Friday, December 12, 2008

This Week, In Wine Class

For the last 6 weeks, I, with my trusty companion Lemnada, have been taking the Introduction to Wine Essentials course at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). It has been an incredibly enriching experience, despite its poor timing (Saturday from 7-9pm EST). I mean, that’s prime time!

Taught by an engaging Richard Vayda, veteran of the wine industry and member of the
Sommelier Society, the course began with an introduction to the basics – the general history of wine, how it is made, and its nutritive importance to the world then and now. Richard gave us an overview of just how important wine is to certain cultures, especially in France, which has the most rigorous classification system for wine today. We also discussed the subject of terroir and its importance to the quality of the wine, as well as the surrounding climate that incubates the grapes to their best.

Before this class, I always thought of wine (and food) as a great way to reach back through history and connect with a people different than myself. Despite cultural background, gender or status, all peoples had a form of wine in their lives, whether it was nutritious, sanitary, or just plain tasted good. I had done a fair amount of research, but wanted to enhance my knowledge by leaning on an expert to fill the gaps.

While taking the class, Richard offered not only the techniques and know-how for wine tasting, but the image of a person truly in love with the wine experience. After spending so much time discussing how much care goes into creating wine, from picking the right grapes, to blend proportions, and even the vessels in which the wine ferments, wine itself became a form of art, representing centuries of family traditions expressed in a simple, unassuming glass. I began to see this beverage as more than just a medium through which ancient man stored calories or even trade leverage over another country. Wine began to be a full blown sensory experience.

After the class, I pondered exactly what I had taken away from the class that I would share with the masses. Did I learn more about the history of wine? Yes. Could I lecture you more accurately and knowledgeably about the importance of terroir? Definitely. Am I more of a snob? I plead the fifth, but I’m sure my friends have their own opinions.

However, none of these topics affected me as deeply as the implications of the actual wine tasting process. Wine tasting typically conjures thoughts of
turtlenecks, fondue and Kenny G’s greatest hits. But I think the most important, and sadly most often, overlooked aspect of wine tasting is the incredibly enriching and stimulating personal experience offered. Drinking a glass of wine is more than just washing down your canapé or steak. It’s a rejuvenating opportunity to pause and step outside of your stress, your daily calamities and the whirlwind lives we all live to fall helplessly into an abyss of enjoyment. Tasting wine is less about what’s in the glass and more about stopping to notice every little detail. It envelops your olfactory with a wash of aromas, coaxing your memory to remember ghosts of Christmas past (seriously, when was the last time you had a blackberry pie?). It slows down life and forces you, the busy urban professional, to appreciate and understand that some things in life cannot be next-day delivered, instant messaged, or told to step-on-it. Some things, beautiful things, must be taken slowly and savored down to the last morsel. I realized just how much life has been flying by me lately, and how much I looked forward each week to stopping to smell the rosé.

-The UE


viridiansun said...

I try to comment, really I do. You're just so much dude. ... glad ur writing again though.

Anonymous said...

So, I think you should quit your job and become a chef. I know that's what you really want to do!

Better yet, open up a wine bar!

Courtney said...

Totally jealous...always wanted to take a wine class while in NY, but you know how work always got in the way!