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By Tom Cox

Which came first? Wine drinking or wine making? Did we simply eat the fermenting grapes off the vine or did we start cultivating grapes for fruit and discover wine later? Secondly, although historical records clearly indicate they came within one day of each other, which came first; the connoisseur or the snob? Most evidence points to the snob being first, but snobs always say they are first. Both can be found at most wine tastings.

Yes, you can learn a lot at a wine tasting. However, you can learn a lot about sex in a sex education class but I enjoyed learning it lot more on my girlfriend’s sofa. I learned more, enjoyed it more and seem to remember it more. I still attended the classes, but….

Why do wine snobs and wine connoisseurs take wine so seriously? Aside from the obvious pleasurable effects of the alcohol, wine is the most complex beverage known to mankind. Nothing comes even close to the thousand plus flavors and sensations that come in a wine glass. When you think you’ve tried them all, there’s a new vintage out and you get to start all over again.

When I give wine seminars, I get to talk about history, physics, politics, chemistry, taste, memory, psychology, sociology, agriculture, food, geography, geology, marketing and sales. The wine business either has a major impact on each of these areas or has been affected by each of these areas. I’ve had chemists and winemakers, waiters and wine buyers, label designers and farmers all come up after a wine talk and say “That was fascinating. I thought I knew a lot, but there’s so much I had no idea about!”

It’s easy to trip up wine snobs and wine connoisseurs. Simply put any wine in a black glass and ask them to tell you if it is a white or a red wine. Or, give them two glasses of the same white wine and ask them to describe them. You will find that if you add red food color to one glass, the descriptions will be completely different; pear and plum and lemon as compared to raspberry and cherry and spice. Try the wine in a black coffee cup with your friends. It’s harder than it first seems and a lot of fun.

So, if it is too easy to fool almost everyone, why bother getting into wine tasting at all? Well, learning about sex on the sofa is fun, but you actually do learn a lot in a good sex education class and a lot of stuff you would never think of while on the couch. Wine is the same; you can learn a lot sitting with friends drinking a cheap bottle of wine, but in a formal wine tasting with a good educator, it is amazing how much more you can learn. It’s just not as fun.

Wine tastings are a great way to learn more about wine and are definitely a worthwhile experience. However, a nice inexpensive bottle of wine out of coffee cups sitting on a sofa with a significant other is also a great way to learn more about wine and is definitely a worthwhile experience. And the lessons you learn there will be a lot more fun than anything you would learn at a formal tasting with a bunch of wine connoisseurs and snobs around. You’ll remember the lessons a lot longer, too!

Tom Cox is a wine educator from Vancouver, BC that has taught wine seminars all over the world.




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