whilst the other, fermented with the new IONYSwf yeast (which naturally increases acid levels and reduces alcohol levels), was more fresh, vibrant and better balanced. The strain of yeast to be introduced may be just one of many choices a winemaker needs to consider ahead of fermentation but, as this seminar showed, it is definitely not one that should be taken lightly.

Victoria Burt MW

Dried Grapes Seminar: Amarone and Beyond

On the evening of 8 March 2017 MWs and students assembled for the first seminar in the new IMW headquarters.

The room was packed with standing room only for the helpers! We were honoured to have two specialist speakers on the panel, Andrea Cin from Masi and Mark Shannon from A Mano.

The seminar ‘Amarone and Beyond’ was a technical presentation and tasting covering factors which influence the appassimento technique, and an understanding of the kinetics of appassimento. It was fascinating to learn and understand how not only grape variety, but also the architecture of the canopy, viticultural operations and fertilisation have a key role to play. The characteristics of each specific grape variety were also explained. Andrea explained the detailed Masi research that has been performed over many years. Different grape varieties have been laid out in a controlled situation to study the kinetics of weight loss. He explained that the speed of appassimento was critical in determining the suitability of grapes for appassimento.

Andrea also shared Masi’s research on the ‘supports’ for appassimento including the impact of bamboo, plastic, wood and other supports. Climatic conditions and relative humidity were also discussed. In conclusion appassimento means, above all, studying the physical laws and biochemistry behind it!! We were privileged to have had an insight into years of study! Andrea then went on to explain why Masi had chosen both Friuli with Refosco and Argentina with Corvina to produce appassimento style wines.

The tasting commenced with the fresh wines of Amarone and these were compared to the same varieties appassimento. Blends of both fresh and dried grapes were sampled along with finished wines with differing levels of appasimento. Additionally we tasted Refosco and Corbec (a blend of Corvina and Malbec) produced in Argentina.

Mark then stepped into the forum to explain why he uses appassimento in Puglia, and gave a detailed analysis on the glycerol and volatile acidity levels with fresh versus dried grapes.

The seminar ended too quickly and I think many of us would have stayed for further questions and explanations!

Thank you to our speakers, Events Officer Chloe Thompson and the IMW team.

Annette Scarfe MW

Odney practical only seminar

Twenty-seven candidates travelled to the European Student Seminar held at the Odney Club, Cookham, to attend the Practical Only course.

As ever, intensive tasting remained at the core of the course but 2017 saw two new elements added to the timetable. The course was extended by one day, to match Seminars in other geographies and to improve the candidates’ experience with even more opportunity to practice tasting. Day one began with two quick-fire tastings of three wines each, rather than a 12 wine paper, giving everyone a chance to find their feet in order to hit the ground running with a full paper the next morning.

The second change was the introduction of optional ‘walkabout’ tastings on three afternoons. Candidates were given the opportunity to attend a large scale blind tasting, a significant tasting of English wines – supported by English Wine Producers and Henry Laithwaite – and a horizontal of some 30+ Napa Valley Cabernets from 2012. It was explained that these were optional sessions in response to candidate feedback that there was insufficient ‘down time’ during which to catch up on work, go to the gym and so forth. I am pleased to report that the Practical Only group responded positively to the suggestion that they might maximise the opportunity to taste as much as possible and that no one had ever passed the MW by going for a run!

Blind and tutored tastings formed the bulk of the schedule. We welcomed Demetri Walters MW to present a selection of sweet wines, Anne Krebiehl MW to lead a tasting of German Pinot Noir and Lenka Sedlackova MW to tutor a tasting of Cava.

One-to-one feedback is amongst the most important aspects of the course. On the Sunday, each candidate received 15 minutes with an MW who had marked their answers on two wines from that morning’s Paper 1 tasting. After the mock exam, each paper was marked in full and feedback was given on the same day during a 30 minute session with an MW. This necessitated a huge amount of work from the marking team and we are enormously grateful to the MWs who worked so hard and gave so freely of their time. Feedback from candidates is very clear about the value they place on receiving feedback so quickly and in so much detail.

In addition to an already busy timetable, candidates had sessions with Philip Tuck MW, giving an examiner’s perspective on tasting. Guest speakers Sarah Midgley and Tony Milanowski, from Plumpton College, gave a presentation on sensory analysis. Sheri Sauter Morano MW travelled from the US to speak about the RP. Matthew Hemming MW led a workshop on dry tasting notes.

The Practical Only Seminar at Odney was an ambitiously intense five days. Annette Scarfe MW achieved an enormous amount in terms of marshalling a team of MWs, securing sponsorship and donations of wine and masterminding the jigsaw pieces of three concurrent courses. The smooth running of the programme was ensured by hard work and long hours put in by Marianne, Robyn, Olly and Penny – huge thanks to all.

Matthew Hemming MW

Odney theory only seminar

Running concurrently with the Odney full programme and the Practical Only courses, the Theory Only course was attended by ten candidates. The focus of the week was essay writing and exam technique and in this the candidates were aided by presentations from Natasha Hughes MW, Laura Jewell MW and Neil Tully MW.

Performance Psychologist, Andy Barton, offered valuable insights into effective study and exam routine. Sheri Sauter Morano MW reminded the candidates of the importance of preparing for the Research Project.

To assist candidates with Paper 3 an away-day to Kingsland Drinks in Manchester was organised allowing candidates to strengthen their knowledge of bulk shipping, packaging and quality management.

Robin Langton, a single paper resit candidate with a winemaking background, ran a winemaking Q&A session for the group while Robert Joseph offered his iconoclastic views on the world of wine. Robin and Robert joined us for the, now-traditional, ‘Over-the-Wall’ BYO Dinner which was enjoyed at The Hinds Head at Bray.

James Davis MW and Christopher Carson jointly presented on trends in the Multiple Grocery sector of the UK market.

Bringing candidates to one centre for the Theory Only Seminar again proved its value with candidates from diverse geographies and professional backgrounds sharing knowledge and experience.

Thanks to Marianne, Robyn, Olly and Penny from the IMW Executive Team for supporting the delivery of this programme.

Phil Reedman MW