I taught a lot of wine classes this year. And, yes, its as fun as it sounds. My students range from novices who are tasting wine for the first time to seasoned pros who are seeking certification.
Any teacher will tell you that the person doing the teaching is the one learning the most. No two classes are the same, no one strategy works for every class, and every day brings a new understanding of the process of learning.
This year, Ive learned a few things I hope to remember in September:
• People often doubt their own ability to taste wine. Even the very best tasters experience self-doubt. I dont know why, because most people are pretty confident about the food they taste. Look at restaurant reviews on Yelp or Urban Spoon, and youll see hundreds of diners posting comments, confident their opinions are valid. And yet with wine, its hard for people to develop that same level of confidence, certain they dont know enough to evaluate it. Building that same confidence in a wine taster is what a good wine teacher aspires to do.
• When tasting wine, everyone must find their own path. An instructor cannot tell a taster what they are experiencing. We all taste and experience in our own unique way. Is it helpful to have a guide to talk about what to look for and what might be experienced when liquid meets palate? Certainly. But that person cannot explain what you will taste and how you should taste it. We all experience wine differently, and thats great. It would be a boring world if we all tasted things the same way.
• Tasters can recognize quality over personal preference. In all tasting groups, its obvious from the first session that each taster has stylistic preferences. One person may find a lightly sweet wine appealing, while another prefers a robust, tannic wine. But tasters respond to well-made, balanced wines, no matter their personal preference or their level of experience. Good news for winemakers making excellent wines.
• Wine people are fun. As the saying goes; it aint rocket science. Tasting wine and learning about it is a blast. While students can lose themselves in memorizing the minutiae of wine laws and soil types, at the end of the day, its wine. Wine is a delicious drink, one that is a perfect accompaniment to the celebration of life.
• Wine is something you can enjoy and learn about forever. There is so much to learn, so many places to visit and so many wines to taste that discovering wine can be a lifelong journey.
Catherine Rabb is co-owner of Fenwicks and a senior instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte. Email: Catherine.firstname.lastname@example.org
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