The Everyday Guide to Wine

Posted by on September 15, 2010

In preparation for our trip to France, we bought a DVD set from The Great Courses called The Everyday Guide to Wine, taught by Master of Wine, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan. In our naiveté, we thought we could watch the videos within a few weeks and then pass on the set to our traveling companions so they, too, could learn all about wine before our trip to France. Not so.

The first two lessons were overview lessons: history of wine, figuring out what kind of wine drinker you might be, how to properly taste wine, wine terms, stuff like that. The next lesson required tasting 2 bottles of wine. No problem!  The fourth lesson required tasting 4 bottles of wine. Hmmm, that’s kind of a lot.  And if I recall correctly, the fifth lesson required tasting 6 bottles of wine. Oh no! What should we do? We can’t drink all that wine ourselves, much less afford it all ourselves.

We decided to form a wine education group. Our plan is to play the [DVD]  lesson for the group then we will all taste the wines recommended. Dave and I have to watch the lesson in advance and go buy the wine before the get-together. The group will split the cost of the wine and we will all have a lot of fun learning.

BTW, this DVD course is hardly a lightweight course.  Check out all the stuff we will be covering:

The Everyday Guide to Wine Course Lecture Titles

24 Lectures
30 minutes / lecture

    1. Why Learn about Wine?
    Ms. Simonetti-Bryan answers this question in an engaging introductory lecture that sets the stage for the subsequent lectures. Survey the millennia-old history of wine, discover what kind of wine consumer you are, explore wine culture in America, and more.
    2. A Taster’s Tool Kit
    Wine tasting can seem like a mysterious ritual, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here, learn how to properly perform the five steps of tasting: seeing, swirling, sniffing, sipping, and savoring. Also, make sense of wine-related terminology, including “full-bodied,” “crisp,” “length,” “balance,” and “finish.”
    3. Winemaking—From Vineyard to Harvest
    The sensation of drinking a good or bad wine relies on what happens to its source grape in the vineyard. This lecture takes you through the first half of the wine-making process and reveals how climate, altitude, weather patterns, and other factors play a critical role in shaping a wine’s flavor and quality.
    4. Winemaking—From Harvest to Bottle
    Continue your look at winemaking by focusing on the grape’s journey from the vine to your palate. When are grapes ready to be picked? What is the difference between wine fermented in steel and in oak barrels? Why is there heated debate over filtering wines? Discover answers here.
    5. The Whites—Riesling to Chardonnay
    In the first lecture on the Noble grape varieties (used in those wines you see most often), focus on the most captivating varieties of white wine: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. As you explore each wine’s unique characteristics, you’ll strengthen your ability to compare it with other wines and grape varieties.
    6. The Reds—Pinot Noir to Cabernet
    Experience the Red Noble grape varieties, specifically Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Studied together, these varieties will expose you to the fascinating range of red wine grapes—from the light-bodied and aromatic to the full-bodied and tannin-rich.
    7. Champagne and Other Sparkling Wines
    Venture into the world of sparkling wines, one of the least-understood but highest-quality wines in the world. Ms. Simonetti-Bryan reveals how wines like Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco originated, how they’re produced, and how they taste. She even shows you the correct way to open and serve your favorite bottle.
    8. Port, Sherry, and Other Fortified Wines
    Fortified wines—wines whose alcoholic strength has been fortified—are the perfect accompaniment to the beginning or end of a meal. Here, learn more about these wines as you taste your way through the distinctive characteristics of ruby port, sherry, and Madeira.
    9. What to Drink with Dessert
    Sauternes; Tokaji; Ice Wine; Vin Santo— wines go great either with or as dessert. Survey the range of dessert wines, paying particular attention to three ways these wines can be produced: the process of “noble rot,” the harvesting of frozen grapes, and the drying of grapes.
    10. French Regions—Bordeaux and Loire
    French wines are the benchmarks of quality, which makes France the perfect place to begin your tour of some of the world’s greatest wine regions. You explore the powerful reds and delicate whites of two wine-producing regions, learn how to read a wine label, and gain insights into how chateaux in Bordeaux are classified.
    11. French Regions—Burgundy and Alsace
    How do you top the rich, full-bodied wines of Bordeaux? Find out in this engaging lecture that takes you through the silky and delicate wines of Burgundy (including those from Chablis and Beaujolais) and the German-influenced tastes of Alsace (including varieties of Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris).
    12. French Regions—Rhône, Languedoc, Provence
    Sample beautiful wines from the Rhône Valley and the coastline regions of Languedoc and Provence. You are introduced to a youthful and floral Viognier, a refreshing rosé from Tavel, and a peppery red from Mas Belles Eaux.
    13. Wines of Northern Italy
    Welcome to Italy, home to over 1,000 grape varieties. You sample a Barolo and Amarone (two pillars of Italian wine), a Pinot Grigio (the quintessential crowd-pleasing white wine), and other northern Italian wines.
    14. Wines of Southern Italy
    Explore the wines of southern Italy. You visit Tuscany, home of Chianti; Campania, the source of the legendary Lacryma Christi (or “Tears of Christ”); and Sicily, whose Nero d’Avola is a rising star among red wine drinkers.
    15. The Tastes of Germany and Austria
    Germany is home to some of the most versatile wines to pair with food. Austria, following a scandal, has turned around its reputation and has begun producing a fantastic quality of wines. Explore both regions, with a particular focus on their variations of Riesling. Also, learn how to decode German wine labels.
    16. The Tastes of Spain and Portugal
    Conclude your tour of Old World wine regions with Spanish and Portuguese wines. Many of the wines you learn about and sample—including a Rioja, a Rueda, a Jumilla, and a Duoro red—bridge the gap between traditional and international modern styles of winemaking.
    17. U.S. Regions—California
    California produces 90% of America’s wine and is the fourth-largest producer of wine in the world. Travel through the state’s rich wine regions—including Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, and Santa Barbara—and explore its grape varieties, including the predominant Zinfandel.
    18. U.S. Regions—Washington and Oregon
    How do Oregon producers differ from their California neighbors? What’s so unique about Washington’s grape vines? Learn the answers to these and other questions as you taste their versions of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Syrah.
    19. Other U.S. Regions, Mexico, and Canada
    Where are the wine pioneers of today and tomorrow? The answer: New York, Virginia, Texas, and other U.S. states, each of which, you discover, has its own approach to making quality wines. Also, take brief trips to wine regions in Mexico and Canada, where you sample one of Ontario’s internationally popular ice wines.
    20. Sampling Argentina and Chile
    South American wines have grown in popularity around the world. Here, Ms. Simonetti-Bryan guides you through the Chilean regions, including Maipo, Rapel, and Curicó, as well as Argentine vineyards in Mendoza and San Juan.
    21. The Best of Australia and Tasmania
    In terms of wine, Australia and Tasmania has it all: cool and warm climates, French and American oaks, white and red varieties. Australia also makes the top wine imported into the United States. Survey its popular wines, including a Riesling-like Semillon from Hunter Valley and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawara.
    22. Wines of New Zealand and South Africa
    Visit New Zealand and the regions of Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Marlborough, and Martinborough. Then, travel to Stellenbosch in South Africa, whose high-end Bordeaux blends are a delicious mix of Old World and New World tastes.
    23. Becoming a Knowledgeable Wine Buyer
    Discover tips on how to purchase wine, how to order the perfect bottle at restaurants, how to store wine for the short and long term, how to treat wine as an investment, and much more.
    24. Wine for Any Occasion and Any Food
    Conclude with answers to questions about pairing wines with food and occasions. Should a wine complement or contrast a meal? What kind of wine should you serve on particular holidays? What are some myths about wine pairing? How should you serve wine to guests?

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