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3 Reasons Why YOU Should Get a Wine Certification (A Tale from Remote Kenya)

Vinted on April 28, 2010 binned in best of, commentary, learning wine

The March issue of Sommelier Journal is dedicated to the topic of wine education, and (as always) is well worth a read for wine pros and serious wine geeks alike.  It contains a great follow-up article by Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser on the current status of the wine certification landscape, so the issue got me thinking (as it always does) about repercussions beyond the world of professional wine service, and into the worlds of wine writing and passionate wine enthusiasts.

And it got me thinking that YOU probably should get a wine certification.  it also got me thinking about the remote area of Shompole in Kenya, where even in a place where you have to buzz the runway in a small Cesna to scare zebras off of it before you can land, they saw value in the WSET certification (more on that in a minute).

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re a passionate wine enthusiast, a wine professional, or a wine writer (or any combination of one or more of those).  Actually, according to Alexa.com stats on my blog, chances are you’re a female between the ages of 25 and 44 with a decent amount of disposable income, living in the U.S. and surfing this blog from your work computer (shame on you!).

Anyway, I am growing increasingly convinced that wine certification suits 1WineDude.com readers, and is growing more an more applicable to a larger and larger audience of wine lovers.  And I’m gonna give you three reasons why YOU should get a cert.  And No, I don’t work for any of those certification bodies.

I know what you might be thinking, which is something along the lines of “Why do I need a certification to be an expert on how much I like or dislike what I shove into my mouth?!??” And the answer of course is that you don’t need a certification for that.

You need it for other reasons.  Hear me out before you shut me out – first I need to take you to the hot salt flats of the Great Rift Valley in remote Kenya…

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Size Matters (Tackling A Faust 2006 Double Magnum)

Vinted on March 10, 2010 binned in commentary, learning wine, wine tips

Just when you think that the topic of wine is starting to make sense and really come together for you, you’ll probably encounter the convention of naming large format wine bottles.

That should put you firmly back in your lowly place, since the convention of naming bottle sizes carries on the storied wine tradition of utilizing differing standards in order to confuse the living hell out of you.

I’ve been “thinking big,” as in large format bottles, since I recently won a 3L bottle of Faust 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet via the Palate Press Wine For Haiti auction.

The bottle is gorgeous (see inset pic), and it’s basically a Valentine’s Day gift for my wife, to be opened at our 10 or 15 year anniversary party (probably the 10… we’re not very patient).  The trouble is, I don’t know what to call it.

Before we get into that, I should tell you a bit about Faust itself, I suppose.

Faust is the brainchild of Napa legend Agustin Huneeus, who started up Quintessa, owns Veramonte, and had a hand in making other stalwart Napa wines like Franciscan.  It’s a big wine, but balanced and tight as a drum early on due to it’s massive, dark structure.  It’s like the Darth Vader of Napa Cabs, and is (more or less) Quintessa’s more-affordable-but-still-pretty-damned-good “second wine.” Damned-good… Get it?  Faust… damned… Ok, I’ll stop now…

As far as the 2006 goes, it’s 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 3% Malbec, and 1% Cabernet Franc – all from Agustin’s family vineyards in Rutherford and Atlas Peak.  As far as Hunees goes, according to the Faust website, “He also believes that numerical ratings, as they are used today, are an aberration.”  Strong words.

Interestingly (as far as the bottle size discussion goes), I first tried this Faust vintage (via sample) in a 375 ml half-bottle.  I’ve yet to have the wine from a “normal” 750 ml.

Anyway, on to the good and the ugly of this situation…

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WinesFromSpain.com’s Free Spanish Wine Guide

Vinted on December 8, 2009 binned in learning wine, wine books

Those looking to learn amore bout Spanish wine, and who are cool with receiving a freebie (I really hope that covers most of you out there) might want to check out Far from Ordinary, a free guide to Spanish wine available through Wines From Spain.

Wines From Spain is another government-funded promotional program with the objective of promoting a country’s wines and its wine regions (in this case, Spain – duh) to wine consumers worldwide.  We’ve been seeing a lot of those organizations hitting the promotional trails lately, especially since the world economy took a sharp turn towards toiletville.

Far from Ordinary was written with the help of uber-wine guy Doug Frost, who is one of a (very) small handful of people to achieve both the Master Sommelier and Master of Wine credentials.  Frost also supplies the tasting notes for the 130+ Spanish wines featured in the guide.

Personally, I’ve little experience with Spanish wines and it ranks right up there with Burgundy on the list of world wine areas that I need to learn (and taste!) more about.  Apparently it has me in such a tizzy that just thinking about it causes me to end sentences with prepositions.  Having said that, Spanish wine – when you can find it in the States, that is – is a hell of a lot easier to navigate than Burgundy in terms of not breaking both your heart and wallet when you find a dud.  So, I’ve only got experience with a small amount of the wines featured in Far from Ordinary but I found the selections with which I’m familiar to be good buys and consistent with Doug Frost’s tasting notes (there – that sentence was better… whew…).

A primer on the major winemaking regions of Spain is also provided in the guide, and it’s bursting out with photographs so stunning that they might better be placed in a Spanish tourism guide – some of the shots will make you want to immediately open a bottle of Cava or Priorat and book travel to the Spanish countryside.

The guide is certainly worth a look (the price, after all, is right).

Cheers!

Does the World Need Another Wine Intro Book? (Book Review: Drink This)

Vinted on December 7, 2009 binned in book reviews, learning wine, wine appreciation, wine books

Well… does it?

I ask myself this question whenever I receive a review copy of a wine book, which has been… a lot lately, it seems.

So here comes four-time James Beard award-winner Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, and her new book Drink This: Wine Made Simple.  Another entry in a (very) crowded field.  It also happens to be excellent, so I suppose the world could use another wine intro book.  Drink This is excellent primarily because Grumdahl’s prose is lucid and entertaining.  Her writing is also down-to-earth.

But excellent writing chops wouldn’t matter a hill of pomace if Grumdahl didn’t know what she was talking about, or if her method for learning about wine proved too rudimentary, too complex, or hindered by some wine-related prejudice.  Thankfully, none of that proves to be the case.  In fact, Drink This is so good that its overall quality makes up for the fact that Grumdahl uses the word ‘varietal’ as a synonym for grape variety (which it’s not).  In fact, she does this so often that I nearly threw the book across the room (I say ‘nearly’ because my sample copy is a hardcover book, and I didn’t want to damage my living room drywall).

The thing that makes Drink This so compelling is that Grumdahl knew writing long before she knew wine. As a result, her method for learning wine (more on that in moment) is likely to  work, because it’s the method that she used herself.

The method?  Well, it’s a variation on simplification

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