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Wine 101 at the International Culinary Center in Campbell

Friday, 17. August 2012 5:25

My class "assignments'' at the International Culinary Center wine class.

To get in the mood for this post, open a bottle of wine, pour yourself a glass, take a well deserved sip, then see if you can answer the following:

A) What are the three grape varietals typically used in the making of Champagne?

B) What common drug store item can help rid your wine glasses and decanters of red-wine stains?

C) Cool climate growing regions produce white wines with a tinge of what specific color?

D) What unusual aroma is often associated with Australian and New Zealand Pinot Noirs?

Over the course of a week, I learned the answers (find them at the bottom of this post) to these questions and so much more as a student in the “Wine Foundation” class at the International Culinary Center in Campbell.

The class, which I was invited to take gratis as a guest of the school, stretched over seven nights for four hours at a time. I figured by the end of it, I’d either be an expert or totally tipsy.

Fortunately, it was bordering more on the former. Although, I’d taken one or two wine classes before, they were more truncated. Getting the opportunity to take such an intensive and comprehensive class really gave me a grasp on wines like never before. Indeed, over seven days, we learned not only how wine is made, but wine-tasting techniques, what goes into wine service at a restaurant, the basics of food and wine pairing (complete with food prepared by culinary students), and an overview of what varietals are found around the world.

Our classroom.

It says a lot that the ICC is the first school to ever be approved by the renowned Court of Master Sommeliers. How rigorous is the process for becoming one? Consider that only 3 percent who take the final exam to become a master actually pass — and that’s usually after failing on multiple previous attempts.

Our instructor was a certified Master Sommelier, one of only 197 in the world: Jesse Becker, who began his sommelier career at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, most recently put together the wine program at AQ restaurant in San Francisco, and runs his own wine importing business, PWMWINE.com.

Jesse Becker, one of only 197 Master Sommeliers in the world, pulling bottles from the cellar for us to try

There were 10 of us in this particular class, only one of whom was a man. Most had high-tech backgrounds of some sort, too. A few were toying with career changes, but more were there just to educate themselves about a topic that’s long fascinated their palate and mind.

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