Finals Week in Wine Class
June 5, 2012 2 Comments
Final exam week in Miss Jane’s 12-week professional wine studies class has arrived! To answer your question, NO…the wine final does not involve binge drinking, glasses clinking or happy hour. Like most college-level courses in hospitality management or culinary arts, we have both a practical and a written final exam. Our written final exam is scheduled for this Friday; a 100 question multiple choice test followed by three essay questions.
Please note that the title of this course is “Professional Wine Studies.” While many of the wine classes taught around the world center on tasting, this course is centered on basic wine knowledge and how to use it within the context of a hospitality career. I focus the class on learning about basic wine styles (white, red, sparkling, dessert…yes, that basic); how they are made, where they are made, and the world’s best known or most popular examples. We learn how to taste wine so that we can talk about wine, and spend several class sessions role-playing the role of the server, sommelier, or salesperson. We use my “mad libs for wine” to learn to write meaningful, concise wine descriptions. We learn about beverage costing as it applies to wines by the bottle and glass. We spend a good deal of time of food and wine pairing, which makes sense as most of my students see themselves as future chefs. Finally, we spend a good deal of time discussing how to write a wine list and market wine in a restaurant or other setting.
So for my final practical exam this semester, I came up with the idea of an exercise in writing a wine list. I started out by surfing the internet for nice, clear pictures of wine labels. This took a while as I wanted to use wine labels from wines we had studied and my students would be familiar with. I also wanted a good mix of red, white, dessert wines and sparkling wines. I came up with a word file full of about 30 wine labels that includes Bordeaux, Chianti, Rioja, Napa Meritage, Lodi Zin and Oregon Pinot for the reds. For the whites I found Fumé Blanc, a nice German Riesling, an Aussie Chard…you get the idea. I had six sparkling wines including a few from California, a Cava, a Prosecco, and of course Champagne. For the sweet wines I included Moscato d’Asti, Sauternes, Late Harvest Zin, Ruby Port and Muscat-Beaumes-de-Venise. Remember, these are all wines that we had studied, and in most cases, tasted.
I did a bit of cut and paste and gave every student a stack of 30 wine labels, and created a faux “wholesale price list”. Then, I gave the class two hours to write a wine list that was to include the following details:
- Meaningful Categorization
- Absolutely perfect listing of each wine to include producer, name of the wine, region of origin and vintage date (as applicable)
- Progressive wine list format
- A concise description of each wine (I like to use what I call a “five word description” such as “light, dry and crisp with fruity and floral flavors”.)
- Two food pairing suggestions for each wine.
- Pricing by the glass and bottle, as well as a spreadsheet detailing each item’s potential beverage cost and gross profit.
As they completed the project, I had every student bring their list up to me for a quick discussion and review. Lots of learning can go in during that review period. I had them describe how they chose to categorize their wines, how they arranged them in order and how the details of the list will be useful as a sales tool.
All in all, I have to say I think they all did a great job! I was very impressed with the final projects, and think that it was a meaningful, active learning experience all around. It was good exposure to the “nuts and bolts” of writing and designing a wine list. Most importantly, we all had a great time and I feel it was a good example of active learning and a “flipped classroom”.
If you would like a copy of the materials I created for the class, click here: Bubbly Prof – Wine Labels for Wine List Project
The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas – email@example.com