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General education

General education

Five events that changed the history of wine

Growing wine is a long and subtle process. Soil conditions improve, vines tendril around a trellis as grapes bloom over the course of a year and are cultivated into vintages. The reputations of wineries develop over decades. Fittingly, in the wine world history changes in sips, not dramatic gulps — most of the time, anyway. Sometimes, there are events that change everything we knew. Here are five events that altered the history of wine in ways we are still feeling today. Learn more.

Understanding the 1855 Bordeaux classification

Today, wine collectors consider Mouton-Rothschild synonymous with premium Bordeaux, but this wasn’t always the case. The 1855 Classification in France passed over the estate in its first round of surveys, refusing it the title of grand cru. Despite the estate’s centuries-long history of viticulture, and its growing reputation as a role model for fine Bordeaux blends, it took decades of fierce lobbying to overturn the wine authorities’ initial decision. Learn more.

Understanding the world's most expensive wines

Sometimes wines of the same vintage and varietal can vary significantly in price. This leads even seasoned collectors to ask: what determines a wine’s price? What is the difference between a $30 Pinot Noir from California and a $2000+ Pinot Noir from Burgundy? What makes a wine special enough to be worth $10,000? For collectors, understanding the logic behind wine pricing can help them determine which wines are truly worth investing in. Learn more.

Must read books for wine lovers

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on formal classes to learn everything you need to know about wine. When you read these books for wine lovers, you supplement your real-life experience with the same kind of knowledge you can get in a formal class, all from the comfort of your home. The goal of a great wine reading list is to make connections between what you’re reading and what you’re drinking, improving your own collection along the way. Learn more.

Wine bottle sizes from magnum to melchizedek

Portland-based collector Dave Smith used to be the proud owner of an almost mythical Melchizedek Champagne bottle, which held a whopping 30 liters of wine. Only 20 of these large-format bottles are made every year, so you can imagine Smith’s shock and disappointment when, one day, his Melchizedek exploded. No one knows for sure why Smith’s bottle spontaneously combusted; security footage from his cellar shows it resting peacefully in its case, and moments later, breaking free from its wooden home and propelling toward the ceiling. Learn more.

How to read a French wine label

If you really want to understand which wines are worth a space in your cellar based on the label alone, identifying the basic information displayed on the label isn’t enough. You also need to read between the lines, decoding what each piece of information means in order to estimate that wine’s overall quality. Using this technique, you’ll learn how to analyze any wine bottle straight off the shelf, without the wine ever touching your lips. Learn more.

How to read a German wine label

Although sommeliers are well-versed in nearly every wine style imaginable, some still struggle with one wine in particular: German Riesling. They might be able to talk for hours about the origins of the obscure Négrette grape of southwest France and easily pronounce words like “Pouilly-Fuissé,” but there’s something about reading German wine labels that sends shivers down their spines. It’s easy to see why; knowing how to read a German wine label means not only understanding the basic mechanics of the German language, but also the complicated rules of their wine rating system. Learn more.

When to take a wine education class

In an opinion piece for Wine Spectator, wine writer Matt Kramer said, regarding wine certification, “Nothing about wine or — dare I say it! — accomplished wine service requires this pseudo-professionalization.” Kramer explains that wine certifications are as useless as they are elitist, and that too many professionals put emphasis on formal education over real world experience. However, wine critics like Do Bianchi have fought back against Kramer’s claim. Learn more.

How to become a sommelier

Some wine enthusiasts believe that sommelier certification takes years to complete, and that it’s only useful for those who want a career in the wine industry. This isn’t necessarily true. Dedicated students can become a sommelier in as little as 24 weeks through the American Sommelier Association. Moreover, sommelier status opens new doors for you that you might never have considered before. Learn more.

The best WSET classes for beginning collectors

As a collector, how do you find the bottles that you know are going to taste amazing and gain value on the secondary market? The best way to make this happen is to learn all you can about wine. Like a Master Sommelier, you should know how to pick out the best wines in a lineup, and like a Master of Wine, you should know which wines are on trend, and what makes them utterly unique. Learn more.