My ISG Sommelier Class: Global Wine Production Volumes and the Test on Europe

21 Dec

 18 – All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)

          It’s week nine of our ISG Fundamentals of Wine class and it’s a whirlwind.  We took our test on Europe – an essay on the wines of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria and Hungary and we studied the entire “New World” of wines: The United States, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, all in a single class.  Our classes are seven hours in duration, but it still felt like I had been bulldozed by information.

            I found it interesting that the wines of Europe merited twenty eight hours of class time and that the entire rest of the world, by comparison, only merited seven.  Living in Texas, I drink more California wine than anything else.  We travel to Napa annually and through the years have developed relationships with many vineyard owners and winemakers, whose wines often stack up very well in both the ratings and international competition.

            But I’ve learned some interesting facts these past weeks:  France and Italy are perennially the top two producers of wine by volume, though in recent years, they have oscillated between those first and second slots.  Spain has more land under vine than any other country, but is the third largest producer of wine by volume, both because of  lower yields per vine due to their low annual rainfall as well as  allocation of grapes to their significant brandy industry.  The United States is the world’s fourth largest producer, and interestingly, while wine is now produced in each of the fifty states, California, on its own, is also the fourth largest producer globally.  And though when I think of California wine, the Napa Valley is what immediately springs to my mind, only 4% of California’s wine is produced in the Napa Valley.

            In 2009, France, Italy, and Spain produced a combined 13.15 million liters of wine. By comparison, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and South Africa produced a combined 7.17 million liters.[i]  So when I put all the numbers in perspective, I understand the allotment of class time.  I’m also very excited that the class has provided a global perspective and I’m thrilled to be actively engaged in the exploration of European wines beyond Bordeaux and Italy where I’ve concentrated my interest and experience to date.

            As to the test, it went very well.  We reviewed the material last week and the Spanish and Portuguese regions, and their wine and food, which we were asked to compare were covered in our review session.  Again, I over prepared.  For this test, I made a twenty-one page outline of the covered material and spent about twelve hours preparing.  I was very comfortable with my level of mastery.  Unlike the 8/10 that I earned on the test on France, I expect at least nine points on the test on Europe.

            At this point, I’m very confident that I can do very well on the academic portions of the test, but my stress level about those four blind tastings, which I am required to pass independently from the academic exam, is rising rapidly.  How I’d love a “decision tree” to help prepare for the tastings.  By “decision tree”, I mean a chart that starts with color and eliminates certain possibilities.  Then, from the remaining options, uses the acid, tannin, alcohol profile to eliminate additional possibilities.  Then, from those remaining options, uses aroma and palate markers to indicate the identity of the wine.  So now for the song….”All I want for Christmas is a decision tree, a decision tree, a decision tree……”  Merry Christmas, and Santa, I’ve been a really good girl this year.

Song “All I want for Christmas (is my two front teeth)”, from Nat King Cole’s Album, The Christmas Song, from Rhapsody music:


One Response to “My ISG Sommelier Class: Global Wine Production Volumes and the Test on Europe”

  1. pullthatcork December 22, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    You have my total respect for taking a class like that. I hope someday I will have the time to pursue something like that. While I love wine, I still find the number of countries and regions to be overwhelming.

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