About Me

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Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in DĂșn Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Paid to proselytise.... or planes, trains, more trains, a bus and even more trains and a car....

I am a lucky man - I've said it before and I'll say it again at some stage. I've just spent two great days teaching WSET Level 4 Diploma students in Belgium and Holland about Australia. Getting here was tricky but, after some wild train rides all across Holland I made to Antwerp Sunday evening (13th Nov. 2016) and the following morning had the first of two classes.
Both days were identical in structure, one in Antwerp for the primarily Belgian students, the second in Breukelen for the mainly Dutch students. I started out with a tasting designed to baffle - two wines, blind, after which they had to pass their notes around and read someone else's answers. The two wines were a 1er Cru Chablis from Long-Depaquit and a Woori Yallock Chardonnay (thanks, Lance) from Mac Forbes. The key thing here was to see how easily they could spot an Australian chardonnay versus a cool-climate classic and, guess what? They struggled! It was really cool to see how many spotted vanilla and tropical fruits in the Chablis (the first wine tasted). On being asked to rate the wines in quality terms a substantial number (more in Belgium) rated
the Woori Yallock higher. They started to realise that the stereotypes of Australian wine no longer exist.
This was an important step in a couple of ways. Far too many people (even here and in the UK) have a really outdated view of what an Australian chardonnay tastes like so it was good to begin to open their eyes. Also, the notion that an Australian wine could be as good as, or even better than, a European classic in terms of quality almost never seems to cross peoples' minds - again, the scales began to drop.
Next four fairly straightforward but good classic wines - Jacobs Creek Chardonnay, Pikes Hills and Valleys (or Traditionale for Aussies) Riesling, a De Iulius Semillon and Penfolds Reserve Bin 13 A Chardonnay. Again, a great little tasting with all the wines showing well, with the last showing a real typical modern Adelaide Hills style. Here again, the JC showed really well as it is a very elegant style with quite restrained fruit. Not as reductive in style as the Woori Yallock but a good signpost wine as to what to expect from wines higher up the price ladder. The De Iulius is a good example of young Hunter semillon, while Pikes is a pretty classic Clare riesling. For some of the students a bit too intense but they are more used to the softening effect of residual sugar in German riesling, I think. The Penfolds Reserve Bin A showed really well, with that classic cool-climate Adelaide Hills style.

The boat got pushed out for the reds - a Stoniers Mornington Pinot Noir to start and a great example of high elegant and light Australian pinots are nowadays. Then two super cabs to follow, the Parker Terra Rossa and Vasse Felix Premium. Both quite firm and tight and both benefitted from a semi-decant. Each had classic regional characteristics and were very elegant. The the bridge - Penfolds Bin 389 - and it was great to hear one student declare this to be a really elegant wine because it is and this is not a description which many people associate with Australian wines. Sterotypes were fast disappearing.

Then the icing on the cake - 2008 Rockford Basket Press and 2012 Penfolds RWT. What was really great was hearing students comment so positively about these wines, recognising that many of the presumptions were wrong. The Rockford had some bottle-age characters of chocolate showing beautifully and I could see one students eyes widening as she realised that this was not just some big Barossa monster but was really elegant, complex and superbly well-balanced. The RWT, being younger, was tighter in style but still superb and neither wine showed their alcohol levels at all but rather had great depth and intensity.
On both days, it was clear that the students were beginning to understand that Australia offers elegance and style and has some fantastic fine wines to match any from Europe. One student took me aside after to say that her prejudices were completely gone.
My final slide of the class is one which states that Australia is the best fine wine producing country in the world and looking around both rooms it was clear that while many did not agree they did not entirely disagree. To get students from a part of the world where Bordeaux and Burgundy dominate the fine wine market to realise that there is tremendously fine wine in Australia was a real achievement and I am proud of those two days.
All in all, two great days' work and what fun! My thanks to the guys at Treasury Wine Estates and Negociants International who were so helpful in sourcing the wines.

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