Wine drinking is easy; there is no educational background required or final examination to take in order to start drinking and enjoying wine right this second. However, many folks feel overwhelmed by the amount of different grapes, and styles, and regions, and choices and labels and crazy unpronounceable foreign words and…and …uh. It does seem like a lot.
Over the years of introducing thousands of students to wine, and structuring lessons about wine which help teach basic processes involved in its production, I finally sat down and compiled all those lessons into a single book entitled Drink This Now! The book’s entire mission is to get you comfortable with drinking wine, and fluent in ‘wine vocabulary’ so that you can discuss it with others….again, wine is a social beverage, and that’s part of being social! Plus, understanding the nuances of wine actually increases your personal enjoyment, helps you become a smarter shopper, assists in food/wine pairing, and most certainly makes you appear really sophisticated and more cooler than you actually are. But I digress…
The first 7 lessons deal with different wine production techniques that are important to understand in order to ‘get’ what many of the smells and flavors in wine are all about. The rest of the lessons focus on the most important varieties that one will encounter in the wine store or at the restaurant. Varieties like Merlot, Chardonnay, Sangiovese…these are wine grapes that all have distinct personalities that express themselves in distinctly different wines, and it is crucial for your wine-drinking pleasure to at least be familiar with these characters. Its just like making new friends! Get to know these grapes!
So my lessons are set up as easy as 1-2-3 for the aspiring 21st century wine drinker: read-watch-drink! You will see that each lesson in the book is cross-referenced with on-line videos from www.winelibrarytv.com and other sites which further elaborate on the topic of the unit..with the third column recommending some actual wines to drink to most fully grasp the lesson!
Here’s why I do it this way:
1)Read: the chapter from Drink This Now! which sets up a step-by-step lesson to do, preferably with friends and family. In fact, it’s a must. Do it in a group. The book paints the background of the wine-making techniques and grape varieties, but is also a handy reference for wine-cheese, wine-food pairings that you can go back to revisit for recommendations every time you drink wine for the rest of your life.
2)Watch: In this internet age, there are so many great opportunities to learn from other folks even a world away, and one of the absolute best wine teachers out there today is this crazy passionate wine dude named Gary Vaynerchuk who started his own free, on-line show on wine located at www.winelibrarytv.com. Here is why I insist that you watch the Gary V vids that I reference after reading the chapter: he is a genius at wine description, and he takes all the ‘snob-factor’ right out of wine by with his down-to-earth, pragmatic wine lingo and comfortable style. I want you to watch him, paying particular attention to the words and phrases he uses to describe the smells and flavors in wine….building a working wine tasting vocabulary is is the hardest part of drinking wine for beginners, and no one is better than GV to help you with that. So check it out, and take notes of his descriptors as he fires them off for Merlot, or Sauvignon Blanc, or whatever, and then pull that list out when you taste wines…which brings me to…
3)Drink: and finally, you got to drink the stuff!!! You can read a book about riding a bike, and you can watch a video of someone riding a bike….but you can’t learn to ride a bike without getting on the damn bike! So saddle up! Recommendations for actual wines actually available in actual stores in town are given to assist you, but by no means are you confined to those labels! I just know that the ones I picked are good examples of that variety, or that winemaker attribute, as the case may be.
So let’s get drinking now. Read, watch, drink….or better yet, drink while you read and watch! That would be totally awesome!
a.k.a. Why Europeans drink wine with meals, while Americans just drink straight up—it’s the difference in styles man! Wine is food dude! Eat, drink, and see how flavors are married together in this lesson on the relationship between wine and food.
How the shape of the glass affects your perception of the wine. Some typical glass shapes for some typical types of wine. Why some people hold their glass by the stem while others palm the whole bowl. Why people do all that swirling nonsense. What are the processes involved.
Why we age some wines, and not others. Why we decant some wines before serving. What are the processes involved. What wines should we drink now. What wines we should age…and for how long.
The affects of the oak barrel on wine. What it tastes like. How it affects the wine. What are the processes involved.
Dry vs. sweet; what it means, what it tastes like. How sugars and acids in wine interact to create different styles. How it the winemaker manipulates the process to achieve these affects. What are the processes involved.
Why wines come in a variety of colors. How a winemaker achieves this variety. What the wine’s color is really an indicator of. Should you really care about the color of the wine. Or is it all just a pigment of your imagination?
Describing light, medium, and full-bodies wines. What these terms mean. The major factors which contribute to wine body. How those same factors play off each other to affect a wine’s balance. The processes involved, and the winemaker’s role in affecting body and balance.
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, & Riesling. What they smell like. What they taste like. Where you get them from. What foods bring out the best in them.
Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio, & Semillon. What they smell like. What they taste like. Where you get them from. What foods bring out the best in them.
Albariño, Gewürztraminer, & Viognier. What they smell like. What they taste like. Where you get them from. What foods bring out the best in them.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, & Cabernet Franc. What they smell like. What they taste like. Where you get them from. What foods bring out the best in them. And what the hell is the Bordeaux Blend?
Pinot Noir. What it smells like. What it tastes like. Where you get them from. What foods bring out the best in them. And what the hell is all the fuss about when it comes to this grape and its wine?
Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, & Barbera. What they smell like. What they taste like. Where you get them from. What foods bring out the best in them. And many of the aliases that they go by. And why the hell do they go by so many names? Barolo, Barbaresco, Morellino di Scansano, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino…so many names, for just a couple of grapes! What gives?
Grenache & Tempranillo. What they smell like. What they taste like. Where you get them from. What foods bring out the best in them. And many of the aliases that they go by.
Syrah & Mourvèdre. What they smell like. What they taste like. Where you get them from. What foods bring out the best in them. And many of the aliases that they go by.
Zinfandel & Petite Syrah & Malbec. What they smell like. What they taste like. Where you get them from. What foods bring out the best in them. And many of the aliases that they go by.
Difference between ‘Old World’ style and ‘New World’ style wines. What that means. How it got to be that way. Multiple comparative tastings you can conduct at your own pace.
Wherein we point out some red and white ‘second-string’ grape varieties that you might want to be familiar with, as well as some promising grape varieties that may have the temerity and tenacity to make it to the big leagues of the wine powerhouse players.
What are aperitifs and digestifs. What is the difference between table, fortified, and sparkling wines. How there wines are produced. A wide variety of examples and styles from each of these wine categories that are commonly used before and after the meal.