Looking to take a wine education course

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Mike

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I really don't know that much about wine at all. I'd very much like to broaden my knowledge and take a wine education class or something similar that will provide me with information. I'm wondering what the best avenue for this would be. I went on a vineyard tour this summer, but that wasn't really a good source to learn what I want to know (nor did I expect it to be). My LHBS offers a class hosted by Tim Vandergrift, but I think that is more for winemaking.

As far as actually wine education classes go, the Philadelphia School of Wine offers some classes which is probably what I'm looking for. Additionally, a local township has a wine and cheese education night class which I'd imagine would be helpful. These run $38 and $55 per two hour session respectively.

What are some suggestions?
 

smurfe

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Philly has a very decent culinary scene and along with that comes wine appreciation. First thing I would do is scope out the popular or high volume high end wine shops. Most of these type of places have night courses or events to spread wine appreciation and gain more customers. Every high end wine shop I have ever been in in about any city has had a sign up about wine appreciation events.
 

Mike

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Hmmm. Thanks smurfe. Are you familiar with the tyrannical body that is the PA liquor control board? I'll look into it, but I don't think I've ever seen something like that (or a high end wine store for that matter).
 

NSwiner

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Here's an idea for you the experienced wine makers here could have us pay for classes and run different ones , 1 or 2 month depending how everyone feels about it .Maybe ask what people would most like to learn about then go from there .I did it with a photography class & i was great . She did it so you had a password to get into the class then you could save it to your own computer .Maybe list the classes then we sign up about a month ahead with a deposit if you wanted . Just an idea :D
 

Mike

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How would it work? Would we have to buy various wines and then go over the different aspects of them?
 

smurfe

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Hmmm. Thanks smurfe. Are you familiar with the tyrannical body that is the PA liquor control board? I'll look into it, but I don't think I've ever seen something like that (or a high end wine store for that matter).
I do remember that now that you mention it. I used to drive a truck and hauled booze. Pa was one of the worse tax wise. If you don't have high end wine shops look at a fine dining restaurant and talk to their Sommelier. I know there are some world class places there. Heck, the new Iron Chef is from Philly and one of the finalist on Top Chef is from Philly.
 

Mike

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$38 per person for 2 hours at the Phila. School of Wine seems reasonable I guess then, right?
 

smurfe

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Not bad at all. One thing to point out though, Most wine and cheese seminars don't focus as much on the wine as it does pairing the wines and cheeses. It should go over a bit of the flavor profiles though. The last one I attended was basically what food goes with white wine and what goes with red. While there was a bit of flavor profile info with the wine, it leaned more toward the foods flavor profile. It was still a very interesting class and made me realize that a good red wine goes with anything no matter what the experts say. I'll take a nice, soft Pinot Noir any day over a white wine with seafood.
 

Monica

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I was also thinking of going to the Wine School Of Philly. I looked into and wasn't sure I felt like fighting traffic on 95. If you did or do go will you let me know what you think?
 

Mike

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Good timing, Monica. I'm going to the Wine 101 course 1/3. I'll definitely let you know how it was.
 

Tom

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And you can join a Wine Club (like mine). Joining a local wine club will put you on the fast track fast.
Start asking around as you would be surprised who makes wine.
So, Here is an open invite to all who live in the So. Jersey / Philly area to PM me if you are interested in attending one of my wine club meetings.
 

Mike

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I was also thinking of going to the Wine School Of Philly. I looked into and wasn't sure I felt like fighting traffic on 95. If you did or do go will you let me know what you think?
Monica: I went to the Wine 101 course with my girlfriend this past Saturday evening. It was a intimate group of 10 couples which is good because you could ask questions freely throughout.

The class started with the instructor teaching us how to drink a glass of wine beginning with what to take from its appearance and then on to smelling it and then tasting. He went over acidity, tannins, and alcohol content and how they relate to the wine and each other. He also went over some wine-related terms eg. nose, bouquet, etc. We then went through 5 flights which included eight 1 oz wine tastings of various styles. With each wine, we went over the appearance, nose, and taste of each as a group, and discussed along the way.

I did have an issue with the class, though. When we'd smell and taste a wine, the instructor would ask what we smelled/tasted. I feel like I have a fairly discerning palette and taste is of course a very subjective thing, but, with only a few exceptions, I just taste "wine". The instructor said you should never taste "grape" when you taste a wine, but that threw me off because that's basically all I think I taste. My girlfriend said she felt the same way. There was a white wine that I tasted a grapefruit-y taste and a red wine that had an ash-y taste, but the instructor was saying, to him, this wine tastes "earthy", that wine has a licorice taste, this wine tastes like plums, etc. First off, I haven't had a plum in probably 10 years so I really couldn't say something tasted like a plum. Secondly, using words like "earthy" and "musty" can be pretty vague. Lastly, like I said, I personally for the most part can't say a wine tastes like such-and-such fruit; it just tastes like a red wine. I can tell you if it's dry, if it's full-bodied, and of course how much I enjoyed it, but I wasn't able to give descriptors like he was. This is something I had hoped to be able to do after the class. I feel like this may be the case with any such course, though, so I'm not sure what he could have done to have that be the result. Perhaps the issue is with my palette so you may want to take this with a grain of salt.

All in all, it was fun and interesting. We both enjoyed it and it was what I was hoping for for the most part. My main concern was whether the class was targeted for an audience which I was a part of, but it was right on for me/us. The instructor was good and kept things interesting and humorous for the entire 2 hours. The best advice I think he gave was to just drink wine and drink all sorts of wines. I've been drinking beer for about 10 times longer than I have been drinking wine. My palette for beer is much better than wine so perhaps it will be honed more with time.
 
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rawlus

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I did have an issue with the class, though. When we'd smell and taste a wine, the instructor would ask what we smelled/tasted. I feel like I have a fairly discerning palette and taste is of course a very subjective thing, but, with only a few exceptions, I just taste "wine". There was a white wine that I tasted a grapefruit-y taste and a red wine that had an ash-y taste, but the instructor was saying, to him, this wine tastes "earthy", that wine has a licorice taste, this wine tastes like plums, etc. First off, I haven't had a plum in probably 10 years so I don't really couldn't say something tasted like a plum. Secondly, using words like "earthy" and "musty" can be pretty vague. Lastly, like I said, I personally for the most part can't say a wine tastes like such-and-such fruit; it just tastes like a red wine. I can tell you if it's dry, if it's full-bodied, and of course how much I enjoyed it, but I wasn't able to give descriptors like he was. This is something I had hoped to be able to be able to do after the class. I feel like this may be the case with any such course so I'm not sure what he could have done to have that be the result. Perhaps the issue is with my palette so you may want to take this with a grain of salt.
the ability to detect the different fruits and other aromatics in wine is something that takes some practice. it can become easier after tasting many wines and tasting many wines of the same varietal and thinking about the ways in which they differ from each other and the ways in which they are similar.
it can also help to close your eyes when you take that taste, perhaps because it focuses your brain on smell and taste a bit more.
some people genetically don't have as tuned a sense of taste as others, and i believe women generally have more than men, scientifically speaking.
if you smoke, this will usually substantially impact your sense of taste/smell.

blind tasting parties can be an entertaining way for couples to get together and try a single varietal for the night from 6 or 7 producers, get some "cheat sheets" ahead of time through internet research to identify some of the classical characteristics of that varietal as a guide to your detection and then the side by side comparisons of the 6 bottles should reveal some wines having more pronounced aromatics and taste profiles over others. "this one has more raspberry than this one, this one is much spicer, black pepper than this one" etc.

you'll get earthiness and some of the others that sound more vague down after you've had more practice - it could be that not many of the wines you typically drink have any earthiness or minerality... compare a napa chardonnay to a pouilly-fuisee and i bet you'll be able to detect alot more differences between two 100% chardonnay styles. many italian reds have a nice muskiness, earthiness, mushroomy damp earth perception to them... it is one of the aspects that draws me to italian reds over other reds...

the only way to build up that vocabulary and sensory perception is to drink alot more wine, AND from alot of different places and producers. the variety is important, without it, those perceptions cannot really develop.
 

Monica

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Thanks for letting me know! It does sound like a fun class and I'll be looking into it this spring. Did you see that they offer other classes too? I live in Lancaster so for me it is the closest wine school around. I'd like to look into the Enology program I think I saw there. Cheers!:b
 

Mike

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Yes, I did see they offer other courses including wine certification as well as beer courses.
 

TeamKA

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Moving from Ohio to PA was definitly a culture shock when it came to buying beer and wine. In Ohio there was this little corner store that you would swear it was a corner store that went out of buisness years and years ago... I drove by it for about 2 years with out ever giving it a second thought. But one day I decided to stop and pickup a 12 pack of beer. I went in and initially it looked like the dive I thought it would be... then I rounded the corner and saw the bigest wine selection I had ever seen. Row after row of wine, so much wine there were cases of wine on the floor that you had to step over. Half the stuff didn't have prices and thats where the fun part came in. I quickly learned when to spot the owner car, that is the time to stop. I would go in and tell him "I'm looking for a nice dry red around $25"... he would get a giddy look on his face and go running around the back... after becoming a regular he would say "Here. this is normaly $35 or sometimes $45 but I think you'll really like it"... Of course he also told me about a local wine club in the area ect ect....

In PA... its a state store, state employees... they are there to ring you out and go home. Very disapointed. =(
 

Mike

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Don't even get me started on buying beer in PA... :tz
 
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