Beer or Wine?

Posted: 16 February 2012

Author: Stewart Tricker

Last night I was challenged to attend a blind vertical wine tasting where we sampled 5 vintages of Chateau d’Angludet ranging from a 1997 vintage to a young 2005 that is still maturing, to see how the wine developed with time or which year gave the best flavours.

Why me? – Well I think there was an element of intrigue as to whether I could transfer beer tasting skills and apply them to wine. Thankfully we instantly disobeyed the first rule of wine tasting and swallowed the taste samples rather than spitting them out. From there the skills are remarkably transferable as is a lot of the vocabulary with the range of fruit descriptors, tannins, even metallic being used during the evening although each area does have its unique descriptors (hoppy, dms, diacetyl and bitter hang were phrases I could not apply to the wines and I cannot ever remember describing a beer as having legs). The scoring mechanism used was also slightly different, we used a 100 point scale (where anything less than 50 is deemed undrinkable) so we could compare to published scores from international wine critics – I personally believe a standard 0 to 7 scale is just as meaningful.

The second challenge was for me to devise a comparable beer tasting for sometime in the future. Most beers have a best before date and do not improve with age so it is not something I had considered before. The exception is bottle conditioned beers, these still have live yeast present and so secondary fermentation can take place in the bottle, producing carbon dioxide, a little more alcohol and progressive flavours over time. Vintage strong ales can also be tasted in a similar way if you are dedicated enough to keep them, I tend to enjoy them at their fresh best and so never have the beers to lay down for the future tasting. Alternatively I may try a tasting more in line with single grape varieties by seeing if I can select a number of beers of the same style or which use the same single hop. I will let you know how I get on when the tasting happens.

So beer or wine – I enjoy both, do you?




Stewart Tricker - Senior Brewer