I have recently embarked upon another adventure: Wine School. As one of my greatest passions, past times and pleasures, I decided it was time to investigate ”the grape” a little bit further and I’ve found myself at Algonquin College in the accelerated Sommelier program.
Scoff all you want (“So you’re getting a diploma for drinking?”), but wine school is much more complex than you may realize. Wine tasting is just the tip of the iceberg leading into broader subjects such as vinification, irrigation, harvest, climate, geography and varietals. I have a minimal foundation of knowledge after only one class, but I am happy to share what I’ve learned thus far…
The Heartbreak Grape:
Pinot Noir has long been coined the heart-break grape. Not because men and women sooth their broken hearts over a glass (although this may not be a horrible idea), but because it has caused such grief for wine makers world-wide. This precious grape is likely the most difficult grape to grow. Due to its thin skin and its growth in very tight clusters (see image above), Pinot Noir has a tendency to rot easily. Pinot Noir is also very fussy about where it likes to grow, preferring colder climates. Because of these factors, Pinot Noir is a rare grape that requires a lot of effort and good deal of acclimatized luck. It may not break your heart, but for a really well made Pinot Noir you certainly will break the bank.
The Wine Maker’s Grape:
Chardonnay is a friendly little guy, and that’s why wine makers lover him. It is grown prolifically as it hardly requires half the care or climate that Pinot Noir does. Further, Chardonnay is a direct expression of what the wine maker did or did not. For example, was the Chardonnay aged in oak? It is usually very obvious to decipher these elements of Chardonnay and what it underwent during the wine making process. Chardonnay is grown best in Burgundy, France and in California’s Carneros District, but it can adapt to almost any soil type.