Wine-Tasting above Zurich

23.08.2016 | Wine Club Alumni

Von:  Giacomo Schwarz

June 29 marked the ETH Alumni Wine Club's second event. A group of fifteen wine enthusiasts, comprising mainly Alumni but also a couple of guests, gathered on a roof terrace at ETH to learn more about wine and to connect in an informal atmosphere. The warm and sunny weather made for a perfect occasion to taste sparkling and white wines.

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Der ETH Alumni Wine-Club
Der ETH Alumni Wine-Club

We sat around a large table with some snacks, and kicked-off the event with a glass of vintage Prosecco. To activate the participants´ sense of smell, we passed a number of aromas around the table, which isolate a given scent typically present in certain types of wines. These aromas range from apple to strawberry, and also include somewhat unexpected aromas such as smoke and musk. Each participant was invited to name each different aroma – an exercise that turned out to be more challenging than most expected.

First blind tasting

Next we compared a ten-year-old Champagne with a recent Franciacorta. In order to distinguish these two sparkling wines, both made following the same production process, we focused on the different intensity of the yeast aromas. The Champagne, having spent more time in contact with the Lees, was expected to exhibit more intense aromas. A consensus was quickly reached on which wine had the more yeasty and mature aromas. When the bottles were uncovered, we were happy to see that we had managed to tell the wines apart correctly.

Controversial Aroma

We then transitioned to the white wines, and started by comparing two wines from the New World: a Chardonnay from California and a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. We discussed the differences between the two wines. Participants generally agreed that the wines were quite different, but words were mostly lacking to describe such a difference. The wine aromas proved useful for this task, as they provided examples of scents that typically show up in each grape type. One aroma in particular, which was supposed to show up in Sauvignon Blanc but not in Chardonnay – the aroma of black currant buds – proved to be somewhat controversial, as the corresponding chemical aroma was only very slight.

Apply the knowledge

With the impressions from the first two white wines still fresh in our memories, we tasted a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc from France. Each participant individually attempted to tell them apart. The result was a success: the two wines were told apart correctly by the large majority. Together with the success telling apart the Champagne from the Franciacorta, this provided participants with a practical demonstration of how wine knowledge can be applied, and of the pleasure that can be obtained from knowing more about the wine one is drinking.

Next Event and new board member

The ETH Alumni Wine Club's next event will take place in September. If you want to be the first to know about the date and the program of upcoming events, send an email to and we will add you to the mailing list.

As a final note, we would like to offer a warm welcome to Jan Cornevin as a member of the ETH Alumni Wine Club's board. Jan will join Thomas and Giacomo in organizing the club's activities. The three wine enthusiasts first met whilst studying in Boston.

Der ETH Alumni Wine-Club
Der ETH Alumni Wine-Club
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