Wine should be enjoyed. It should lift the soul, inspire creativity, and create friendships. It should be fun. We created Syndicate Wine Bar so that your next wine experience could be all of those things, and more!

We take fun seriously, and never do things halfway. I have a decade of self-taught and on-the-job wine knowledge, but to ensure your time at Syndicate is the best it can be, I’ve enrolled to earn official Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Certifications.

The WSET program trains wine professionals to objectively approach a wine, analyze and describe its characteristics, and rate it based on those qualities.

My first session was this week, and covered much information I’d already learned. I was surprised at the diversity of class attendees: Bartenders, wine sommeliers, winery tasting room managers, winery tour guides, and even a chocolate shop owner!

We evaluated three different white wines, all blind tasted, and then proceeded to do the same with three red wines. For fun, we took turns trying to identify the grape varietal, region in which it was grown, and speak about its qualities without the benefit of the bottle label. This simple process was incredibly potent and valuable. That’s the point of the class, but it was such an eye opener, I felt I should touch on that detail.

One thing noted is that each person smells and tastes differently. This is something Angela and I identified a while back — she prefers higher acid Pinots from Dundee Hills, while I prefer earthier Pinots from Chehalem Mountains — and it was just as surprising to see it play out with my classmates.

Some of us felt a particular wine was more acidic than others. Some noted sweetness that others did not. Some could pick out herbal and floral aromas, while others tasted spice and could identify specific woody qualities in some of the red. By the end of the exercise, it became clear how difficult it can be, to be objective when relying upon one’s own senses.

In the rating of wines, we kept to the qualities of the wine: Dry to Sweet; Flat to Acidic; Neutral to Tannic; Aromas and Flavors; and finally, evaluating the balance of these qualities. It is true that each varietal and style of wine naturally shows those qualities differently from the other. For example, a Barolo is more acidic and tannic than a Sangiovese, and should be rated in part in terms of how a Barolo should present. And yet, the ultimate measure of a wine is whether it tastes good to the person drinking it.

This is precisely why an education program like WSET is important for wine professionals. Stripping away the label and any preconceived notions about what may or may not be in the bottle, not hypothesizing about factors that may or may not have influenced it, and limiting the analysis to precisely what is experienced in a taste.

In full transparency, I had some concerns going into the class, that despite my background, I would be in over my head. I couldn’t have been more wrong, because in the midst of that anxiety, I forgot our belief that wine, and learning about wine, should be fun!

I can’t wait to read up on the next section of class materials, and look forward to expanding my understanding of the world of wine.