Tag Archives: wine education

Four things college students taught me about wine

jeff unt1

wine educationFour things college students, including my El Centro viticulture and enology class and two University of North Texas classes, taught me about wine this semester. Call it Wine Education for Curmudgeons 101:

• Regional wine matters to people who didn’t help start a regional wine group. I don’t know why this always surprises me, but it does. Maybe because when I mention it to too many adults, they look at me as if I want them to drink castor oil? But when I talk about regional and Texas wine to students, they understand the idea of local wine and its relationship to local food, and they’re more than happy to try it. Enjoy it and buy it, even.

• The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, and he doesn’t look too good naked. We did a Napa and Sonoma tasting in my El Centro class, five wines that cost at least $40 (that I brought from samples in the wine closet). The students were not impressed, noting how commercial they tasted, how overpriced they were, and how they expected a lot more for what the wines cost. Even more surprising: They came to these conclusions on their own, without any help from me. All I do in a tasting is pour the wines, talk about who made them, and ask the students what the wines taste like. We don’t even discuss price until the end.

• The world does not revolve around cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and merlot. As someone who never met a grape, no matter how odd, that he didn’t want to try, this always makes me feel better about the future of wine in the U.S. People my age, faced with a grape they don’t recognize, tend to glaze over. The North Texas students, on the other hand, were fascinated with a dry riesling.

• People like wine I don’t like. I know this is true, but it always helps to see it in action. We did a Washington state grocery store merlot, full of fake oak, gobs of sweet fruit, and winemaking sleight of hand at North Texas. When I asked who liked it, as I always do, almost everyone did. Which reinforces the most important (and only) rule about wine: If you like it, it’s a good wine, and it doesn’t matter what wine writers, even the one teaching the class, think. Just be willing to try different kinds of wine to see if there is something else you might like.

Slider photo courtesy of Leta Durrett

WC will teach wine class at El Centro College

wine classes

Damn, is that wine class with the guy with the hat next? Can’t we stay in this baking class?

What’s the best way to reach consumers and undermine all the foolishness that the wine business and its allies in the Winestream Media foist off on them? Get ’em while they’re young.

Which is what I’ll be doing in January, when I teach Viticulture and Enology at El Centro College (RSTO 1319, for those keeping score), part of the Dallas County Community College system. El Centro’s Food and Hospitality program is one of the best two-year degrees in the country, and I’m flattered that I was asked to teach.

So expect an occasional post about the classes and how well the students take to what I’m telling them. If I have half as much fun — and success — as the last time I taught, at Dallas’ Cordon Bleu, then it will be well worth it. I’m also told the class may be available for non-credit and adult education students; check it out if you’re in the Dallas area.


Four wine myths that confuse consumers


four wine mythsThe genesis for this post came from the Lifehacker website, which occasionally does wine items that make me want to throw something at the computer screen. The various authors mean well, but usually just recycle urban legends and wine myths that have little to do with wine in the 21st century.

The most recent was an item that claimed you could determine wine quality from the quality of the label. Just rub it, and if the label has raised lettering or if it feels like more expensive paper, then the wine is safe to buy. Otherwise, the wine is more than likely swill. There is some truth to this, in that producers sometimes put more expensive labels on cheap wine to entice the consumer. I have a label here, from a $10 wine from a multi-million case producer, that has raised lettering. The wine? No better or no worse than most $10 grocery store wine.

But to say that label quality has anything to do with wine quality is foolish (and Lifehacker was called on it by more than one commentator, including me). What determines wine quality? What’s in the bottle — and not what’s on the bottle, how the bottle is made or how it’s closed, or even if it is a bottle. The key to quality is finding producers who understand that and who spend their money on the wine and not marketing the wine. And you can’t find those producers by rubbing labels; you have to drink wine.

Keeping that in mind, here are three more myths about wine quality that come up all too often:

• Screwcaps: I still hear, almost 20 years after screwcaps became common, that they’re a sign of inferior wine. If that’s true, then I guess the only good wine in the world still comes from France. Because the screwcap myth is that outdated.

• Punt: That’s the hollow space on the bottom of the wine bottle, and it’s supposed to be a sign of wine quality. Two-buck Chuck (and most $3 wine, in fact) doesn’t have a punt. But most producers still use punts not because it makes their wine better, but because it’s easier — given how the bottle manufacturing process works — than switching to punt-less bottles.

• Legs: Those are the lines that form on the side of the glass, and are caused by the alcohol and sugar content of the wine. More alcohol means more legs, but doesn’t mean better wine. This myth probably dates to the mid-20th century (or even earlier), when most great wine did come from France. In those days, the exceptional vintages, which were usually warmer, yielded riper grapes that produced higher alcohol wines. Hence, equating legs with better wine.

For more on wine myths:
Five wine facts that aren’t necessarily wine facts
Can cheap wine do this?
Cheap wine and wine that is made cheaply

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