Attending an MW Education Seminar is hard work. Most of the students wouldn’t have sat for 10 hours a day in a classroom for some time and the stress of five days packed with formal blind wine tastings, intense theory sessions and lectures from renowned experts (Jean Guillaume Prats and Professor Dr Monika Christmann this year) tests even the strongest mettle. Add in the vibrant after hours programme and only those with stamina succeed.
The European Stage One students look forward all week to the final day, a chance to escape the classroom and travel to Vienna’s Palais Coburg. The Palais hosts a tutored tasting and this year it was titled “The Great Whites from Austria”. We enjoyed wines from Weinguts Pfaff, Wieninger, Brundelmayer and Domaine Wachau, both current vintage and aged release.
A robust discussion on what makes for greatness followed. Are there criteria that must be met before a wine can be considered great? One of the widely accepted yardsticks seemed to be an ability to age. So after the formal tasting was finished, the students tasted two wines blind, chosen and poured by Head Sommelier Wolfgang Kneidinger. Both were from double magnums and both had been cellared impeccably. A very generous contribution from the Palais.
An opportunity to taste well cellared wines is one to be savoured. 1981 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was very slightly minty, still with a little fresh blackcurrant and plum, but also showing plenty of aged tobacco and cedar notes too. The 1985 Brunello di Montalcino Lisini was sweetly fruited with black tea, rose petal and tobacco and some prune and fig too but definitely faded.
But though the wines were interesting I couldn’t help but think they would have been more enjoyable if drunk earlier. Just because you are able to cellar wine, should you? For how long? Perhaps the answer to what constitutes greatness remains subjective. Some of us look for sense of place, others a wine crafted to develop in bottle. Is there a universal set of values?