The Many Benefits of Wine Classes

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Wine class… sounds a bit like something that snobbish wine aficionados attend on a regular basis to discuss the royal snobbery that goes hand in hand with wine education. Right? Wrong. Unless you are one of the few people in this world who absolutely detest the taste of wine and anything that comes with it, you can and will greatly benefit from attending wine classes. Okay, okay, so you love drinking wine and all but why on earth would you need to take a class when you already enjoy what you’re doing? Well, the answer is simple. Not only will you open the door to more wines than you could have ever fathomed, but you will know how to enjoy them the right way. Yes, there is a right way to enjoy wine. Sipping box wine out of a red plastic cup is not a solution, for anybody. So take the snooty stigma out of the wine world and open your eyes. Think of wine as if it were Disneyland… Sure, there is some fun stuff outside the gates; balloons, cotton candy, souvenirs and all that. But why just hang around outside? Get in line, buy yourself a ticket, and come in for the real deal. Recently, students at the San Francisco Wine Center were ready to do just that. And with James Beard award-winning author Jordan Mackay taking the lead on this field trip, the students were astounded at just how many fun facets of wine there is to learn about. Here’s a taste of what some of those were….

So first things first, let’s start with holding your glass properly. Holding the glass by its stem is crucial for two reasons. One, it keeps your hand from affecting the temperature of the wine and therefore altering its characteristics. Two, it just looks a whole lot classier. And now that you have the wine in your glass, let’s talk freaky faults. Yup, wines can have them. This is where wine classes can become very helpful. Picture this, you’re at a restaurant and you order a bottle of wine from the menu. It arrives and you smell and taste it. Straight away you sense an aroma of wet cardboard muckiness. Hmm..Maybe this is just a bad producer? Nope. This wine is corked. And you should not continue to torture your palate with the retched taste of it. Understanding what faults to look for in wine and how to identify them is something that is useful to just about everybody. What’s next…let’s talk about describing wine. We all hear a lot of wine jargon being said such as, “This wine is oaky.” But what does that even mean? Well, as you will learn in wine classes, there are different types of oak used for barrels, different ages, and different lengths of time in which they are used; all of which imparts different characteristics to wine. Moving onto fruit. Yes, a lot of wines have a sense of fruitiness to them. But what kind of fruit? Citrus fruits? Green apples? Peaches? Berries? Or even tropical fruits? Once you identify the types of fruit, you then have to decide what stage these fruits are in. The fruits can seem fresh, ripe, baked, candied, or even jammed. Figuring this out can tell you a lot about the region in which the wine came from and how its maturity is progressing. In addition to that, there are a whole lot of other components of wine such as its acidity, tannin, body, complexity, and several more that can tell you a compelling story about the wine, where it came from, the people who made it, and where it is going. Therefore by taking wine classes such as “Tasting and Describing Wine” at the SF Wine Center, you come to understand much more about what you are drinking and further enhance your decision making for future wine purchases that you make. Now who doesn’t like the sound of that? So get out there and put your learning hat on. And have fun with it!

-Julie Albin

Wine List:

1. Champagne Delamotte Brut NV – Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Champagne, France
2. Villa Maria Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc “Private Bin” 2011 – New Zealand
3. Stift Goettweig Gruner Veltliner Messwein 2010 – Kremstal, Austria
4. Olivier Leflaive Chassagne-Montrachet 2009 – Cote de Beaune, Burgundy, FR
5. Dr. Loosen Riesling Kabinett “Blue Slate” 2011 – Mosel Valley, Germany
6. Raptor Ridge Willamette Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 2007 – Oregon
7. Alenza Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva 2001 – Tempranillo from Spain
8. Pio Cesare Barolo 2007 – Nebbiolo from Alba in Piedmont, Italy
9. Paul Hobbs Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – California
10. Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Porto – Douro Valley, Portugal

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