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Wine Tasting 101: An Accessible Guide to Key Grapes, Terms and Techniques
In part one of a three-part introduction to wine tasting, pairing and buying, our wine columnist schools a recent college grad in the essentials
CORK LESSONS Our wine columnist tutored a newly minted college graduate in the basics of wine tasting, pairing and buying.
ILLUSTRATION: SOL COTTI
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June 17, 2021 2:31 pm ET
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The first in a three-part series on the fundamentals of wine appreciation.
A LIBERAL ARTS education fosters intellectual engagement and the development of critical thought, but it rarely provides insight into wine and food pairing, or how to find a good bottle in a wine shop.
So I offered my services as wine tutor to a recent college grad, Julian Pecht, the son of my dear friends Kathy and Michael Pecht. The 22-year-old magna cum laude classics major from New Jersey told me he occasionally drank wine with friends, but they rarely examined what they were drinking. “Wine isn’t something we talk about,” he said. He thought a measure of wine literacy might be useful in post-graduate life, however, and I thought that by teaching Julian some basics, I might help other aspiring oenophiles.
I decided the first segment should be an overview of key grapes, tasting terms and techniques. We met at my home and focused on six grape varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Pinot Noir. Five of the six varieties named here are French, but I chose bottles from several countries to emphasize that these grapes grow all over the world. And as they’re some of the most commonplace, I figured Julian had encountered at least one or two.
The wines I chose cost $15-$25 a bottle, except the 2018 Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna South Australia Shiraz ($28), the sort of big, bold red I thought a young college grad would enjoy. The rest included wines from a few favorite producers: the 2019 Dönnhoff Nahe Riesling ($17), from Germany; 2019 Yves Martin Chavignol Sancerre ($22), from France; 2019 Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis ($23), also French; 2019 Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($20), from Oregon; and 2018 Decoy Duckhorn Portfolio Cabernet Sauvignon ($15), from California. From my cellar, I brought up a bottle of another California wine, the 2018 Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay, for comparison with the Chablis.
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