Wine drinking and wine tasting are two different pursuits
To Jennifer Book, wine is art. “I often say that wine is just like art, sometimes hard to define, impossible to know completely, capable of absolute captivation and potentially layered to the depths of beyond,” she said.
Book is a wine and spirits specialist who is the assistant manager of Bin 905, a wine and liquor store in downtown Calgary.
“It began with my father who was a real wine keener, and as I began working in hospitality, restaurants and fine dining. I found a real need to learn more about wine,” Book recalled.
Book has as many personal memories that good wine and a good gathering make possible, with the fondest one being the opening of a 50-year-old wine of her grandfather’s.
“We had a family gathering to taste the bottles as it was something that had come from the past, from my grandfather’s past, and it was something to share amongst family. We really didn’t think the wine would be drinkable, more of a novelty, an experiment to try.”
Book had noted that the peach wine, which was made before she was even born, was one of her grandfather’s earliest creations, making it a part of her family beyond her own generation.
“To our amazing surprise it was gorgeous! It had developed into something beautiful, honeyed and spiced.”
Book’s workplace has an extensive collection of alcohol in its many forms, and offers in-store wine tasting sessions. Besides helping with tastings, Book also teaches courses in the WSET (wine and spirit education test) stream, ranging from starting or entry-level to upper level courses.
Book emphasizes that, to experience wine properly, one must understand that “tasting” and “drinking” are two different activities.
When asked what the difference between the two was, Book responded that drinking is “a non-thinking action”.
“You come home from work, you drink a glass of wine, and you don’t scrutinize it, or think about it, you simply enjoy it.”
Tasting, on the other hand is a “very focused activity.”
“You have to look and smell what’s in the glass, and then when you put the wine in your mouth, you have to think about a number of structural components: sweetness, acidity, body, texture, alcohol and of course all the flavour, fruits and floral aromatics.”
Book added that there is more than one way to become an expert in the field, ranging from studying in classes in the WSET, which she has done, or simply working long enough in a relevant industry that involves food and alcohol.
“It is amazing how wine can surprise you and amazing how it can bring people together all the same.”
Increase your sommelier skills
Taking WEST (Wine Education and Spirits Test) courses is one of many ways to get what you need to blend into high society and not get called a simpleton for mistaking Gewürztraminer (don’t bother trying to pronounce that) and Pinot noir.
For those who wish to become a sommelier and register for classes, get started on studying by the book, featuring classes taught by Jennifer Book herself.
Ranging from courses for beginners to master level courses, this site and its services have played host to many masters of the floral, sweet and acidic.
Even the most educated expert forgets simple things when partaking in wine in a social setting; it’s not unlike forgetting which fork is for salads and which spoon is for soups.
For those interested in picking up the finer points of everyday wine, or those simply looking for a wine to match their mood, study up on all sorts at WineFolly, a handy site for the uninitiated.
From the basics of what cheese to pair with what wine, to what kinds of wine there are to explore and experiment with, WineFolly is a beginner-friendly guide which will walk you through it all.
It’s often best to avoid the inevitable “Well, I never!” thrown your way when you simply drink the wine and say “Mmm, good stuff.”
Classy hand gestures, the right words, compliments and critiques at the right times, and other handy points are within reach! A site dedicated to etiquette of various forms, Etiquette Scholar, has all the subtleties and finer forms of tact that anyone at any stage of their career as an expert (or expert-to-be) can learn.
The editor responsible for this article is Zarif Alibhai Zalibhai@cjournal.ca
Thumbnail: Photo by Omar Omar