Wine and Beverage: Day 1, 10/04/05

Wine Word of the Day
Veraison [ver-ray-ZON] The point in the growing season when ripening grapes begin to soften and change color from green to either red or yellow, depending on the variety. In the northern hemisphere, veraison typically occurs anywhere from late June to mid August, depending on the climate.
Definition compliments of the New Wine Lover’s Companion.


I was concerned about my Wine and Beverage class because I found out on Monday that the fabulous Bob Bansberg, Sommelier at Ambria, was no longer teaching it. I’d heard such good things about him, and was really looking forward to his class. However, the new teacher, John Laloganes, seems like a fine replacement. He’s entertaining, and it looks like he knows his stuff. It sounds like he has a variety of experience: management, wine, and general restaurant. I also found out (through the wonder that is Google, of course) that he used to be a manager at the Green Mill. How cool!

So the first day was pretty much a general introduction to wine—it’s history, a little bit about how it’s made, types, and bottle shapes. We also watched a documentary on the Mafia and Prohibition, which was fun.

We took a “what do you know?” test, which I’ve uploaded as a PDF. Feel free to download it and see how well you do. I only got about five right and didn’t have a clue about most of it, which was pretty normal for our class and pretty much what he expected. I’ll post the answers next week!

Below is a little of the information I gleaned in class. You can view a PDF of my full notes here.

Wine Classifications

Wine: Fermented juice of grapes (unless otherwise specified). You can substitute fruit or vegetables, but 99.9% of all wine is made from grapes.

Table Wine: Wine containing no added alcohol. Alcoholic content of table wine must be between 8-14% alcohol.

Sparkling Wine: Table wine that contains large amounts of dissolved CO2 (carbonation). No added alcohol.

Fortified Wine: Table wine with extra alcohol added. Fortified wine must contain between 17% and 22% alcohol.

- Aperitif: Fortified wine which has no apparent sweetness; drunk before dinner.

- Dessert: Sweet; drunk after dinner.

Old World vs. New World Wines

Old World: France, Italy, Spain Germany

New World: U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, South Africa

Top Five Wine Producers:
1. Italy (traditionally not necessarily quality wines, but that’s changing)
2. France
3. Spain
4. U.S.
5. Argentina

World Consumption of Wine:
1. France
2. Italy
3. U.S.
(although it’s low per capita – the small percentage that drink wine drink a lot!)

4. Germany
5. Spain

Bottle Shapes

Resources here:

Wine Doctor
West Coast Wine

I also used the information (and images) off of both of those sites, combined them with my class notes, and created a PDF here.


Recommended Wine Resources

Exploring Wine, 2nd Edition
This was listed as our class textbook. It ended up being optional, but I had already gotten it and probably would have gotten it regardless. I’m making my way through the first chapter, which covers the wine-growing process (which sounds amazingly complicated), and the primary varietals of wine (I’ve just started on the whites). This book is where I got the Wine Word of the Day (although the definition came from my next recommendation.

The New Wine Lover’s Companion
This book was recommended to me a few times over. It’s basically a dictionary of wine.

The Wine Goddess
If you’re in the Chicago area, come take a class with Diana—she’s fabulous. She’s the wine buyer and instructor at the Chopping Block, the cooking store where I work (I’m using the real names in this instance, obviously). I assist a lot of the wine classes, and they’re really a lot of fun.

I absolutely love podcasts, and this is a great one about wine. It was featured on Eat Feed, my favorite foodie podcast.