Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One Night, Ten Wines

Last night was my first wine class!  I'm taking the first of two introductory wine classes, which are prerequisites for the somellier program at George Brown College.  The class is going to be intense; it covers all the appellations around the world as well as the grapes and their history, and then also teaches us how to describe wines with a particular vocabulary.  It was a bit overwhelming at first.  Even though I'm going in with some basic knowledge, there is always so much to learn when it comes to viniculture and wine production.

Last night we hit the ground running.  First, to let us get a sense of how important the serving temperature is to drinking wine, we did two blind taste tests, one with a red and one with a white.  For both wines we had two glasses; one had wine served at the proper temperature, and the other had the same wine at a higher temperature.  The difference was shocking.  I already knew that the temperature was crucial, but the particular wines our instructor chose were really dramatic examples.  One was a riesling, the other a Chateauneuf-du-Pape (my favourite appellation ever, basically).

La Celestiere, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France
$38.95 at the LCBO
Then, without having any time to look over the outlined criteria or get a real grasp of the words to use to describe things - like the difference between concentration, depth, body, and power, which are all components of the taste of the wine (there are others as well) - we did eight blind taste tests with tasting sheets to fill out as we went along.  We did two white wines and six red wines.  Some of them were fantastic, and some of them weren't very good.  It was interesting because the instructor was showing us that the name on a bottle means very little, and that knowing where something comes from and how it is made is a better indication of what value you're going to get.  For exmaple, one wine we tried was a $42 bottle from Nappa Valley, and won a silver medal even, but was pretty flat, short, and acidic without much balance or complexity. I never would have expected that (though I rarely ever drink California wines anyway).

This much is evident from the first class:
1. There's no going back.  What is once learned can never be unlearned, and I know that I will no longer be satisfied with some of the wines that I previously didn't mind.
2. My friends and family are going to be annoyed with me.
3. I'm going to have to figure out a way to drink, without comment, wine that people serve because they like it and they're being generous and kind to their friends.  The instructor said that he takes two bottles of wine with him to dinner parties - one for the hosts, of what they like, and one for him, that he likes.  I think that's somewhat rude and can't imagine myself doing it.  It's also rude to try to educate people without them expressing interest, so there's no way I'd hoist wines on someone that they didn't like just to try to 'show them the light'.  There's a balance to achieve here.
4. My average expenditure on wine is going to increase.  Damn.

1 comment:

  1. i introduced a friend here in town to champagne, and he's since gone broke because he can't stand to drink cheap shit sparkling anymore (not that all sparklings are cheap shit).