VENI VIDI VINO! Italy In Eight Bottles | Boston Wine School @ Beverly Farms

One of the things that makes Italian wine so great – the incredible variety – is also one of the things that makes Italian wine so challenging to understand. From north to south, the grapes change dramatically. Pinot Grigio grown in the Alps and grown in Sicily are both called Italian. To understand Italian wine is to understand how all these multiple nearly identical wines are unique from one another.

Tasting class will begin with ancient but newly re-discovered grapes from southern Italy – Grillo (a chirpy white), Frappato (cherry red), and Primitivo (we call it Zinfandel). Next we’ll taste two Tuscan reds from the heart of Italy: Sangiovese (one level of paperwork away from Brunello) and Chianti DOCG (a delicious opportunity to talk about what each of those letters means). Finally, in northern Italy, we’ll wrap up our taste tour with rich ripe signature wines Valpolicella, Dolcetto, and Barbera.

Your Italian wine confidence will be sky high after this class. We’ll serve bread, cheese, olives and antipasto to go along with the wines we taste to highlight some fundamentals of pairing.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND

This is a Level 1 introductory course for beginners and enthusiasts. It assumes some exposure to wine but little or no formal wine knowledge. This program is appropriate for both wine lovers and professionals in all wine, food, hospitality and service industries.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN

Students will taste and learn a broad range of landmark grapes from southern, central, and northern Italy. In just two hours and eight bottles, you’ll know if you’re a Chianti person, or a Sicilian red wine lover, or if your tastes tend to cooler Alpine wines. This class will review some fundamentals of technical wine tasting to start, then taste its way from one end of Italy to the other. The emphasis in class is on giving people tools to understand wine and understand themselves, and then practicing the language of wine in class in the moment of discovery.

PROGRAM FORMAT

2 hour classroom program
6 – 8 wines tasted
Bread, cheese, olives, antipasto

TASTING SYLLABUS (tentative)

SOUTHERN STARS
2017 Gorghi Tondi “Kheire” Grillo
2017 Baglio delle Fate Frappato
2013 Menhir Salice Salentino Riserva

THE HEART OF SANGIOVESE
2017 Innocenti “Lume” Sangiovese
2014 Pio II Chianti DOCG

NORTH BY NORTHWEST
2014 La Dama Valpolicella Ripasso
2017 Giorgio Carnevale Dolcetto d’Alba
2014 Tacchino Barbera del Monferrato

REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS

Guests, students and certificate candidates must meet the legal minimum age for the retail purchase of alcoholic beverages in the country where the program is being held: 21 in the USA and China.

YOUR EDUCATOR

Jonathon Alsop

JONATHON ALSOP is founder & executive director of the Boston Wine School, author of The Wine Lover’s Devotional and In Vino Veritas, and a commentator for National Public Radio on WGBH | Boston Public Radio and Under The Radar.

He began writing about wine, food and travel in 1988 and emerged as a wine expert through his syndicated wine column. He has contributed numerous articles to the Associated Press, Frequent Flyer Magazine, La Vie Claire, Beverage Business Magazine, Mobil Travel Guides, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Boston Globe, and many others.

Jonathon founded the Boston Wine School in 2000 where he teaches wine and food classes in a dedicated 100% snob-free zone. His new book Wine Life: A Collection Of Verses will be published in 2020.

Wine Word Of The Month: “Lean”

By Jonathon Alsop

BOSTON, MA — It’s hard to speak the language of wine because it’s a language invented by drunk people, but wine lovers blame themselves for the convoluted vocabulary. Talking about wine is like writing a poem where multiple literal and metaphorical images appear and overlap. But it would help if we could get clear on a few basic words.

Someone threw the word “lean” into the mix the other night in class to describe the body of an Italian Pinot Grigio we were tasting. The opposite of “lean” is “fat” or “big and round” – think archetypical California Chardonnay. The PG in question was light in weight and silver in color, edgy, zippy, a little watery, but in a good way.

We use a lot of body image descriptors to talk about wine – a big red can be legitimately called a “body builder” – and they are a natural way to think and talk about wine.

HOMEWORK: Use it in a sentence. For instance: “I want a glass of white wine, something lean and light.”

Paolo Valle Pinot Grigio 2016


Something lean and light? Here you go!

One of the challenges with Italian Pinot Grigio is that it’s extremely different depending on where it’s grown in Italy. Sometimes, grown hot and wild in the south, Pinot Grigio comes off thin and watery, but not this one. Friuli is the foothills of the Alps – next stop, Austria and Slovenia – and the growing season is long and cool. What slow cooking does for food, slow growing does for wine. The result is a suave, rich Pinot Grigio to pair with seafood of all kinds, wild mushroom risotto, even fragrant veal and pork dishes.

2016 Paolo Valle Pinot Grigio
100% Pinot Grigio
(Friuli, northeast Italy, $18.99)

https://www.vinovations.us/paolo-valle-pinot-grigio-2016/

Pinot To The People

By Jonathon Alsop

BOSTON, MA — California makes more Pinot Noir than it grows, not by importing out-of-state wine, but by blending in other grapes. Technically, US wine only has to be 75% one grape type to be named for that grape on the label. In theory, your favorite bottle could be pure Pinot, or it could be three-quarters, or anything in between.

Truth is, you can often easily see this in the glass. Pinot Noir – the grape – is light red and thin skinned, and many classic Euro Pinot Noir is so light you can read your phone through a glass of it. When you crack open a California Pinot and it comes out dark red, almost opaque, that’s a sure sign the wine’s blended, often with a high-pigment grape like Petite Sirah.

This week’s special comes from our “Pinot To The People” class, and we use the DeLoach “Private Collection” for a lot of reasons – its bright cherry and cranberry fruit flavors, its slight earthiness and outdoorsy aromas – but mostly for its authenticity. The color is real life burgundy and the flavor is true-to-type Pinot Noir.

If you’re a fan of cool-climate Oregon Pinot, this is a great choice. It comes from the Sonoma Coast, way north and west of Sonoma Valley and much closer to the cold Pacific. The result is a slow-grown wine full of flavor and finesse.

2013 DeLoach “Private Collection” Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, California, USA)

https://www.vinovations.us/deloach-private-collection-sonoma-county-pinot-noir-2013/

Zinfandel Dreams

By Jonathon Alsop

BOSTON, MA — Our “Signature Grapes” tasting class really gets fundamental by tasting the connection between certain wines and the places around the world they’ve made famous – and vice versa. Zinfandel fills this role in California wine. Cabernet and Chardonnay may be just as famous, but you only get this kind of Zinfandel one place, and that’s a unique geographic bond that you can taste in the bottle.

People ask me all the time what’s my favorite wine, and I’ve got a lot of favorites, but the truth is, it’s Zinfandel. I love California’s signature grape because it has a little bit of everything I love in a wine – fruit, spice, earthiness, black AND white pepper.

In the wine world, we call this balance, and if you balance flavors in some dynamic and tasty way, we call this style. On the spectrum of Zinfandel, this Raymond stakes out the fruit and juice range, and its style is alive, vivid, and California sunny. The color is dark candy-apple red, and the flavors will remind you first of ripe red plums and black raspberries, then almost behind the scenes, the wine smells like dried herbs, even a little like cocoa.

Best of all, this 2014 is young by Zinfandel standards. It possesses great youth and vitality right now, but I would be looking forward to drinking this in the 2020s too.

2014 Raymond Vineyards “The Inaugural R Collection” Zinfandel 
(St. Helena, Napa, California, USA)

https://www.vinovations.us/the-inaugural-r-collection-by-raymond-vineyards-zinfandel-2012/

Blending For Power Wine

By Jonathon Alsop

BOSTON, MA — This is one of those wines that really sets your expectations before you even get into the bottle.

First of all, the richly artistic label – evocative and powerful on its own – promises a powerful wine experience. And then the blend – Cabernet Sauvignon plus Zinfandel – is simultaneously new yet embarrassingly obvious too. As soon as I saw it, I had one of those “DUH!” moments. America loves Cabernet… America loves Zinfandel – what took us so long?

There are other blends out there that use Cab and Zin with other grapes, but so far this is the only pure Cabernet + Zinfandel blend I’ve ever encountered, and I plan to encounter it again and again! This is a $17 blend that tastes better than any $17 Cabernet or $17 Zinfandel on its own.

The Ocean Howler really represents the best of both worlds: the bright, juicy, fruity happiness of Zinfandel combined with Cabernet’s earthiness and weight. It’s not quite April yet, but I’m already thinking about barbecue season, and this blend would be delicious with anything smoky and meaty off the grill. At just $2.20 a glass, this is one of the tastiest under-the-radar wines I’ve come across in a long time.

2016 The Ocean Howler Cabernet Sauvignon + Zinfandel
(Lodi, central California, USA)

https://www.vinovations.us/the-ocean-howler-cabernet-sauvignon-zinfandel-2016/

Magical Merlot: Off the beaten path in Castillon

By Jonathon Alsop

BOSTON, MA — This Wine Club Selection comes right out of our Burgers And Bordeaux class.

Our curriculum always focuses on the delicious, and this Merlot-heavy blend really teaches us what Merlot means in Bordeaux. As always, every Wine School Selection is a wine we teach with and you taste in class. That’s how you know it’s good.

This silky red Bordeaux represents a great value for a few simple reasons.

First, it’s from a great vintage, maybe better than 2015 even. Next, it’s from a very un-famous place – Castillon, literally on the other side of the river – which moderates the price. And finally, it’s majorly Merlot, a grape in abundance in Castillon.

The result is a soft, friendly, very easy to drink red classic with an abundance of fruit flavors – raspberry, cranberry, red cherry, and more. Best of all is the texture of this wine. It’s so lush and delightful and full of soft soft tannins, which are so rare – so many big reds are gritty instead.

Château de Colombe is drinking just fine right this very minute, but for a vintage like 2016 is shaping up to be, I would be confident to age it for 7 – 10 years. If 2016 is a special year in your life or someone you know, this is a profoundly affordable way to commemorate that year.

2016 Château de Colombe (Castillon, Côtes de Bordeaux, western France)

http://www.vinovations.us/chateau-de-colombe-castillon-cotes-de-bordeaux-2016


WINE+FOOD | Ten Dollar Cheese, Million Dollar Match

Fourme d’Ambert
Cow’s milk blue | Southern France | About $15 a pound, available widely at cheese shops and Whole Foods

Fourme is the oldest continuously made cheese in France, introduced by the ancient Romans 2,000 years ago. It looks startlingly blue – and it is – but the flavor is surprisingly mild and mostly buttery. Fourme’s rich creamy texture is a good match with the feel of this week’s wine. We use this in wine and cheese class as a “gateway” blue, a great blue cheese for people who don’t like blue cheese… yet.