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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bordeaux

BORDEAUX

In addition to taking this great class on wine, I have bought a book.  If you are interested in anything I rant about here, I highly recommend it.  The book is aptly called the Wine Bible, and it is by Karen MacNeil, who I believe is a master sommelier, and is a fantastically engaging writer.  McNeil's book like the class appropriately starts with France as the center of the wine making world.  Unlike the class, she starts the story off with Bordeaux.  On page 112, McNeil begins to share with her readers the wonder that is Bordeaux, her discussion continues for pages, and pages finally finishing on page 160.  No other wine region anywhere in the world gets as many pages devoted to it as this region.  Why?  Well, it is not uncommon for the finest wines from the finest vintages to sell for prices generally reserved for fine works of art, cars or homes at auction.  Besides the wines, the history of Bordeaux is long and very wine-centric.  Finally, wine laws that set up the concept of AOC/AOP started as a means of establishing a system for informing consumers the quality of the wine from the region by allowing them information about the place (Terroir) that the grapes were grown.

Grapes grown in this place are both red and white.  Reds include Cabernet and Merlot primarily, but also include Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.  Whites include sauvignon blanc, and semillon as major contributors, and can also include muscadelle and ugni blanc.

Bordeaux is the most influential wine making region in the world.  The goal of the top growers is to use place, combined with blending of grapes to produce the most complex, and age-worthy wine anywhere in the world.  It is also the largest vineyard space producing fine wines anywhere in the world.  Bordeaux produces over 700 million bottles of wine per year.  Given that the price of many of these wines is so high, France makes a pretty penny or Euro as the case may be, off of this region's bottled bounty.

Looking at the map of the region (Right), which if you think about an anatomical model that would be in a doctors office, looks like a woman's nether-regions if she was standing on her head.  The opening of the birth canal is the Atlantic ocean and the birth canal is the Gironde river.  Sorry if you did not want that picture in your head, but I did study reproductive biology in a past life.  Also, I am right...and funny.  More on the funny thing later, this is a very serious region.

Typically people talking about Bordeaux talk about it as being split into two halves.  The most important of these halves is the Left Bank.  I bet you could have guessed that the other is aptly called the Right Bank.  Bordeaux produces whites, reds, rose's, sparkling wines, but nearly 80 percent of the wines that come from the region are red.  The best wines in the region are in the left bank, and all of the first growths reside on that side of the river, however, good wine can be had on both banks.

We will start with the left bank which is represented on the left side of the river if you look at a map.    The most famous part of the region is the Medoc.  As you travel up the river within Medoc, you will find that it is broken into many sub-regions.  Starting at the top with perhaps the most clever named region MEDOC or Bas-Medoc, followed by Haut-Medoc, Saint-Estephe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Listrac-Medoc, Moulis, and Margaux.  Also Notable in the left bank is Graves and its sub-region Pessac-Leognan, and finally Cerons, Barsac (Just bought a bottle from there today) and the most famous Sauternes know for their sweet wines made with grapes infected with noble rot.

The right Bank is most well known for Saint-Emilion and for Pomerol, and others I will not spend time on here.

The Left bank is a fantastic place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon due to its soil made of mounds of gravel from the Pyrenees mountains.  The Dutch cultivated this soil back in the day when they were big into the spice trading thing, and left it to the French to prosper from to this day.  This specialized soil acts as a perfect filter and drainage system.  Cabernet Sauvignon loves growing there.  If you travel to the left bank, you will see some smiling Cab vines everywhere you turn.  In addition, the weather is great for the grapes too.  It is a maritime climate with the Atlantic ocean moderating temperature change.  Winters are short and generally frost free.  Summers are warm.  The two issues that can make the happy smiling vines sad are humidity and rain, both of which can cause the grapes to rot.

The Medoc region includes most of the 1st growth (Best vineyards) in the region.  These are growers who were designated as the best in 1855 as making consistently great wines.  They frequently forgo yield, and may cut 35%-50% of the clusters off of the vine to concentrate sugars.  This reduction in yield means that the wines are fantastic due to the maturity and intensity of the grapes.

There are 5 total first growth labels and 4 of them reside in the Medoc region, all of which are in the Haut-Medoc.  Bas-Medoc produces mostly Merlot, but as we travel south to the Haut-Medoc, it quickly becomes Cabernet country for the reasons mentioned above.  Traveling south through the Haut -Medoc, we come to St-Estephe, where the wines tend to be more acidic, and while they are mostly cab based, they grow more Merlot in the area than any other commune in the area.

Next is the finest wine making region perhaps in the entire world.  It is called Pauillac.  Three of the first growths can be found in this AOP including Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton-Rothcshild, and Chateau Latour.  The wines from this region are intended to be aged for years, frequently needing at least ten years before they have started to harmonize.  These wines also get the largest price tag of any other area in the world.  The biggest price tag can be placed on the three chateau listed above.  The wines from the first growth regions sell for thousands of dollars.  They are frankly out of my price range, so don't ask me what they taste like.  I should have married for money, but instead, I am stuck drinking wines that are FAR less expensive.

St-Jullien has some good wine as well, NO FIRST GROWTH wines, but 80 percent of what they produce are Cru Classe.  They have 5 second growths and two of them are  "Super seconds", meaning they are seconds, but good enough that they stand out of the second growths.  These are Chateau Leoville and Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou.

Margaux is the largest AOP of the Haut-Medoc.  They have 21 classified growths, more than any other AOP.  There is one first growth creatively called Chateau Margaux.  These wines are often described as having feminine beauty.  They frequently have a floral bouquet with spice, and a lot of finesse.

The next stop is in Graves.  Graves is know for both its red and white wines.  The soil is gravel and thus the name.  The best wines in Graves are made in the Pessac-Leognan commune, home to another first growth wine Haut-Brion.  Additionally, all other cru classe wines that are produced in Graves can be found in Pessac-Leognon.

The final area of note on the left bank is Cerons, Barsac, and Sauternes all of which produce a semillon, sauv Blanc and Muscadelle based botrytis infected sweet wine (Noble Rot)- Which by the way is a good thing.  These are exceedingly expensive, and are only made in years when the fungus cooperates.  These wines produce thick, honey, apricot, and citrus flavors with hints of acacia.  Wines from this region are destined for better things the longer you can keep them.  They get creamy and beautiful with age.  Also note, that unlike many sweet wines, the acid in these allow for a fantastic balance.  Don't fear the sweet wines.  We are not talking blackberry kosher.  These are big wines often served as a counterpoint to rich savory dishes like foie gras (I am not in the mood for the political discussion about the geese).  They taste fantastic, and pair well with the wine.

Let's cross the river shall we.  We are now on the right bank, and I will only touch on two communities over on this side.  The first is St-Emilion and the second is Pomerol.  St-Emilion tries to confuse the world with yet another classification system with their own "Grand Cru AOP"  this is an Appellation, not a commentary on the quality of the wine.  In order to be labled accordingly the wine has to have higher alcohol content.  It is only .5% more though so don't go looking for a party with these wines.

Pomerol is tiny and has sandy gravely clay soils  Merlot is fantastic in these soils.  While Pomerol does not have a cru classe wine, they do have a number of fantastic wines that have achieved cult following.  It is almost like this is where the French go to break the rules.  Chateau Petrus is the most known of these wines.  Also notable are Vieux-Chateau-Certan, Chateau Lafleur, and Chateau Le Pin.  These wines can go for a lot of money despite being cru classe.

There are many other areas of Bordeaux that make a lot of good wines.  White, red, sweet, dry.  They get less acclaim, but many make wines of good value.

Here is the takeaway.  Bordeaux makes good wine.  The best wines come from the following 5 places:

1-2.  Chateau Margaux (Margaux), Chateau Lafite-Rothchild (Paulliac) (Most elegant in the region),
3.  Haut-Brion (Graves) (Most Earthy)
4-5.  Mouton-Rothchild (Paulliac) and Latour (Paulliac) (Generally most powerful)







Friday, January 23, 2015

Loire Valley

Loire

There are many of these fairytale castles littered about in Loire

Ok, Seriously, I have a Masters in Biotechnology, and another in Business Administration, and I have NEVER had so many new words to learn as I do now.  There are a bunch of AOCs (Appellation d'Orgine Controlee- a French Appellation system created in 1935, so you know the place from whence the grapes come) in the Loire Valley, as well as sub appellations whose names I have never heard of.  I drink a decent amount of wine,  and have even planted vines in my front yard (Neighbors love me) and some of the grapes I have never heard of either.  It would honestly be a lot easier if they named these damn things in English since the whole world does speak English these days [See Stupid American].  Who knew I signed up for a foreign language class of sorts.  I hated Spanish in high school, and guess what, I still hate it. (French in this case, not Spanish, but same principle applies).

So the story of the major reds grown in the Loire are quite easy  I will use percentages throughout the rest of this article to share the importance of a grape by percent of production.  The Reds in highest production in the Loire are Cabernet Franc (45%), Love it, know it, makes me happy...and Gamay Noir (16%), heard of it, know of it, certainly couldn't pick it out of any kind of line-up, but I know it is the grape in that crappy Beaujolais stuff.

So the major whites are less easy, and make up the majority of the wine from the region.  Melon de Bourgogne (44%, I think I just hurt my throat, and I am apparently not the only one confused, because they have grown this grape in California previously and mislabeled it Pinot Blanc, which is an entirely different grape altogether...It is an entirely different kind of grape.  Bourgogne is what they call Burgundy in France, and the Melon grape is thought to be from there.  Got to hand it to these grape namers, they are a very creative group of folks.

The other major white varieties are Chenin Blanc (30%) and Sauvignon Blanc (24%) are grown in abundance in the region.  I am a fan of both of those, so I will enjoy.

If you look at some of the other white grapes that are grown in the Loire, they include but are not limited to Arbois, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Folle Blanche Pays Nantais, Groslot Gris, and Muscadet.  On the Red side of the tracks you have some big names such asAbouriou, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cot (Same as Malbec in the rest of the world), Grolleau Loire, Merlot, Val de Loire Chinon, and a few others.  It is beginning to feel like the teacher is making some of these up just to mess with us, but I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Which brings us to our next issue and that is that the grapes that are used in making the wine will be NOWHERE on the label.  Really?  This blind tasting thing is hard enough, but now I don't even know if I am right?  Then, just to make matters harder, the French added two other clasification systems, 1.  Vin Delimite de Qualite Superieure (A second appellation system) introduced in 1949, and 2. the Vin de Pays to identify table wines (1979).  I liken all of this to walking into a library and trying to find your books with the Dewy Decimal system and another system in play. Oh well.
This whole region huddles around the longest river in France aptly named the Loire river (Thank God, one less word for me to learn).  The river is 630 miles long making this region quite large.  It starts in Mont Gerbier de Jonc in Ardeche and runs to the Atlantic Ocean.  The river starts flowing NORTH, yep, I said it flows north, and then turns West for the rest of its winding journey.  You can imagine that the weather and soil compostion varies with the terrain, and the proximity to the ocean, and thus, the grapes grown in the Loire Valley will do the same.  More to come on that in just a minute.

There are five major vineyards of the Loire Valley and this is where the language lesson begins.  The first is the Pays Nantais which is the area closest to the Atlantic ocean, and also the area furthest downstream since the river lets out into the ocean.  The soil here is mostly Schist (Please be careful how you say that around the kids)  In Pays Nantais, the most prevalent grape grown is Melon de Bourgogne.  The wine is known as Muscadet and is known for its acidity and really that is about all.  It is kind of one note with some stone fruit and lemon with dense minerality.  these are wines that are supposed to have lighter, and fresher character, and show best at low alcohol levels generally below 12%.  To insure that you have a best in class Muscadet, you can look for an unofficial designation called Hermine d'Or named after a little white muskrat like animal.  There is a second lesser known wine made in the region from Folle Blanche grapes called Gros Plant, and according to the teacher it is as the name would indicate, GROSS.  He says you should only drink it if you are at a cafe chain smoking cigarettes.  I don't suggest smoking, so I would say, skip it. 

Traveling up the river there are two towns generally considered together both of which are known for their sweet wine made from Chenin Blanc, only here it is called Pineau de la Loire.  These towns are collectively known as Anjou and Saumur.  This is the largest and therefore most diverse region of the Loire.  In this region they also make some reds from Cabernet Franc, as well as a rose made from a grape called Grolleau.  Nearly one third of the plantings are cab franc, and those reds are getting progressively better over time.  Anjou Blanc is made entirely from Chenin Blanc which is well suited to its colder climate.  It is slow to ripen, and maintains its high acidity.  Savennieres AOP  are the best example of these wines and develop honeyed richness with age.  They are perfectly paired with a great lobster bisque.  The second sub region to talk about is Coteaux du Layon AOP.  The Layon river is a tributary of the Loire and in this region they make late-harvest wine beautifully infected with noble rot.  they must have a residual sugar of 34 g/l, and are quite pricey if you can find one.  Within the Coteaux du Layon, is a town called Bonnezeaux AOP and Quarts de Chaume.  They too make late harvest wines.  These wines are exceptional, expensive and sweet with a residual sugar content of 80g/l or higher.  Additionally I mentioned the reds of Anjou which are generally Cabernet Franc based, and they are generally good values.  Anjou villages AOP produce some of the region's finest examples.  You will also find Gamay based reds as well.  These are lighter reds similar in style, and sharing a grape with Beaujolais.

Next on the cruise up the river is the town of Samur.  They make red, dry white and most of the sparkling wines in the region which come in both white and rose varieties.  Regulations may restrict some of this with a push towards more pure Chenin Blanc wines from this AOP in the near future.  The whites are sometimes a blend containing up to 20% Chardonay or Sauvignon blanc.  Reds allow Cabernet (Both Sauvignon and Franc) as well as a grape called Pineau d' Aunis which is similar to Pinot Noir but with more pepper and some raspberries.  No rose's are aloud in Saumur except sparkling.  Another interesting wine due to the soil composition in Saumur (A hardened limestone near champigny (The "Field of Fire")a llow wines made from cab franc that are light and bright and take on the elegant floral expression of cab franc.  These can be labeled Samur-Champigny.

Next on our LONG river tour is a stop in Touraine.  where you can find the Chenonceau castle,   This castle pictured to the right is a great example of some of the fairytale castles in the region.  As you can tell, they built this beautiful castle into the river.  I am thinking that if I can just make about 100 million dollars writing this blog, I will buy it as my summer home.

While we just talked about the reds of Saumur-Champigny, the best reds of the Loire come from Chinon and Bourgueil AOPs.  This is a place where one of my favorite grapes, Cabernet Franc grows better then anywhere else on earth.  It takes on raspberry, and tobacco as well as aromatics and leaves you with beautifully integrated tannins.  Borgueil offers beautiful reds and some rose wines, while Chinon makes a few wines that are white from, you guessed it, Chenin Blanc.

Other notable sub regions in Touraine include Vouvray and Montlouis-sur Loire AOPs.  Vouvray AOP is Touraine's largest of the white wine districts.  These wines are a great value generally.  In fact we had a quite nice one from a California Grocery chain for about 7 dollars in class and all of us agreed it was quite nice.  the beauty of these wines is that they are generally a bit sweet, and balanced with high acidity.  They are a beautiful food wine.  Nontlouis-sur-Loire AOP makes similar wines and in fact until recently, they were not their own AOP.

A vin gris which is almost a copper color, is also sold made in the region.  This wine is like a rose, but generally fruity with a firm structure and a dry and nutty finish.  It is bottled under the name Touraine-Noble Joue and is believed to have been bottled the same way in the 15th century.  Drink early and often as it is not built to age.  The last grape worth doting is Romorantin which is a cousin of Chardonay, and used to be prevalent in the Loire, but now is only made in Cour-Cheverny AOC.

Am I losing you yet?  My fingers hurt from typing.  The nice thing about this next part is whoever is in the Loire decided to use English (My prayers are heard) to describe this next region.  It is called the "Central Region" although if it were in France, it would likely be called something that sounded more like Cen-Tral'.   Sancerre has reds and roses but that is not what gets the highest praise for this AOP.  The raved about wines from this region are whites from Sauv Blanc.  Can I get a collective Ahhhhhhhh?  The Sauv Blanc planted here are among the best in the world (Sorry friends in NZ, while your SBs are fruity and good, the minerals and balance in these is fantastic).  The minerals that they display come from a flinty soil that gets expressed in the wine, think sulfer after a gun fires.  As mentioned before, they also make some Pinot Noir which is lighter in style but can be quite good in warm years.  Also the Pinot Noir is CHEAP and a good value frequently.  Sancerre and Pouilly Fume are almost always Sauvignon Blanc.  My one call out is that there is Pinot Noir bottled under the Sancerre lable so if you want a Sauv Blanc, please make sure the liquid in your bottle is white!!!  Pouilly Fume will always be white, and always be Sauv Blanc.  There are other AOPs in the central Vineyards, but they are smaller and more difficult to find stateside.  they all make Sauv blanc and or pinots along with vin gris in some.  Orleans-cleryAOP has Cab Franc based reds.

The final stop on our river tour is Auvergne.  This region is small so hopefully it wont take to long.  Gamay is the famous grape here and again they make wines similar to Beaujolais.  We will start in Chateaumeillant.  It is a tiny AOC and produces reds from Pinot Noir and Gamay and a vin gris.  Saint-Pourcain is know for aromatic wites made from Chardonay, Sauv Blanc and Tressallier, which can produce high alcohol wines that have a lot of bitter notes.  Cote Roannaise produces a wine similar to Beaujolais, but likely better due to the more boutique wine making styles.  Cotes d' Auvergn which is  a region that makes Chardonay and gamay and Pinot Noir based reds.  And finally Cotes du Forez which makes Gamay into both a red and a rose wine.

If you are not overwhelmed like I am, that is likely good.  Think of Loire as a BIG vineyard that produces good wines of varied types in a storybook setting.  The sweet wines were produced because back in the day, when people were not able to access sugar, they made sweet wines to give them a little sugary treat after a meal.  Those were generally exported to the rest of the world and taxed by the Dutch who controlled the access to the Atlantic.  oddly they are still produced like that today so that the man can tax you and me for the same treats.  The less sweet wines were consumed locally and in Paris.  Today they tax us for those too.  You can see that the locals could likely afford it, after all, there were castles EVERYWHERE.  Next week, join me for a short trip to Bordeaux.  I am sure it will be all the more confusing, but the wines are worth understanding.





Monday, January 19, 2015

Alsace

WEEK 1.   ALSACE

I am in a profession (Marketing/Sales) in which I spend a lot of time with other people, important people, who make big and important decisions that drive not only my company's business, but I also meet with people who hold high positions at my customer's companies as well.  We talk about tough topics, sometimes we don't agree on matters worth millions of dollars to our bottom lines, and I seldom if ever get nervous.

I also speak in front of a room frequently.  They say that most adults would rather die then speak in public.  I don't get that, I am not that guy.  In fact, I don't really know what it means to be nervous.  I don't feel those feelings often.  Some of you may be thinking, weird... I know right.  I am not sure why it is, but it is.  I have been that way since I was a kid.  I played a lot of sports, and frequently thought about being the guy with the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win it all.  (Maybe I would have even done better then the Packers last night against the Seahawks; had to, I am a Bears fan).

Why all of this strange background to start an article about Alsace you might ask.  Fair question I suppose, It comes down to this, I was starting school for the first time in 9 years, and I was legitimately nervous.  It took me a couple of days leading up to the first class to realize just what this strange feeling that I had was.  Indigestion?  Excitement?  Just Gas?  No, it was definitely nerves.  But why?  What I realized is that I had been drinking wine, and a lot of what I thought was good wine for years, thinking that I really liked it, but was I right?  Am I a fool?  Did I really know the difference between a Cabernet, and a Merlot.  I cook too, is my palate really as good as I think it is?  WHAT IF I CAN'T DO THIS?  

Geesh, This nerves thing is exhausting.  I don't know how nervous people do it.  (Might I suggest more wine).

So I drive to class at a campus I have never been to, approximately 30 minutes from my house.  For those of you familiar with Chicago traffic, I would say it was fairly good that day, and yet...30 minutes it was, adding minutes to my Thursday for the foreseeable future.  When I finally arrive, I come to find out that Harper Collage has A LOT of different buildings spread across many miles.  Who knew?  So it was a bit like that dream in which you are going to class and you can't find your room, only it was the first day and not the night of your final exam.

I finally found the room W213, and I walked in...Perfect, first one there, except for the teacher who was sitting in the room with 6 places set at a table.  Each place had 4 wine glasses a plate with a butter knife, a glass for water, and a spit cup (Classy I know, but an essential wine tasting tool since I had to drive home).  There were two pitchers of ice water in the center of the table, and a screen pulled down with a slide that welcomed us to class.  

My teacher introduced himself in a thick french accent (Appropriate) and I did the same.  (Without the accent of course)

Teacher's first question:  "Are you in the industry?"  

ME:  Trick question?  "The Industry" as though there is only one?  Nope.  I am not in the industry, I am in healthcare.  I like food and wine, and am doing this to gain better knowledge of a subject near and dear to me. 

Teacher:  Oh...

SILENCE

Am I in the right place?  Should I be here?  This was made worse by the fact that at this point another student walks into the room his name was Carlos, and he has been in the industry for a long time working at some of the top restaurants in Chicago and Las Vegas.  Oh, and the guy has an exceptional knowledge of food and wine, and many years of tasting experience as a server.  GULP, What have I done to myself.  A few more trickle into the room, but none of them have experience in "THE INDUSTRY."  They do however have 1 semester under their belts.  Grrrrr.  I am the NOOB.  

So the class begins and we start learning about Alsace.  It is a French town that borders Germany, however the Germans have had this plot of land many times as well.  The Romans made wine here too, although all of the grapes have been ripped out and re planted post 1945. It was the last AOC to be recognized, and it was not officially an AOC thing (different then a G thing) until the late 60s.

The region is broken into two parts, the Haut-Rhin, and Bas -Rhin, with most of the best wines coming from the Haut-Rhin.  Over two thirds of the region's Grand Cru (Grand Cru wines are vineyards recognized for their continued excellence over the years and command a price accordingly)  wines are located in this sub-region.

This is a RARE wine making region that is known for WHITE WINE (Make snobby white wine comment here, like I DON"T LIKE WHITES).  These are not boring white wines.  They are bold, aggressive whites that are built to age.  A Riesling from Alsace can age for decades, and pick up a depth of flavor and a deepening of texture as they do.  What I learned is that, probably because the Germans make their Riesling sweet, Riesling from Alsace tends to be dry to off dry.  (No sugar is left when the yeast is done fermenting the grapes)  This means that you are left with a higher alcohol level, and decent acid making these wines great for pairing with most foods.  Likely not the dessert wine that many think of.  Other important grapes, also called noble grapes, from the region include Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer (Extra points for spelling correctly..I failed).  The region butts up to the Vosges mountain range making it very dry, and in fact one of the driest regions in all of France.  The vines are planted on the East side of the mountain, while the rains usually hit the west side.  It is also cold in the winters, but due to the location of most of the vineyards, grapes get sufficient sunlight to ripen fully.

Pinot Gris called such because gris means grey in French, has pinkish skins leaving the wine with a bit of color.  It is frequently smokey and spicy with good acidity.  Even if you don't like Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) from other parts of the world, these are greatly complex wines and worth another look. 

Gwerztraminer tends to share tropical fruit (Mango, Lychee, and the like) and some say spices, although my teacher was strongly opposed to the spices idea).  It is a wine that shares its nose easily (Smelly) and the ones from Alsace tend to be dry or off dry.  

Finally Muscat is another aromatic grape and it shows floral and grapy notes.  Imagine that, a grape wine that FINALLY smells like grapes.  Go figure.  

Two other things to know about the wines of Alsace, most of them are single variety.  They put a lot of effort into making the wines taste like they should, and to taste Terroir is to ensure that the wines are single variety wines.  There are a few exceptions.  Sparkling are made from a field blend, and Edelzwicker (Noble Blends) are usually mediocre blends from the region, along with Gentil which is also a blend, but they must have 50% or better of the 4 noble grapes.

Finally in years in which late harvest is possible, there are two wines that are usually VERY expensive that can be made.  The first is called Vendages Tardives (VT), and the other even more rare, and thus more expensive is called Selections de Grains Nobles. (SGN)  Both despite being late harvest are usually dry to off dry.   

The soil is like a patchwork quilt, so soil is less important then the grapes and the spot on the mountain in order to achieve great enough sunlight.  

These wines were all new to me, so when we did the blind tasting, I was a bit overwhelmed.  A good aged Riesling smells a bit of motor oil.. yep, and that is a good thing... Huh.  Not sure what to make of that.  It is similar to people telling you that some Sauvignon Blanc smells of cat piss, or barnyard followed by as it should.  I am not sure anything you eat should, but whatever floats your boat.

We tasted a BAD and I mean bad Riesling and Pinot Gris to kick things off, and it was a good illustration that even the French can admit that they make some bad wine, because the teacher said it was like dog food.  We enjoyed that.  Next we tasted the Gwurztraminer and a grand cru Riesling, and quickly I understood what great food wine they can make in Alsace.  I will be trying many more.  I even came home and drank the only dry Riesling that I had in the house.  It was an Australian Riesling made in the Alsace style from the Pewsey Valley.  (YEP!)  Did not get it, say it out loud.  (Got it now?)  Seriously?  do I have to spell it out for you?  I may be a bit sick in the head.

So in conclusion, for homework, I think I need to DRINK MORE WINE!  Woo hoo.  If I knew back then what I know now, I would have majored in this earlier.  Wine drinking for homework doesn't suck.  I am excited to continue exploring.  I am a NOVICE in this area of the world and have a lot more to learn, so I look forward to doing so.  Fortunately the only way to do so is to drink, or as we say in the "INDUSTRY", taste more wine.  I intend to.

Introductions

 INTRODUCTIONS

Hi, I am a wine aficionado with two young kids and a wife , living in the suburbs of Chicago.  I have recently started a Sommelier program at a community college, and am in pursuit of making the art of wine less mystic, and more enjoyable.  I hope to learn how to taste what the experts taste, how to understand and explain the difference between a good wine and a bad wine.  Does the wine have a sense of Terroir (Place where it is grown), does it represent its varietal well (If you taste 10 other Cabernet wines, does this one taste like a Cabernet?), and finally, can you find some great wines at all budgets?

I am very excited to kick off the learning process, and share some of my learnings with anyone who is interested.  In the first semester, we will be studying wines of the OLD world.  Funny term, as though parts of the world have different ages... Hmm.  It actually makes sense in the wine world to start with the French I suppose, although I am sure the Italians and Spanish would have LOTS to say about that, but that is where we have begun.

Class 1.  Alsace
Class 2.  Loire
Class 3.  Bordeaux
Class 4.  Burgundy
Class 5.  Champagne
Class 6.  Rhone
Class 7   Languedoc Roussillon

OUT OF FRANCE

Class 8.  Northern Italy
Class 9.  Southern Italy
Class 10.  Spain
Class 11  Sherry (The wine I swear, I am married)
Class 12  Portugal, Madeira and Port
Class 13.  Germany, Switzerland, and Austria,
Class 14.  Service
Class 15.  Greece
Class 16.  Eastern Europe

At this point I will be half way through the program and on to a certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers (http://www.mastersommeliers.org/).  I am incredibly excited to learn and to share, and to see where my new found education about wine takes me.  Who knows, while I have no intent on making a career out of it, stranger things have happened.  At the very least, I hope it provides me with a lifetime of learning, and awakens my taste buds in a way that makes the wine experience a bit more enjoyable and thoughtful.  At the end of the day, that is what this whole thing is about.

The next Semester I will take wines of the NEW WORLD, one of which I am currently living in.  I hope to gain a better understanding of great wines in the US outside of California.  I am also excited to continue my education beyond the small niche of fine wines that I have enjoyed from the Yarra Valley in Australia.  I think it will be a fun ride.

If you ever wondered what it takes to be a wine Guy/Girl, feel free to come along with me on this fun and exciting journey.  I will try to make it interesting, and will also try to increase your knowlege along the way.  Not in a snobby, "oh, I taste Olives and peppers, and you should too" sort of way, but in a "wow, i get why acid helps wine pair with food, and therefore I know what i am serving at my next dinner party" sort of way.  After all, this should be enjoyable, and not stressful at the end of the day, it is just WINE!