• June 2010

Back to Basics: When It Comes To Wine, Simplicity Rules

By John Peters
Wine Director
Culinaria Cooking School
Opening in the fall of 2010 in Vienna, VA

Having grown up in the wine industry, it is hard to figure out where I should begin talking about this vast subject of wine.

I toyed with starting with the history of this grand industry, which dates back to the Middle Ages. Or, perhaps a better place to begin would be to discuss the culture and food that seamlessly bring it all together — from the farmer who works the land, to the scientist who works wine magic in the lab.

However, that’s not really the best way to learn about this passionate, powerful topic. Rather, to fully understand wine, all you need to do is pour yourself a glass and begin to discover all of its delicious nuances.

That’s because, at its essence, wine is a fermented beverage made from grapes that is to be enjoyed with friends over good food and warm conversation. As Wine Director of the Culinaria Cooking School, it is my goal to deconstruct the myths and mysteries and simplify how learning about wine is taught.

When the subject is broken down by country, region, and grape variety, the platform for learning and enjoyment is effortlessly achieved. Once you have the fundamentals down, you can decide whether to take it to the next level of learning — such as studying about the single towns and vineyards in each subregion, and the laws that winemakers are held to.

Back to Basics

An introductory class, which I call “Back to Basics,” is the best way to begin. This two-part class covers how wine is made, where it is grown, how to taste and evaluate it, as well as how to buy, store, and serve wine.

In addition to tasting 10 white wine grape varieties and 10 red, we will discuss what grapes grow where and the many styles of wines that they produce. With this first set of classes under your belt, your options are endless.

The Assortment of Culinaria Wine Classes

Varietal Wine Series

In this series, each class will cover one grape variety, in depth. This class will help you understand how a single grape can produce so many different styles of wine due to the climate, soil, and winemaking practices. You will learn the characteristics each grape has to offer. A few sample classes are listed below. Each class will cover eight wines.

Sauvignon Blanc: We will sample wines from New Zealand, Bordeaux, Loire Valley, California, South America, and Australia.

Chardonnay: We will sample wines from Burgundy, several California locations, Australia, South America, and Virginia.

Pinot Noir: We will sample wines from Burgundy, New Zealand, California, and Oregon.

Cabernet Sauvignon: We will sample wines from Bordeaux, California, Australia, and South America.

Country Wine Series

In this series, we will cover the major wine producing regions within a single country. You will learn what grapes grow in each region and the wines that they produce. A few sample classes are listed below.

France: We will cover Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace, Loire Valley, Rhone Valley, Beaujolais, and Provence.

Italy: We will cover Piedmont, Veneto, Friuli, Tuscany, Emilia- Romagna, Marche, Campania, and Apulia.

Germany: We will cover Mosel-Sarr-Ruwer, Rheingau, Nahe, Rheinhessen, Baden, and Franken.

USA: We will cover California, Washington, Oregon, New York, and Virginia.

Regional Wine Series

Having found a few favorites from the country series, this may lead you to try the regional series for a more in-depth look into one area within that country.

Bordeaux: This ultra famous region of france produces full-bodied wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Malbec. The whites from this region are produced with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. We will taste from the best communes including; St-Estephe, Pauillac, St-Julien, Margaux, Pomerol, St. Emilion, and Sauternes. We will start with a classic white Bordeaux.

Burgundy: This region, steeped in winemaking history back to the french revolution, is home to small farmer type growers. We will taste a nice cross section from the Cote dʼOr, which is divided into two areas; the Cote de Beaune in the south, where all the great white burgundy and a great deal of very fine red burgundy is made and the smaller Cote de Nuits in the north, which produces Burgundyʼs most concentrated and longest-lived reds.

Regions included in our tasting: Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny Montrachet, Meursault, Pommard, Nuits St Georges, Vosne-Romanee, Chambolle-Musigny, and Gevrey-Chambertin.

Rhone Valley: The Northern Rhone valley wines are made from the Syrah grape, the biggest and most full-bodied wines from this region are Cote Rotie, Hermitage, and Crozes-Hermitage. The Southern Rhone Valley wines are best known for the Grenache grape and produce the wines of Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and the very famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape. We will start the class with a Condrieu and finish with a Muscat Beaumes de Venise.

An Introduction to Wine

Loire Valley: A mecca of food-friendly white wines are produced in this northern region of France. We will start at the mouth of the river Loire with Muscadet, Touraine, Saumur, Saumur Champigny, Anjou, Chinon, and, of course, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume.

Tuscany: Yes, we all know Chianti is from Tuscany. Along with that, let’s discover the other gems from this beautiful part of Italy; Such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Carmignano, and, let’s not forget, Vin Santo.

Piedmont: This wine region is best known for its muscular red wines from Barolo and Barbaresco, which we will taste along with the lesser known: Barbera DʼAlba, Dolcetto DʼAlba, Gattinara, Ghemme, Gavi, Moscato dʼAsti.

Napa versus Sonoma: These two very popular regions just above San Francisco have been competing for your business ever since the wine boom in the late seventies.

We will taste, compare, and discuss the different styles produced. Grape varietals to be tasted will be Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Seasonal Series

This is a group of classes that address what you might want to serve during the four seasons, to include special holidays, spring wines, Easter, Passover, summer wines, 4th of July, fall wines, Thanksgiving, winter wines, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.

Food and wine

Still feel like a neophyte? Another good starter class would be Food and Wine Pairing 101, or any of our food and wine dinners. We will delve into this vast subject of wine one class at a time.

I promise it will be done in an approachable, fun, and educational environment.

I look forward to meeting you at one of our up and coming classes. Salute!

About John Peters

John Peters is the Director of Wine at Culinaria Cooking School, which is scheduled to open its doors in the fall of 2010.

He has been in the wine business for nearly three decades. With his father and brother, John founded Wide World of Wines in 1982, and ran the retail business through 1989, hand selecting wines from vineyards all over the world. John then went to work for Continental Liquors until 1994, and from 1997 to 2003 he was the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Manager for De Loach Vineyards.

John is frequently invited to speak about wine at the National Press Club, the Decanter Club, The Greenbriar, The Homestead, and the French and Australian Embassies in Washington, DC.

“John brings a wealth of knowledge and a passion for the marriage of food and wine to Culinaria Cooking School,” say Culinaria Cooking School co-owners Stephen Sands and Pete Snaith. “We can’t wait to open our doors in the fall of 2010 to share his knowledge with all of our students.”