‘Wine tastes’ offer novices chance to become connoisseurs


Wine is flowing in abundance these days like water. “Wine tastes” (events in which people sample wines) account for this upswing in popularity, causing partakers to expand their knowledge of fine wines along with understanding which foods make better compliments. Even more interesting, quality wines (by the bottle) are now available at more affordable prices.

More and more people are feeling less intimidated by the sophisticated aspect of wine. Wine enthusiasts tend not to get sloppy drunk nor stumble all over the place and act a fool from overindulgence. Like most things, when consumed in moderation wine can be described as very crisp, relaxing or simply delicious.

Each February, Minnesota Monthly and other businesses host The Food and Wine Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center. With over 300 vendors and over 400 different types of wine, this two-day event isn’t exactly cheap, but it offers a generous amount of wine tasting, exquisite food samplings and tremendous fun. Even with bad weather, the 2007 Food and Wine Show drew in close to 10,000 people.

Those who prefer smaller crowds are turning to wine-tasting parties (similar to a Tupperware party) where companies such as The Traveling Vineyard come into your home and provide crash courses in basic wine selections. It is important to note that wine by the glass and food at such parties must be provided by the host(s). The wine-tasting company only provides enough wine for guests to taste — not indulge. Furthermore, wines selected and ordered are later shipped to the homes. None are available for immediate purchase.

In the Twin Cities, throughout the year, adventurous wine tastes are offered by various restaurants, caterers, culinary arts schools or liquor stores and are often fundraisers or simply creative ways to do business. Three Sons Signature Catering offers theme and international wine tastes every two months at a moderate flat fee per person. Not only does one get to experience fine and exotic wines from around the world, but also one can partake in delectable savories and desserts that have been carefully paired and cooked by Chef Benjamin McCallum.

Although there are thousands of grape types, the most common wines are either red or white. Within these types are several popular varieties: merlot, pinot noir, zinfandel, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc, shiraz, chablis, muscat and of course the sparking favorite, champagne.

Common dessert wines include sherry, port or madeira. My favorite these days is called Ménage a Trios, a California red table wine blend of red zinfandel, merlot and cabernet — bottled by Folie a Deux Winery in the city of Oakville, California, which is in the Napa Valley area.

How does one know when a wine is truly fine? Well, it’s similar to how people tend to judge each other — the body, the balance, the color and of course the taste. Selection of the right drinking glass is key: a wider glass for reds, more narrow for whites, flutes for sparklings. Never fill the glass to the brim — wine does need to breathe. If the wine comes with a screw-on bottle and not quality corked — NOT!

For more information, check out Food and Wine Guide by Jamal A. Rayyis, American Express Publishing Corporation, New York.

For information regarding the 2008 Food and Wine Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center, go to www.food wineshow.com. For more information on Three Sons Signature Catering go to www.threesonssignature.com or call 612-870-7875.

Rose McGee, M.Ed., is the owner of Deep Roots Desserts, an arts educator, and a member of Women Who Really Cook and MN Pastry Association. She welcomes reader responses to rtist528@aol.com.