WSET Feedback - Level 2 Wines
I get a copy of all of the feedback commentary on each of the online classes in my APP, and I find it useful to pass along these notes from time to as they go to the core of what is taught throughout the WSET programs. This week, the topic of BLIC came up ina L2W course. BLIC and its expanded series of letters is a tasting and judging process that will be used all the way through to the MW programs, if you were ever to aspire to that level. For the most part though I find it to be a very helpful tool in establishing my assessment of the quality of a product beyond the interference and influence of the brand name, price, grape varietal, label, etc. Here is the assigned educator's notes below...
...what we also find is a bit of confusion over how to rate the quality. Here is a system which is really good for testing your observations against your opinions. It is not a definite marker, but it does give you a very good idea whether your are in the right ball park. I still use it in my initial assessments when judging wines in my wider career. The system is called BLIC, standing for Balance, Length, Intensity and Complexity. After writing your tasting note go back over it and read it carefully in relation to these criteria. (please see textbook for elaboration on these terms)
Balance refers to the structural components of the wine. These are its body, acidity, tannin (red), alcohol and dryness. In the world of modern winemaking it is increasingly hard to find a commercial wine that is not in balance. One of the key skills winemakers learn in training is how to balance these elements appropriately.
The length of a wine refers to the 'finish', how long the flavour can be detected after spitting the wine out. This is a key element is determining the quality of a wine. If the flavours just drop off immediately then it has a 'short finish', which isn't great. If the wine's (pleasant) flavours linger long after we consider it to have a 'long finish' which would be great.
It is really important to note the intensity of the nose and palate. This way we can get a full picture. If the wine has 'light' intensity then it lacks concentration, if it is towards pronounced then this would indicate better quality.
It is not a simple case of large numbers of flavours indicating quality, but it is a good sign. A wine does not have to have all primary, secondary and tertiary characters to be complex. The lexicon is broken down into clusters, a wine covering a wide span of these from green fruit to herbal, floral and tropical would indicate complexity from primary flavours alone. So when reading over your note, keep a good eye on what you have tasted. If you think a wine is not complex and have written a long list of flavours, then this would call that opinion into question and vice versa.
Each of these criteria represents 1 mark out of 4. 1 = Acceptable, 2= Good, 3= Very Good, 4 = Outstanding. You can award half marks if necessary. Here is a good example of how this works...
Anybrand Italian, Pinot Grigio, 2019
Sight - pale, lemon
Nose- Light Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime
Taste- Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, dry palate, high acid, low tannin, low alcohol, light body, light flavour intensity, short finish.
Balance - Yes, TICK
Length - It is 'short', CROSS
Intensity - 'Light', CROSS
Complexity - It has some fruit, but they are all in the citrus cluster. This is not particularly complex, CROSS
So, as you can see, by using a standardized system that becomes ingrained in your tasting process, you can very quickly make a call on the quality of wine based on relatively quantifiable criteria. If a wine ticks or checks all the boxes for BLIC, then there can be no other call than for a wine of very high quality, and if you only have 2-3 checks, then the wine falls in between as good or very good. Not a perfect system, but something that can be mastered and repeated in almost any tasting exercise.
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ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With 30 years of drinks industry experience, Brian has learned a few things, but everyday he is learning more. This blog helps to bring that knowledge to you.