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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This will probably show just how large of a rock I’ve been living under, since I’m just coming onto this now and their domain has been registered since October of last year…
Anyway, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) has (relatively) recently teamed up with Jancis Robinson, as well as a few regional promotional groups such as the German Wine Institute, to release a series of three-minute educational videos on wine. Each of the vids focuses on a particular winegrowing area or country within a region (e.g., Europe, the Americas, South Africa, ANZ…).
I’m a fan of the WSET (I hold their Intermediate and Advanced certifications), and while I feel that their fees are relatively expensive, I can personally attest to the high quality of their courses and the relevant wine experience that they provide. Those of you in the Philly area that are interested in WSET classes should check out PhillyWine.com – I personally know a few of their instructors (Mark Cochard, Charles Austermuhl, and Neal Ewing) and they’re nice and very knowledgeable guys.
Anyway, the WSET vids are aimed at beginners, so I’m not sure how much 1WinDude.com readers will get out of these, but they’re well done and at least worth giving a quick look:
“Did we really tell lies
Letting in the sunshine
Did we really count to one hundred?”
- Jon Anderson, Long Distance Runaround
If you’ve been on the “global interwebs” for any appreciable amount of time, and you like wine, you’ll already be familiar with the Wine Century Club. If not, here’s a short primer: the WCC is an organization that seeks to promote wine appreciation by offering you bragging rights after you successfully taste 100 or more wine varieties. Download the application, fill it in, send it to the WCC, and then you’re a member.
Of course, there is the matter of tasting the required 100 or more wine varieties.
I’ve got a buddy who I’ve known for over 30 years (since I was five years old, actually) who is not a wine geek per se, but he does enjoy wine and he loves to learn, and he especially likes collecting categorical experiences. He recently asked me about the Wine Century Club after seeing that I was a member, generally inquiring about how to go about tasting the 100 different wine grape varieties required to gain membership.
My buddy is not the kind of guy to get daunted by a challenge like tasting 100 different wine grape varieties, but while being a fantastic idea and also clearly in the camp of spreading wine appreciation to the masses, the WCC doesn’t exactly do itself any favors in terms of encouraging membership when it publishes this sort of warning on its website:
“It’s a simple idea, but it’s not as easy to become a member as you may think. One Master Sommelier could only come up with 82. Of the thousands of applications downloaded, less than 3% are completed. If you feel up to the challenge, have a look at the application!”
With all due respect to the WCC founders, I’ve got to go ahead and disagree on that. I think my buddy is exactly the kind of person that should be shooting for WCC membership.
In fact, it’s my belief that anyone who wants to learn more about wine should become a Wine Century Club member.
It’s not difficult at all to do this (hell, even I did it). It just takes patience (I said it wasn’t difficult – I didn’t say it was quick).
If you’re someone who wants to learn about wine, you’d do far worse than seek out 100 different grape varieties to try – you’ve got nothing to lose except time (and a little bit of money), and you stand to gain an immeasurable amount of quality wine experience along the way. There is no faster way to learn about wine, after all, than to taste it.
So I thought I’d offer some advice on how you can get to the 100 and join the WCC yourself. The competitive among you (like me) won’t have any trouble motivating yourself (“I will get me 100 grape varieties, dammit!!!”), but if you need even more incentive, how about this: did you know that one of prog rock pioneers Yes’ greatest songs, Long Distance Runaround, from their landmark 1971 LP Fragile, was written about the Wine Century Club (even though the WCC wasn’t founded until decades after the album’s release)?* How friggin’ cool is that?!??
* – This statement has not been verified by any reputable source and is probably totally false. But Yes kicks ass, can we just agree on that?
Anyway, onto the advice…
3 Easy Ways to Get to 100 and Join the Wine Century Club
1) Take Stock
If you’ve been drinking wine for a while, likely you have tried more grape varieties than you realize (if you suffer from having a spouse / main squeeze that only drinks one style of wine… I feel for you but you need help if you’re gonna get crackin’ on the 100). For WCC membership, blends count, so take a few minutes to think back on how many varieties you can check off from those blended wines. If you’d had a Southern Rhone wine anytime in the recent past, look up that sucker on the web, because you may have tasted upwards of a dozen varieties in that one glass.
2) Take a Class
Wine classes are a great way to up your wine IQ (well… duh…), but they’re also the kind of setting where you often get to try wines that are off the beaten path. If you don’t know much about a particular wine region, it’s a great excuse to get yourself to a wine class and get educated. It’s also an opportunity to tick off a likely more than a few varieties on your way to the 100.
3) Take a Trip
When you travel, try wine – preferably local wine. Tasting wine in its home region, paired with its “home” food, is really experiencing wine in its natural element, and it will seriously expand your wine knowledge. Of course, traveling is also an opportunity to try funky local wines that might not otherwise be available to you. Here’s an example: Italy has hundreds of wine grape varieties, so a short time in Italy would get you ticking off wine varieties on your WCC application like… well… like a thing that speedily checks stuff off applications. Anyway, if you lived in Italy, you should be able to complete the WCC application before your twelfth birthday.
So there you have it – nothing difficult about it. Well, nothing difficult apart from having the patience to let your wine journey unfold naturally so that you experience the wonderful world that it has to offer you…
(images: amazon.com ,1WineDude, melaman2.com)