Rathfinny Wine Estate

Sarah’s a wine expert – it’s official!

We have had the most wonderful weather over the last few days – long may it last!  Sunny, warm, blossom on the cherry trees and no mud – truly gorgeous. Our local farmer is now concerned that we’ve had our rain for the year!  In the vineyard the pruning has finished, the buds are starting to swell and Cameron is telling me we may have an early bud burst this year.  There is a sense of excitement around the place that is all to the good.


What have I been up to?  Well, the most exciting thing has been that Georgia and I took our WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Level 2 – and passed, with distinction!! (I think I even got a higher grade than Mark, though he responds with ‘a little knowledge can be dangerous Sarah!’)

Anyway, as I’ve long wanted to do, I want to write an easy explanation of tasting and enjoying wine, which I have to confess I am starting to learn to do.  I never thought I would be the one to swill a glass and say “mmmm, spicy, black fruit with hints of pepper!”

Here goes ….. (for the experienced among you, just skip this bit)

Approach your tasting as you would a glass of wine – no, not a grab and gulp but with your

EYES – is it clear or hazy?

How intense is it – pale or deep?

What colour is it?  If it’s white, is it lemon or amber.  For red, purple or ruby?  Hold it, slightly tilted, above a sheet of white paper and see the difference.

NOSE – does it have an intense smell and what can you smell?

Clue – at first I didn’t notice much, but after you’ve tasted a chardonnay a few times and everyone says oak, you’ll start to notice it, especially if you put it next to a un-oaked one, which is currently becoming more popular.  You may start to think lemons and limes or mango and pineapple, depending upon where the chardonnay came from.  Mark says go to a supermarket and literally smell the fruit.

Clue 2 – hotter climates produce more tropical flavours – just relate it to what you would find on your holidays.  If you’re in northern France, it’s more apples, whilst in Australia or South Africa it’s melons and passion fruit and pineapple.  (Now someone’s going to tell me you don’t get those in S Africa!!)

MOUTH (though it’s posh to say Palate!) – 5 things here:-

  • Sweet – this isn’t too hard to work out
  • Acidity – here you’re judging how much your mouth waters – think ‘lemons’ and you’ll know what I mean
  • Body – mmm, kind of the depth and feel in your mouth.
  • Flavour – to be honest, often much the same as the aromas you’ve smelt.
  • Finish – how long the taste lingers.

To do all of this you need practice – and more practice – yah!!!

I thoroughly recommend the WSET course – check out http://www.wsetglobal.com – because it gives you the chance to try lots of wines and then you’re off.  See – an expert already.  Watch this space for more exciting info on how to be a wine whizz!  You never know, one day it might be me they want to interview!

For an outline to the WSET systematic approach you can download the following file: http://www.wsetglobal.com/documents/l2_wine_satcard_2012_eng_new.pdf


Sarah Driver



  • Wine tasting, at least in theory, doesn’t seem to be too complicated after having read Sarah’s notes.

    All the best of luck for a good vintage 2014. St. Peter may reward Rathfinny with a well balanced mix of heat, rain and sun: In vino veritas.

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