Best Classroom Evah!

In my humble quest for greater food-and-wine knowledge, I recently attended a wine-appreciation class through the Sydney Wine Academy (they had me at the name!) at Ryde College. The program came highly recommended from winemaker friend Dan Binet at Ballabourneen in the Hunter Valley. Given how much I enjoyed the class and how much I learned in such a short period, I hope to continue my wine studies there indefinitely. My love of wine is great; my ability to speak (and write!) intelligently about that love … well, there’s always room for editing.

I met my fellow wine appreciators—about 14 in all, an intimate group—in the school’s lounge area, where we were told that the class would be taught in the wine lab. Now, I am a woman of words; science has never been my strong suit. But a wine lab? This was a scientific discipline I could get behind—even excel at! Bring on the experiments!

The lab did not disappoint. Though test tubes, flasks, and safety goggles were still in evidence (and as chill inducing as ever), so, too, were rows upon rows of wine glasses, casks, vineyard soil samples, and corks. And wine! Lots and lots of wine. This was a happy place. In fact, unlike my Year 12 Physics lab, from which I often ran screaming, I was sooo comfortable in the wine lab that I had to be kicked out by the cleaning people 15 minutes after the class had officially concluded.

Taught by French-born Aussie wine lecturer Jean-Claude Ferrier, the first night of class took us through a more in-depth approach to sensory evaluation (flavours, taste, mouthfeel, the influence of the vineyard), the winemaking process, Australian wines and wine regions, varietal characteristics, and finally, a sampling of 10 white wines (again, primarily Australian). (On a side note, though my palate is indeed becoming more discerning with practice, I must admit that I’m baffled by such aroma descriptors as gooseberry and mulberry. I don’t even know what they would smell like on their own, let alone as part of the complexity of a wine.)

The following week, we tackled the reds, as well as wine faults, climatic effects, the impact of oak and barrels, wine maturation, decanting, and cellaring.

I would recommend the class to anyone who wants to learn more about evaluating a nice drop or who wants to take their casual appreciation of wine to the next level.

Now, armed with my TAFE statement in Wine Appreciation and my pre-existing love of the fermented grape, I’m off to do homework in the wine bars of Sydney. Next stop: Tapavino on Bulletin Place to match some Spanish wines with some of the spot’s lovely tapas. Gotta love higher education!