As every teacher knows, if one student has a question, then undoubtedly other students have the same question but are too embarrassed to ask. Here are questions from my recent How to Bluff Your Way thru Wine class, that you might like to ask too.
We’re talking about a grape named Sauvignon Blanc, and we’re drinking a wine named Sauvignon Blanc. Is it the same thing?
Yes. In the U.S., if there’s a grape named on the label, the wine contains at least 75% of that grape variety, as required by the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). This is a ‘varietal’ wine, with a ‘varietal’ label. On the wine timeline, varietal labelling is a trend in mid-minute, introduced by Wente Vineyards in 1936. So far, it’s catching on pretty well!
Didn’t Sauvignon Blanc exist before?
Yes. Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and other wine grapes have existed for centuries, but you won’t see them on many Old World labels. Traditionally, wines have been named for the region that grows the grapes. These are ‘regional’ wines, with labels that promote each region, such as Champagne or Chianti. In France, Italy and other Old World countries, the land is the brand, more so than the grape or the producer. To a traditional winegrower, naming wine for a grape would be like “Roma Tomato by Heinz Ketchup.”
Explore the World of Wine
In March, we’ll taste, compare, and discuss Old and New World wine in World of Wine: A Tasting Series. In four sessions, we’ll explore the world’s primary grapes, regions and taste eight hand-crafted wines every class, all accompanied by wine-friendly appetizers and a graduation dinner! For more information and to register, click here.
World of Wine
I’m not getting any of the flavors you describe in wine. Am I just no good at tasting wine?
Not to worry! Wine tasting is like any skill, just like playing the piano. You do it every day, you get better; you don’t do it every day, you don’t. Even experienced sommeliers taste wine every day to keep their palates sharp. (It’s not as fun as it sounds.)
Also, palates are like fingerprints: we all have them, but each is unique. Some folks feel cilantro tastes like soap. (The cause is a person’s genetic variation.) I dislike apricots, so any wine with a hint of apricots gets a thumbs down from me. Varying atmospheric pressure affects tasting too; some sommeliers even schedule tasting exams depending on the weather report!
This Pinot Noir really tastes like cherries. Are there cherries in it?
Nope. All wine flavor results from the interplay of 4 variables: the grape, the soil the grape was grown in, the climate the grape was grown in and the human culture that manages these natural elements to create the wine.
Learning the basic flavors of each grape is the first step in learning wine. Next, learn how the grape is affected by soil, climate and culture. For instance, Pinot Noir often has cherry flavors. When grown in a warm climate, these flavors may skew towards cooked cherry jam. Ageing in oak adds vanilla flavors, so the wine may taste like cherry cola.
Get to Know Your Grapes
On Saturday, January 28, we’ll taste and discuss grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Malbec in two styles each, to understand how soil, climate and human culture create a rainbow of flavor that is wine. This Get to Know Your Grapes class is currently sold out, but stay tuned for more sessions in the future!
What’s the sexiest wine and food combo for Valentine’s Day?
You can be the judge during Sensual Food & Wine Pairing. We’ll taste three courses mixed-and-matched with four wines, to test the rules of wine and food and decide on rules of your own. Seminars held on Saturday, February 11 and on Tuesday, February 14 aka Valentine’s Day – to avoid the very unsexy job of washing dishes.
My wife wants to learn wine, but I just want to look cool. Can you teach me that?
You bet! The easiest way to look wine-savvy is to hold the wine glass correctly, which is by the stem. If you really want to look cool, hold the glass by its base, but this takes practice. The flip side is that holding a wine glass by the bowl is a sure sign that you’re uncool when it comes to wine.