So you want to know more about wine? A good way to get a real in-depth education is to study with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), which is represented in Philadelphia by Neal Ewing and his Phillywine.com organization. I’m nearing the end of the 8-week Level 2 Course and I’m loving it.
I’m already leading tastings and discussing wines using the local wines here at Pinot Boutique. We have examples of most of the world’s great wines made right here in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys.
But I wanted to firm up my knowledge and speak with more confidence about grapes and regions from all over the world. So I made the investment and signed up. Pinot Boutique owner Dan “The Wineman” Soskin is already a Level 2 & 3 graduate with merit.
The class is held one night a week (mostly) in a meeting room on the 3rd floor of the Sofitel Hotel. (I say “mostly” because occasionally we are displaced by other hotel guests to an alternate location.) Each week we cover a different major wine category, such as Cabernets & Merlots, or Dessert Wines. Neal starts each session with a Powerpoint covering the characteristics of the wine and the different regions in which it is made.
Then comes the good part: we each get out our personal set of six tasting glasses (included in your course fee), and taste typical examples that Neal has purchased at the State Store. He gives you a great chart to help you keep track; it shows vintage, vineyard, region, grape, alcohol percentage, and what he paid for it. The actual tastings in my class are lead by Neal’s assistant, Delores. She has an uncanny, almost-canine ability to discern any number of scents and tastes in a given glass.
One of the main things you learn is a systematic approach to tasting, and an objective way to judge and compare each wine’s appearance, nose, quality, and taste characteristics like acidity, body and tannins. That’s one of the things I like about the course: it is a no-B.S. Zone.
Neal also records and webcasts each class for distance learners. (Hope they’re savoring a nice glass at home while they watch!). But it’s so much fun and quenches my thirst for knowledge so well that it’s got to be better in person. The course ends with a 50-question multiple choice test (Do you know your Volnay from your Vouvray? Your Moscato from your Muscadet?). I’ll miss it, but I’ll be much better prepared to go forth and order that delicious bottle that’s just perfectly paired with tonight’s dish.