The question I’m asked most often is how did I get into wine and spirits? Well, over 20 years ago when I was a community columnist for my local newspaper and the editor of our weekly entertainment section asked what else I could write about. At that time I had been in a few wine clubs, and a book club, so I offered to do book and wine reviews. Pretty quickly I started receiving unsolicited bottles of wine on my doorstep for review, as well as invitations to wine dinners and wine events. No one sent me any free books, and the rest, is history.
What I want to share with readers today is how you can get into wine. I will share two simple ideas that should get anyone, aficionado or beginner, further into exploring and understanding wine.
How are people able to describe aromas and flavors like fruit and spice in their wine? Why do they say things like, “This reminds me of milk chocolate-covered cherries”? No, there aren’t any cherries added into your glass of red wine, only a memory of a particular fruit. Your memory has to be either fresh, or well worked like most sommeliers through practice/a lot of tastings. So how can you do it? Let me tell you.
A few years back I was a guest at J. Lohr in Paso Robles. Besides a tour and tasting our group of wine writers/sommeliers were offered a sensory experience, led by red winemaker Steve Peck, which was meant to help us describe aromas. Peck had several small glasses of different Torani syrups, the same syrups you see in coffee bars, and the identity of each was written on a card, placed upside down in front of each. We were to sniff each syrup and guess what the flavor was, then reveal the card to see how we did. Immediately following this exercise we swirled and sniffed a few wines, and as you may have guessed, were easily able to call up the recent memories.
I emailed Torani after this eye-opening experience and they sent me about a dozen bottles to do my own classes, which I enjoy doing often. I also add glasses with items from my spice cabinet, honey, coffee, flower petals, earth, tree bark, tobacco, chocolate…you name it and I’ve probably put it in a cup. So you don’t have to have the syrups, you just need to take a trip through your house and garden. And then think about the smells.
Learning About One Variety At A Time
Years ago Eve Wine 101 Staff Writer Rusty Sly introduced “Grape of the Night” in one of his blog posts. He invited wine lovers to meet him at a local wine bar, with a bottle of the one variety of wine that he pre-chose. So say one month Rusty suggested a wine like Grenache and people then brought their favorite bottle of Grenache – which of course meant wines from all over, including Spain where the wine is called Garnacha. Then Rusty would read from his notes, about the history of the particular varietal, where it’s most popular and of course, the flavor profile. Guests would sample each – I know this part well as he roped me into serving most often – and describe the aromas and flavors they found. They were literally educating their palate on one variety at a time, and looking for small nuanced differences in each bottle.
Now, what will you do next to delve further into your wine journey?
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.