Category:Wine trends

Wine tasting season gets underway

The Wine Curmudgeon always makes people laugh when he tells them that the wine business is hard work. Well, get ready to laugh, because this is the beginning of the new release season.

That means that over the next three months or so, I will be at a lunch or a tasting three or four times a week, sampling various new vintages. It means paying careful attention when a very enthusiastic winemaker describes his harvesting techniques or her favorite clonal selections. (Are any readers bored yet?)

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Another wine class takes its final

My second Cordon Bleu wine class finishes its three-week session today with its final, and I was again impressed with how far they have come in such a short time.

This is not so much a reflection of my skills as a teacher; I’m still a work in progress in a lot of ways. Rather, it’s about what the chef who teaches the basic baking class said: “If you give them the information, and you show them why it’s important that they know this, it’s like a light bulb goes off over their heads.” And, he added with a laugh, it’s always a pleasure to see the light bulb go off.

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Students learn about wine service

The wine service class for my Cordon Bleu wine course is among my favorites, mostly because the students are always so amazed at the skills involved,

Last week’s was no exception. Barbara Werley of Pappas Bros. was calm, cool, confident and professional and they loved it. It’s impressive to see someone use a waiter’s corkscrew to open a bottle of wine in so few motions — and, as Werley pointed out, without making any noise.

Also of note:

? Werley runs a 33,000-bottle wine cellar, which elicited more than a few stares of disbelief.

? Pappas’ most expensive wine is an 1847 Ch teau d’Yquem, the French dessert wine. It runs about $70,000 for a half bottle. Students love to hear about wine prices, since they can’t believe anyone would really pay that much. Note to anyone with the cash: Yes, the d’Yquem is probably ready to drink.

? Music to my ears: Werley talked about food and wine pairings, and her most important piece of advice was to do just that — advise. If your customers don’t like a wine, she said, it doesn’t matter how good you think it is. The best wine is wine they like. If they want to drink riesling with steak, help them find the best riesling they can afford.

Students pair wine with food

Maybe there is something to this teaching business.

My first class at the Dallas Cordon Bleu took its final Friday, and the results were impressive. The test was simple: Match a five-course meal with wine, and I used dishes that these first-year students had either learned or that had simple ingredients and techniques, like pot roast instead of Beef Wellington.

Their job was not to pick a right or wrong wine. Instead, it was to pick a wine and explain why it went with the dish. In this respect, there were no right or wrong answers. If someone could make an argument for white zinfandel with pot roast, they got full credit. That no one tried to do that also struck me as a good sign.

After the jump, the menu and a look at their choices:

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One week in a wine classroom

I finish my first week teaching the introductory wine class at the Dallas branch of the Cordon Bleu today, and I have enjoyed it. A couple of observations:

? Most of the students, who are younger than 30, don’t seem to drink wine. They know it’s out there; it just doesn’t much interest them. This contradicts any number of studies that say that the students’ generation (the Millenials) is becoming more interested in wine.

? Many of them know about Two Buck Chuck, the inexpensive wine sold only at the Trader Joe’s grocery store chain. This is especially interesting, since there are no Trader Joe’s in Texas.

? The idea that the government, as in some European countries, can regulate what grapes are grown where and which grapes can be used to make specific wine strikes many of them as silly. I mention this because — especially in Texas — so many people are worried that the schools don’t do a good job of teaching the values of free enterprise.

? The 1855 Bordeaux wine classification is  even more confusing than I thought, and I thought it was pretty confusing already. It’s one thing to know; it’s something else entirely to explain it to 30-some odd students. How do you come up for a good answer to: “Why did the French do it that way?”