A Study in Vino…

This morning, as a weak sunshine melts away the remaining bits of snow from yesterday’s brief snowfall, I find my spirits much improved.  And it’s about time!  The past month has been fairly miserable.  First the flu, then a hacking cough that still stubbornly refuses to leave completely.  My Italian friends are, of course, quite worried because if there is one thing they do well here, it’s illness.  I have been given advice on every home remedy concoction you can think of to help my cold.  The standard, and my personal favorite, is hot water, lemon juice and honey.  This morning as I went to buy more lemons, my fruit lady, Franca, pulled out some eucalyptus honey, saying it would do the trick.  I obligingly added it to the pile of blood oranges for juicing my spremuta.  We shared a conspiratorial laugh when I told her I liked to add a healthy shot of vin santo to my lemon, honey cure!  That’s just good sense.

Some of you know of my passion for wine and that my day job during the season is slinging said vino at the winery, Poliziano.  I have been wanting to do the Sommelier course for a while now.  First so I will be more knowledgeable on my tours of the cantina,  and also so that when I have to do tastings with professionals, which sometimes happens, that I don’t go into meltdown panic.  But really, any class where a major course component is drinking wine…well, you had me at vino!

Finally this winter FISAR is offering the course here in town.  Last week they gave the presentation and over forty people showed up which was way more than they anticipated apparently since they had only six applications.  Last night was our first lesson.  The Consortium of Vino Nobile in Piazza Grande has offered the space for our lessons but due to some scheduling snafu, someone forgot to turn on the heat.  Picture a centuries old, stone palazzo with a room that has been left unheated all winter.  We eagerly handed over our euros for the opportunity to sit huddled in our down jackets trying to concentrate on the overview being presented.  I chose a spot near the back, looking like a consumptive as I coughed delicately into my tissues.  Since I am still congested, I was quite fortunate that the only tasting we did last night was a toast with some prosecco at the end of class.  “The temperature of the room is perfect for spumante,” our teacher joked.  By that point, no one was laughing and we couldn’t feel our feet.

We all received course books and fancy bags with our tasting glasses, corkscrews, and other gear that will make us look professional as we embark on this adventure.  One of my colleagues at Poliziano is also doing the course and when they showed us the proper way to hold and open the bottle without moving it, we looked at each other and laughed.  Our methods to date have been much more haphazard!

But for me, the best part of last night was that I actually understood everything that the energetic instructor was saying.  I was so pleased I wanted to stand up and announce it to everyone.  The Americana understands!  Finally, after almost four years of living here, my comprehension is at a level that I can take a class in Italian.  Of course, there is also the little matter of the exam at the end but I’ll jump off that bridge when I come to it….


The presentation of the Sommelier course.

The presentation of the F.I.S.A.R. Sommelier course.

Janet, forgetting that we are in Italy, insisted that we get to class 20 minutes early...

Janet, forgetting that we are in Italy, insisted that we get to class 20 minutes early…

They might make a professional out of me yet...

They might make a professional out of me yet…

12 thoughts on “A Study in Vino…

  1. Jennifer, once again I see the congruencies in our lives. I have a culinary education that focused on French and Italian food and wines of the same regions. “Wine night” was most of the students’ favorite part of the curriculum and some went on to study for their Masters in Wine or for the Sommelier test. I have a great book to recommend to you, “A Vineyard in Tuscany, a Wine Lover’s Dream” by Ferenc Mate (a Hungarian transplant). I have the English version but it may have been published in Italian as well. Their vineyard and winery is near Montalcino so they are not far from you. The book is terrific and he is a great and funny writer. See if you can find it or let me know if you can’t — I might have an extra copy around here (Colorado) somewhere. Enjoy! Tasting was a great part of the learning but I really enjoyed the history of wine and winemaking as well. Salute!

  2. Hi Anita, Nice to hear from you!! Thank you so much for the book recommendation. I am going to check on Amazon now if I can get it… in english. It took me about two hours yesterday to read through fifteen pages of my course book in Italian. I was just thinking I’d like to get a few books in english so that I can be up to speed! Thanks to for the blog sites you recommended when last we wrote! My goal in the upcoming months before I start work again is to get out the word on my book and to study as much as I can about wine! Like you it was the history and really the desire to know more about the process that always piqued my interest. I ask a million questions when I am working at Poliziano!
    Salute a te!!!

  3. YAY for you! I’m so impressed…both with the subject of the class AND your linguistic abilities. Your perserverance is an inspiration to me. Myself….well I’m up to level 5 in the Pimsler basic course and am proud to distiguish between la via and il viale.

  4. No more homework please… although I do want to learn about that eventually. I kind of give a two second explanation on my tours…. 🙂

    Happy San Valentino a tutti!!! xoxo

  5. I understand what you mean — there will be so many terms to learn, etc. However, your great fortune is that you have the real deal, an actually vineyard and winemakers you can learn from. Our wine instructor had worked in a winery in Australia so that personal, hands on, experience was so appreciated by the students. You should be an asset to them by the next harvest and winemaking season!

  6. Hey Jen..Hope you’re feeling better! An old grandma’s trick from Canada…rub your feet with Vicks Vapo rub…and then put some socks on. AS crazy as it seems it truly does work… Tried, trested and approved by many!

  7. Thanks, Carol Ann! Finding vicks here might be a problem. But I do seem to be getting better…. slowly!!! 🙂

  8. Hey Carol Ann,
    Did you write me also at the winery? Fabio just forwarded me an email from a Carol Ann, but he didn’t send me the email address to respond… wasn’t sure if it was you or not! 🙂

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