Wine is not so important. In essence, it is just a drink with a story. So my philosophy is to tell people to enjoy it, whatever. You don’t have to understand what you like, you just have to know you like it. So knowing which food goes with a wine and worrying whether you have bought the right bottle is really a waste of energy.
Buy, drink and be damned! Unfortunately, we have wrapped wine up in so much snobbery that consumers are sometimes intimidated by the wall of wine they face in a supermarket and then worry about whether they have done the right thing. Well, the honest truth is there is no right thing.
Many people new to wine have begun drinking it simply because they had a tasty introduction with a dollop of sweetness.
Nothing wrong in that. Liebfraumilch, White Zinfandel and Lambrusco did the job of attracting new wine drinkers in the UK and US respectively, and Fantasia, Grenache Rose and Emerald Riesling were similarly effective in Israel. Today it is the low alcohol Moscato that is the new smash-hit entry-level wine, particularly in the US and Israel.
However, on the other side of the coin, wine is something that can be learnt. Expertise is only experience gained over time. For instance, most adults can learn to drink coffee, which children don’t drink because they find it too bitter. In the same way, a wine that is thought to be “too acidic” or “too astringent,” which are common complaints from new drinkers, may be palatable with practice. A palate may be educated to appreciate what previously was unpalatable.
The secret is to try something new.
Experiment. Be curious. There is no need to drink what you know all the time. Go to tastings in wine shops, visit wine festivals.
When you taste one Merlot against another, you can then say, ”I prefer this to that “and are already beginning to be an expert in your own likes and dislikes. Visit wineries.
There is nothing like the atmosphere of a winery or the beauty of a vineyard to infect you with the wine bug.
The next stage is a wine course. These normally take place on one evening a week and last for five weeks. Places like Ish Anavim in Jaffa (www.grapeman.
com/school) and wine store chain Derech Hayayin (Wine Route) (www.wineroute.co.il) regularly offer wine appreciation courses.
Wine is something very aspirational. The more you know, the more you want to know. It can become an obsession. So read, taste and talk about wine. But be warned – it can take over your life. Discussion first thing in the morning is not the weather or politics but “guess which wine I had last night.” If you get the bug, I suggest one of courses that takes up an academic year.
The best course for wine lovers is The Wine Academy held at Ramat Gan College under the professional supervision of Prof. Oded Shoseyev, wine grower, winemaker and professor of biotechnology.
The academy has a list of lecturers that is really a who’s who of Israeli wine.
Many of Israel’s leading winemakers, wine personalities and wine experts contribute.
The courses take place every Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. over eight months – a total of 180 academic hours. Fridays are reserved for visits to wineries. These courses have trained hundreds of Israelis.
In November, it will begin its seventh year. It also has an Advanced Wine Academy Course for those who have completed the basic course.
Arguably the best course for would-be professionals is the one held at the Ohalo College at Katzrin in the Golan. This course is in association with the CFPPA, a professional winemaking college in Beaune in the Burgundy region of France.
This covers viticulture (including the vineyard and vine), the science of wine, wine production and the management and marketing of wine and a winery. This course totals 1,600 hours of studies. The professional manager of the course is Shalom Blayer, former CEO of the Golan Heights Winery.
The most established course is the Tel Hai College Cellar Master Course, which is in its 10th year. Many of its students have gone on to open boutique wineries.
The professional manager of the course is winemaker Itay Lahat, wine consultant and former winemaker for Barkan Winery.
Sorek Winery runs a practical wine making course, ideal for wine making hobbyists.
There, enthusiastic home winemakers can make wine under the tuition of owner winemaker Nir Shaham.
All these are in Hebrew and they are all good, professional and slightly different.
Worth checking for more details if you are interested.
There also may be a new course for English speakers. The International Sommelier Guild has proposed running wine classes at the Bin 281 wine shop in Tel Aviv. It is due to start in October, but there has been no advertising for it. If it does actually happen, it will be a very worthwhile addition to the wine education calendar. Those who want up-to-date information should contact David Rhodes at email@example.com.
There are now some excellent opportunities for those who want to learn more. A wine course is a great birthday gift for a spouse. Many couples take the courses together.
To learn more about this hobby does not necessarily mean you will become a wine snob or a wine bore. I hope you won’t. Of course, never forget that the people who know are not necessarily the ones who seek attention by pontificating about how much they understand.
Wine does attract a fair few winos who are convinced of their absolute wine knowledge and don’t mind sharing their knowledge loudly. Best to ignore them. Those who are humble and quiet with their knowledge usually, in my experience, know far more. Someone who understands a little is also aware of how much he does not know.
However, if you decide on the route to learn more, you’ll find that your enjoyment of wine will increase dramatically.
You will undoubtedly get more from the fruit of the vine than you did before.
However, if wine to you is just a drink with a meal, go for it! That is okay, too.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in Israeli and international publications. firstname.lastname@example.org