Masters of Wine #2 : Cees van Casteren
Updated: Apr 21
Welcome to My Winelife, your go-to source for all things wine. Whether you're a connoisseur or just starting to explore the world of wine, our monthly Masters of Wine interview series is a must-read. Each month we have the pleasure of sitting down with a Master of Wine, the highest standard of professional knowledge in the wine industry. Our latest interview features Cees van Casteren MW, a consultant, wine writer, and freelance journalist. With an impressive background in flavors & fragrances and enological products at DSM, Cees decided to pursue his passion for wine by starting his own business in 2003. As a global expert in enological specialties like yeasts, enzymes, and bacteria, he is uniquely positioned to provide insights into the fascinating world of wine. Join us as we delve into Cees van Casteren MW's wine journey and learn about his experiences and recommendations.
Your book: "Proeven als een Pro" (English title: Anyone can taste Wine) was released on November 4, 2020. What were the main reasons for writing this book?
Corona, actually ...
I have been teaching wine for twenty years, and not only in the Netherlands. In my classes, I have taught students a systematic approach to wine tasting. However, I have always found it strange that there was no book describing a method; if you want to learn a method to taste wine then you have to take a course.
Until March last year, I had 2-4 flights a week; always on the road (in the air actually) to winemakers and vineyards around the world, and too busy to write that book about wine tasting. When I had to halt the traveling, I needed to kick off from flying for a few days and then decided to start writing this book. In it, I described the method with which I passed the Master of Wine exam; however, in an accessible manner so that everyone can do it too. Hence the English title will be: Anyone can taste Wine (to be published in mid-2021). So the short answer is Corona. It's a Corona book.
In a previous life, you worked at DSM. Where does your fascination with smells and flavors come from?
I don't know exactly. But at DSM I accidentally ended up in aromas and flavors. I supplied substances such as benzyl acetate, benzaldehyde, and cinnamon alcohol to the perfume industry. That stimulated the fascination for scents. But in the end, it was mainly my wine hobby that sparked my fascination for "tasting".
Can everyone "taste like a pro" or just a few lucky ones?
Indeed, some people think that you must have a talent for tasting as if the taste is some kind of genetic gift that you may or may not have. But that's nonsense. Anyone, really anyone can learn to "taste like a pro", that is to say, anyone interested in learning more about it and wanting to practice.
Can you explain to us how the Character method works?
The Character Method is an acronym, a letter word to guide you through the wine-tasting process. C stands for color, H for Harvest aromas; A for Aromas of winemaking; R for Ripening aromas; A for acidity; C for Candu (sugars); T for tannins; E for Ethanol (alcohol) and R for Raltive harvest aromas. As you follow the letters of that acronym, you also follow your senses. All you have to do is rate the intensity of these aspects and write down what you see, smell, and taste.
In the past, you have won several wine competitions, including the Prix Pommery. How do you prepare for such an important event?
A tasting competition is like any other competition; you have to "train", and that means tasting a lot of wines .. Preferably every day .. and that's what I do.
Today, many tastings are given online. How do you experience this shift?
"Something" is better than "nothing". As much as being a teacher/presenter, I miss the direct contact with the participants, the alternative is to do nothing - and that is not an option.
Do you think that the new developments online (think of teaching, lectures, and tastings) will be permanent or do you think that we will go back to the old familiar way of working?
I think if we have the choice, we will go back to real-life tastings. But some producers have now discovered that they can organize a tasting for people in different places in the world who they otherwise wouldn't have been able to reach (or spend a fortune on flights). So some of it will definitely stay online.
How do Dutch young and old wine lovers come together? Do you think both generations can learn from each other when it comes to innovation and digitization?
Wine connects people; my classes are a mix of different generations, however, you hardly notice that. Sometimes, when we talk about Mateus Rosé and a Sherry diet, you see recognition and very vague looks at the same time and then you realize that you have something to explain to the younger generation. The same applies to wine apps, but vice versa...
You are also developing a wine app, would you like to tell us more about it?
The app is based on the method of the English book that is almost ready (the book then). With the app, everyone can learn to "taste like a pro" and you get feedback on how good you have become at wine tasting .. Very exciting!! Indispensable for every wine lover!
Which Master of Wine should I interview next?
Oops, that's a tricky question. The reason is that everyone who has those two letters MW behind their name has something to say, and has often gone through a fascinating process. Have you interviewed Frank Smulders yet? Or Job de Swart? Or Jan DeClercq in Bruges? I bet you can't get him for an interview.. Challenge?
Want to know more about Cees van Casteren?
Click here for his website
Click here to buy his new book ''Tasting like a pro''