In 2013 I visited Altavita vineyards in Italy on a media trip. Altavita, which translates “high life.” is a lovely, family owned winery in the Emilia Romagna region. We all tried our hand at picking grapes and documenting our hard work. Alessandro, the owner gave us a tour of the winery and explained what happens to the grapes after they are harvested. Our group then sat down to a feast including the house wine, salami, and piadina, a typical bread of Emilia Romagna made by Alessandro’s mother. Most of the information about winemaking went over my head, but the camaraderie around the table is a memory I cherish. I certainly felt I was living the high life that day…And so it began. I was hooked on wine travel.
But, let me get to the topic, my WSET (Wine Spirits Education Trust) Education.
What Is Wine And Spirits Education Trust?
So what is the WSET all about? In a nutshell, it provides internationally recognized educational standards in the world of wine and spirits. The course I’m enrolled in, Level 2, focuses on major varieties and wine regions of the world while expanding on wine tasting technique. At the end of the course, the WSET Level 2 Certificate is presented to candidates who successfully complete the exam. I plan on being one of those candidates.
What’s The WSET Like?
Participating in a class that includes wine tasting may sound like fun and games but let me tell you…it’s hard.
It’s not only about tasting wines, it’s also about how to properly taste wines. All the stuff that seems intimidating in the beginning: tipping the glass at a 45-degree angle and checking the color, smelling it, swirling the wine in the glass and smelling it again, swishing and spitting out a mouthful; all of that has meaning and purpose. Perhaps this is the place where I should add: You don’t have to take a class to learn these things or to enjoy wine.
Though I live in Dallas, not exactly known as a wine mecca, one of the most qualified instructors in the world happens to have a wine school here. Dilek Caner is one of only 35 people in the USA and 312 people in the world who holds the title of Master of Wine. Not only that, she has a Ph.D. in economics from New York University. Her mantra, “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” Who am I to disagree?
How Wine Travel Led To My WSET Certification
Why am I doing this? Because I want to. I’m a travel writer and I’m traveling to wine regions. It just makes sense. Plus, I like learning new things. If I’m going to write about something I want to know it inside out. If I’m honest, I probably enjoy visiting and photographing vineyards as much as I like the end product. Ssshhhhh.
Why Travel To Wine Regions
Consider this — vineyards are located (mostly) in temperate climates. Some of the best wines in the world come from some of the most exclusive and desirable destinations in the world: Napa Valley, almost all of France and Italy, Germany, Spain, New Zealand. Why wouldn’t I want to go there? You don’t have to love wine to enjoy the scenery and history. I think learning about wine is a great way to understand a region.
Wine Travel Was Already A Part Of My Life
If I think about it, the journey to getting my WSET certification really began in 2000. I had started traveling to Santa Barbara pretty regularly to visit friends. Those trips usually included day trips to the wine country in Santa Ynez: Fetzer, Sunstone, Foxen, are just a few big producers in Santa Barbara County. As much as I enjoyed visiting the tasting rooms it was just a fun experience that included pretty scenery, nothing more.
Building Memories On The Wine Road
In 2014 I took my first trip to Napa Valley where I toured Chateau Montelena and sat down for a tasting with the director of PR. She told me the story of the 1976 Paris tasting and how Napa Valley wines put California on the world wine map. That story became the movie, Bottle Shock. Who doesn’t love a great story? It was here that what started in Italy began to come into focus. I made a conscious decision that day. I would visit more vineyards and learn about wine.
Read more about Chateau Montelena and the Paris tasting in my article.
I followed my Napa trip with another trip to Santa Barbara, spending a day in the Santa Ynez Valley. I followed that trip with New York’s Hudson Valley, Monterey County and in May 2015, Paso Robles. Once I make a decision to do something I don’t fool around.
Read more about my road trip along the Dutchess County wine trail. in Hudson Valley.
Tips For A Successful Wine Tasting.
When you’re really having a good time at a tasting it’s easy to lose track of how many ounces of wine you’ve consumed. Here are a few tips especially for social and novice winos but even experienced winos need to be reminded.
Appoint a designated driver — seems obvious, right? If I’m on my own, as I was in the Hudson Valley, I only go to one tasting.
Learn to spit. I know what you’re thinking– no way are you going to spit out that luscious Bordeaux or Gewurztraminer. Think about it this way, if you taste twelve wines and each glass has two ounces of wine in it, by the end of the day you will have drunk one entire bottle of wine. Alone.
Drink a lot of water between tastings.
I recommend not visiting more than three wineries in one day. Hard to do when you’re in a premium wine area, but smart. I’ve even been told by drivers that they wish their customers would learn not to cram so much into such a short time. Listen To Them.
Drinking wine is a social experience, at least for me. What fun is it to drink something so delicious, so perfect, and not have anyone to share it? I love traveling solo but drinking wine solo… No. A bottle of good wine is meant to be shared, and that’s what’s so great about wine travel. There’s no shortage of people happy to drink with you.
Learning about the wine regions of the world and the grapes grown there can only make my future experiences richer and more rewarding. That’s reason enough for me.