Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Teaching Wine? | May 25, 2011

It ain’t rocket science. Unless we make it so.
Like a tortoise trying to teach snails how to sprint, I undertook my first crack at hosting a wine tasting for a group of locals about a week and a half ago. For this guy, it was an absolute joy. From picking out wines, conjuring up pairings, building tasting sheets, and maps, and powerpoint presentations…
…I’m a nerd. And I would enjoy doing none of this for the day job. Alas, heating and air conditioning lack the sex appeal of fine wine.
But it was all an undeniable labor of unconditional love, and I hope the crowd had half the fun I did slinging it all together.
Yet, while I encourage wine be used for fun more than anything else, there is a burning desire within my evangelical spirit to have taught something. I really hope that insight was gained, perceptions were shattered, and at least one participant was left with a need to learn more about the fermented grape. There exists a seemingly endless universe of new and different within the world’s bottles… how could I not want someone else to join in the exploration?
My hopes- however- are far from a slam dunk. Like so many first dates, rambling jokes, and (needless to say) blog posts, I may have veered toward over-complication, muddying what would’ve been a good thing- if I had kept it simple. The battle has long-raged that blogs have come to “democratize” wine, bringing it to the masses. Blogs and bloggers are releasing what is, essentially, a food product from the snobby vice-grip of the old guard’s obscure tasting notes and arbitrary scoring systems. Or at least that’s one side of the debate.
Conversely, others argue that a total dumbing-down of the curriculum will, in no way, benefit those who thirst for vinous knowledge.
Honestly, I think there’s a place for both opinions.
The bottom line is that wine education needs to match the knowledge and desire of the audience. And, thankfully, my group was gracious enough to give me some pointers, as I am neither a polished individual nor above constructive criticism:
1) For the most part, assumptions are bad. The geek-set can get caught up in what it sees as commonplace, but may be voodoo to others. I was asked to explain the methodology of tasting (why the swirling? the sniffing? the swishing around in the mouth?). All great points that I will be sure to address at the next one.
2) Didn’t think folks would want to take notes. I wrote off the event as a social gathering. I was pleased to hear that some wished they had a way to jot down tidbits of knowledge. I was equally displeased that I was too ham-handed to provide at least some bits of graphite to let the crowd scribble. Point taken.
3) I think visual aides are good. While no one wants to see another damn powerpoint while not at the office, it can be tricky to explain where Rias Baixas lies on a map. So, when you think you’re clever and create such slides, make sure the projector works. D’oh.
All that said, I think there were some breakthroughs. Vinho Verde slapped thoughts of what an $8 wine can be right in the chops. Tavel rosé shocked much of the crowd when it tasted nothing like White Zinfandel.
Ultimately, wine had resulted in good conversation, conviviality, and merrymaking. It had brought the crowd together. Even if that’s all that happened at this event, then I consider it a rousing success.
But for future events, I’ll know to cover the basics, the geeky, and make sure that I’m doing my due-diligence to advance knowledge, without perpetuating the cryptic nature of wine.
That’s assuming there are future events. And assumptions, as already noted, are generally bad.

Posted in wine education

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