BERGER: Getting a good wine education

Learning about wine can take a lifetime. It's no problem, however, since the course of study can be as enjoyable as you desire, or as limited as getting to know one wine type well and sticking with it.

That's the fun of this subject. For one thing, there are no final exams; ideally we keep learning until we either lose interest or are forced to change. I once knew a man who was a wine lover until he discovered craft beer.

And even if there were a final exam, there would be no wrong answers. So you don't like a $150 bottle of wine? You are right — for you. Someone else may like it; they'd be right for them.

I know many people who claim to be experts in a number of wine types, but who don't know the first thing about other wines. Bordeaux collectors typically are not really interested in dry riesling, I have found.

Sadly, some of the world's most visible wine "education" events are really drink fests in disguise. Think of the many, varied and usually massive walk-around wine festivals that are held from coast to coast almost daily. These are anything but educational.

At most of these winefests, exotic foods are among the draws. This includes huge racks of beef, oysters, cheese mountains, saut?d hors d'oeuvres and many other types of scent-projecting edibles.

Aromas in the air can confuse the ability to detect aromas in the wines. And let's not forget the perfume and aftershave of some attendees, and other extraneous aromas that add even more confusion to the aroma of the wines.

One way to gain a real wine education may be to take wine classes at local colleges, especially where wine is sampled and explained by an expert. Obviously some instructors are better than others, and usually the best courses are taught by people who have a broad understanding of their subject.

To determine if wine educators are qualified, get their credentials and see if they match up with the subjects they are teaching. (Example: An educator who was reared in Spain and lived in France may not be as skilled at teaching about the wines of Italy as is someone from Florence.)

Visiting wineries can be interesting and educational, but keep in mind that each winery is run by someone who believes the best wine in the world is the one you're being served.

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