I decided to create the « Ateliers au Château » wine workshops in the spring of 2014 because I wanted to transmit my passion for viticulture & oenology to others and make the art of appreciating wine more accessible, particularly to those who don’t feel confident enough to talk about it. It was also an opportunity for me to share my own perceptions of Bordeaux wines. The first step to appreciating wine is to understand how the grapes develop in their specific terroir. To do this, take a stroll amongst the vines for example and discover the winegrower‘s tasks which vary from season to season.
I was born in a vineyard! My very first sensory memories go back to childhood and the cellar in Armagnac. My grandmother would ask me to climb up the ladder and reach into the barrel to “draw” a litre of brandy to flavour the pancake batter. The delicious aromas from this “oh so sacred” family place remain etched on my memory. This type of experience associating time, place and smell is one of the keys to progressing in the vast field of tasting.
Later in my studies, I was lucky enough to have an excellent tasting teacher who helped me dig deep inside myself and come up with something I could associate with a smell. Since then, this mental agility has become second nature to me. We can all cultivate tasting skills; it is simply a matter of activating the appropriate mechanisms: open up to the wine or product you are tasting, be attentive, tune into what you experience, basically just become very curious.
I don’t believe in “good taste” but rather each to his/her own taste. We are all different and so much the better! Personally, I try my best to identify what kind of wine I like and why I like it, so I break it down. This is far easier to do in a group. Hearing someone else voice something that you yourself are struggling to express, is an enriching experience so, in this sense, it is easier to progress as a team. Blind tasting is also preferable to avoid being influenced by indications on the bottle.
I would hate to be a “label drinker”; someone who declares that a wine is good simply because it has a certain reputation. Tasting is a challenging art not only because wine is alive and constantly changing over time, but also because external factors (our frame of mind, the atmosphere, environment and conditions of the tasting, the glass, the temperature,..) can easily influence our sensory perceptions. Therefore, I strongly believe that we should embark on wine tasting with a certain degree of humility.
Always remember that the more wine you taste the better you become as a taster... so we never stop learning and what a wonderful thing that is!
Pascale Larroche – Les Ateliers au Chateau