Preparing for Tonight’s Beginning French Wine Class
I am always a wreck the afternoon before one of my classes, standing in front of thirty-plus people and actually talking is a panic attack inducing chore for me. For years now people have been telling me how much easier it is going to get…..really? Well it has been at least seven years and, nope not any easier than it was the first time. I always need another person there with me to lead the class, (it was Kelly before and it’s Amy now) I just can’t lead a class, might have something to do with the heavy breathing and the, “Oh My God they are all staring at me” chant in my head….distracting. I’m okay at piping in with little factoids and I have been known to go off on a little tangent about a particular estate or winemaker, that and the occasional self deprecating wisecrack and people end up entertained…..
The one thing that has saved me from tossing my cookies before each class is the way we format the French events….something that I am sure makes Randy crazy but works for us and seems to put the attendees, (and more truthfully me) more at ease. Rather than set the tasting up in a classroom format, (all eyes up front….staring at me and waiting for me to speak….wretch) we set it up family style, all the guests facing each other. Instead of giving a lecture we hand out packets with information, (I think people actually learn more this was as they can take the packet home and read it….after a couple glasses of wine the ol’ memory gets a tad….cloudy) and briefly discuss the region as we pour the wines. So these events are more of a tasting than a class and it turns out people end up talking with one another, sharing stories, opinions on the wines and we all learn together.
In the case of French wines, (as opposed to something like Champagne) I think there is very little I can tell anyone to make them understand them, tasting is the only way to wrap your head around those wines with funny place names that don’t tell you about what it is made from…..for me to spell that out for every region would take FOREVER, and I can just picture the guests giving me, “dagger eyes” and thinking, “pour the wine already!”
French wines are my passion, I feel comfortable that I know a fair amount about them, the wines themselves…not so good with the geography or soil composition….I try and study those things and two paragraphs in I’m daydreaming about dinner plans, contemplating breast reduction, wondering when/if I will be in France again or remembering little snippets from past trips. This stuff just doesn’t sink in which may be part of the reason I tremble while standing in front of the class, whoa may have just had a little breakthrough there! Both Amy and I are all about the flavor of the wine, the way it pairs with food, and the hard working winemakers that have been working the vineyards that their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers worked…a more romantic approach than a technical one.
Thankfully there are lots of people out there that are starting to embrace the whole, “the way it makes you feel” style of wine education and tasting, caring less about dirt and thinking more about flavor…hooray….wish me luck tonight!