Anyone who has studied wine will agree that the more you learn, the more you realize there’s so much more to learn! None of us will ever know everything there is to know about wine, but that’s part of why it’s fun to learn, right? It’s never ending.
So you’re in luck! There are many, many different ways to learn about wine so no matter how you most effectively absorb information, there’s something for you. And because there are so many good options out there, I’m making this a two-part post. In these posts I’ll cover some of the different ways you can deepen your wine education and recommend some of my favorites.
FYI, I get no benefit, no payment, nada from these recommendations. In fact, none of these resources/people even know I’m recommending them. So these are simply my own preferences based on my own experience.
Local Wine Classes
Let’s start with where you live. Depending on where you are, there might be some opportunities for in-person classes. With a global pandemic still going on (this post being written in May, 2021) these may be limited now, but as restrictions on in-person gatherings get lifted, your opportunities will expand. Simply do an online search for “[where you live] wine school.” I’ve taken a number of classes here in Washington, DC at the Capital Wine School. If you’ve got a local wine shop or wine bar, they might offer classes too. A good benefit of taking classes at a wine school or shop is they usually include wine tasting!
Again, check out your local wine school (if there is one.) Chances are within the past year they’ve continued offering classes but have moved them online. If you’re not already suffering from Zoom fatigue, these can be a great way to take a class from the comfort of your couch. Wine schools, shops, and bars have also found a way to deliver the class content online while providing tasting samples (usually you have to pick them up) and making the classes fun and informative.
I’ve done several online classes in the past year, and they were all terrific. With subjects ranging from honing blind tasting skills to the wines of Italy to a discussion about soil, they were interactive without forcing anyone to participate in the discussion or be put “on the spot.” So I’d say this kind of class is perfect for introverts or those who want to have their own side conversations during the class. (But don’t forget to mute yourself!)
Books about wine can be tough. There are about four bazillion (ok I made that number up) wine books, and they can often read like an encyclopedia. (Zzzzzz!) But there are a couple I would recommend.
First is Wine Folly’s “Magnum Edition – The Master Guide” which sounds a lot scarier than it is. It isn’t a “read through cover to cover” kind of book but rather a handy reference guide when you’re trying something new or have a question about a particular grape. With sections like “Tasting Wine” and “Handling, Serving, and Storing Wine” and over 100 pages on different grapes and their flavor profiles, this is an incredibly helpful book. Madeline Puckette, one of the book’s authors, realized that she did not learn well by reading words so this book is filled with terrific images and infographics. Plus, it won the James Beard award for books in the beverage category in 2019. That’s pretty high praise!
My second book recommendation is based solely on this person’s podcast. In complete transparency, I have not read the book…..yet. But Elizabeth Schneider’s “Wine for Normal People” podcast was such an important part of my initial interest and education in wine, that I’m recommending the book – same name: “Wine for Normal People” – because if it is anything like the podcast, it’s going to give you a ton of great, easily digestible information.
With that last book recommendation, I of course had to follow it up with podcasts. I love podcasts because I can listen on my commute so I feel like I’m making really good use of my time while learning about wine.
The Wine for Normal People Podcast has been running for more than 10 years. Considering that podcasting didn’t really take hold until the mid 2000’s, a 10+ year (and counting) run for WFNP is pretty amazing. For the wine beginner, going back to the early episodes would be helpful, as the apparent definition of “normal people” does seem to change a bit with time and by years six or seven, the topics are getting a bit deep. But the podcast is interesting, informative, and engaging, and Elizabeth Schneider, along with her husband “MC Ice”, make learning about wine fun! Don’t miss their “wine and Halloween candy pairing” episodes. They’re hilarious.
Another fun wife/husband podcast is Wine Blast. Susie Barrie and Peter Richards are both Masters of Wine and produce their podcast from their home in the United Kingdom, so there’s the fun accent (says this American midwest guy) going on. They cover lots of different topics, talk about wine and food pairings a lot, and often have interesting guests.
Another thing I love about listening to these podcasts is that you feel like you are really getting to know the people behind them. You hear their personal stories (about moving homes, having children, etc.) while learning about wine. It gives authenticity to what they’re saying and makes it a lot more fun to listen to.
So check out your Spotify or iTunes or whatever platform on which you get your music/podcasts.
That’s a lot to digest, right? And this is the point in an infomercial where they’d say, “But wait! There’s more!”
Here’s where I say, “There’s more…but I don’t want to overload you today, so we’ll cover additional things like videos and certifications in Gettin’ Educated, Part 2!” Stay tuned!
What do you think? Have you read a great wine book or listened to a fantastic podcast? Feel free to add your two cents in the comments section.