Why indeed? It's just drinking, isn’t it? The best way to hone your appreciation skills in wine is to taste it, and you can do that on your own, right? True, but you need a foundation on which to build your wine knowledge and the simple fact is that we learn almost everything better and more deeply by sharing the learning experience – with a mentor, with professionals and with fellow wine lovers. Yes, there are books, and many of them are excellent as references, and some of them are very good at starting a discussion. But you still need to put liquid to lips to make sense of what is written.

Recently, a friend asked why she should invest in a wine class instead of purchasing a few bottles and having a liquid study session at home. I think it’s a great question.

Consider This:

You can buy packaged food, so why take a cooking class? And yet, look at the number of cooking programs (most of them highly questionable to my mind) that proliferate on television. There are almost no wine programs available and yet… most of us who love wine spend a huge portion of the cost of a dinner out on wine and spirits, often more than we spend on the food.

Most of us who love wine spend a huge portion of the cost of a dinner out on wine and spirits, often more than we spend on the food.

Learning about wine seems a foreign concept to many but it’s actually a great deal of fun as well as financially rewarding – the more you know about wine, the better your wine purchases will be. You need to know at least enough to understand what makes you happy. I know, wine makes you happy. But, which wines make you happiest? Until you try a well-curated selection, how do you know? Learning the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting will give you great insight into how your palate works. In the WSET courses, we taste close to 20 wines each day - you will get a great tasting experience, and through that you will become a great taster. Of course, you can taste wine at home - the difference here is that in a class setting your tasting is structured, focused and guided - it's tasting with a purpose and I can guarantee that even after a one-day class, you tasting abilities will be enhanced and, more importantly, your appreciation of what you taste will be considerably greater. Best of all, you will develop skills that carry on into all your future experiences with wine. And I can guarantee that, in a class with other like-minded wine lovers, if you have a question, at least one of your colleagues has a similar question, and the classroom is a great place to get answers.

The Terror of Terroir

Are you secretly in terror every time a wine list is offered at a restaurant? I don’t blame you – wine lists are often confusing, and the people who hand them to you may or may not be particularly helpful. I don’t want you to learn about wine in order to do battle with sommeliers, I want you to be confident about wine so you have a more enjoyable and helpful interchange with sommeliers, retailers and your friends. A good sommelier is a great asset, and the more you know about wine, the better a customer you are: a good somm (you'll also learn this is trade-speak for sommelier!)  is eternally grateful for a passionate, well-informed customer who is open to new tastes. And if you've picked up a bit of wine lingo along the way, all the better!

When you know more about wine, your dinner will taste better. So will your wine

When you know more about wine you purchase for a meal, your dinner will taste better. Seriously. And so will your wine. One of the things we explore is the relationship between food and wine and how wine wine and food nearly always impact the taste of the other. When you know how to taste and, more to the point, when you really understand what you taste, you will pick better wines for the price and better choices for your meals. Or for happy hour, for that matter.

In our WSET courses and other classes (like the wonderful Fine Vintage Sensory Masterclass and the French Wine Professional course), we spend a great deal of time on the mechanics of tasting and how to express what you taste, and then relate what you learn to the basics of wine and food pairing. We also talk about a lot of grape varieties. And, oh yes, we also taste a lot of wine. Note, I say “taste,” and not “drink.” Drink comes after class!

A better tasting future

Improving your tasting skills makes every bottle you purchase a better investment

There is no better investment in your wine collection and tasting than bolstering your understanding about just what is in that glass before you. You will spend your wine dollars more wisely, you will be drinking better wine and you will better appreciate the wine you taste. The best way to enhance your tasting abilities and your appreciation of wine is to join me for a wine class. For the consumer, the collector and members of the wine trade, there are no better classes available than those offered by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). If you are going to sell wine in a restaurant, you will want to focus on service as well, but for sheer basic knowledge and tasting experience you can't beat the series of courses created by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and implemented by James Cluer, MW, at Fine Vintage, Ltd. You will be empowered by sharpening your skills for sharing your discoveries with others, and a certification from WSET is the gold standard of wine education. Ask any of the dozens of people who have joined me for WSET courses and I think you will hear that the classes are helpful, informative, fun and thirst quenching. 

And my friend who asked the question I mentioned at the beginning of this page? She took a Level One course, had a blast and followed up a few months later with the Level Two course to further enhance her knowledge! I'll be teaching classes over the coming months in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami and New York, so jump over to the Wine Courses page and make a plan to become a more informed wine consumer. If you are just discovering your love of wine, join me for a WSET Level One Class; if you already have some wine experience, have read some books and tasted wines from several countries, start our with the WSET Level 2 course. And for the advanced taster there is the wonderfully intensive WSET Level 3 course available as well.