Wine Programme Approach
Our Approach to Wine at The New Wine School of Southern Italy:
Typically, the problem with the study of wine is that it’s always been treated as if it were a single subject when it’s really a hundred. Sure it’s a drink but it’s also culture. It can be art but it’s also an agricultural product that mostly deteriorates with age (only a fraction of wine actually improves with time in the bottle). It’s an historical drink yet many of techniques used today go back only a dozen years. It’s what Southern, Western Europe traditionally drinks yet the fastest growing markets, for both production and consumption are nowhere near here. And then when it comes to actually tasting the stuff, folks talk about every flavour known to man. Except grapes.
Like trying to study a butterfly, you mangle the thing just trying to capture it, forcing it under the microscope.
We believe that wine only begins to make sense when viewed in its natural habitat, on the land that birthed it, with the food that naturally accompanies it, explained by the people that crafted it, consumed in the culture that created it. As obvious as this sounds, it’s not a common approach, which traditionally tends towards the scientific, mathematical and the objectively analytical. ‘Stars’, ‘cups’ and points out of a hundred only tell a fraction of the story, the difference as pronounced as the difference between Monica Belucci’s measurements. And Monica Belucci.
That’s why you’ll also be cooking during the week as well, using local produce, right along side local wine producers, authorities and educators, everyone with glass in hand. We’ll sit down together and dine on the local food we made together, often drinking the wine crafted by the person sitting next to you. (If, reader, you are envisioning yourself in your mind’s eye in that Italian kitchen, hand-forming pasta or grilling lamb in the stone fireplace along-side your favourite wine producer, only then to sit down to dinner together and drink his or her wine with that food, discussing it all, well, you’ve grasped the concept completely).
You’ll need a good base of knowledge on which to build of course, and we’ll give that to you too. From how to pragmatically read an Italian wine label, to the science of yeast + sugar= CO2+ethenol, to improving your nose and palette, our faculty (who average three university degrees a head) have crafted compacted learning into short topic discussions, giving you what it takes to truly understand wine, southern Italian and beyond.
But we also head out into the field, sometimes literally. You’ll visit local wineries, vineyards, wine vendors and wine bars, each with an important lesson to teach, each notable for a different reason: high-tech, low-tech, old-fashion and high-fashion, respectable. We’ll discuss wine as food, culture, theatre and even discuss the cultural inertia that still accompanies a lot of wine behavior today, each of us deciding for ourselves what’s worth keeping and what’s passé and what certainly should be.
We’ll also pragmatically discuss the business side of wine-making with the people who do it, those that soberly reject the liquid as anything more than a perishable commodity. You’ll learn to see local and world-wide trends in wine making and how it’s sold, how the big players- France, Italy, Australia, the US, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina- fit in and how each faces different challenges with how it sells its wine.
But above all it will be the little-understood wines of the sunny south of Italy that will be our fixation, and your new passions. You’ll learn to see how delicate is wine’s predicament today, when the so-called ‘international varietals’ (cabernet, chardonnay, merlot, etc). threaten to eradicate so many of the autochthonous (indigenous) grapes, as vast fields of old vines are felled every year to make room for yet more instantly-forgettable ‘supermarket cab’.
Negroamaro, aglianico, nerello mascalese, primitivo, Gaglioppo, nero d’avola, cirò, falanghina, you’ll get to know these grapes intimately, through the wines and the love stories that their producers recount to you about them, first-hand.
But beyond discussions and field trips, local authorities, producers and long hours spent around the table, we’ll never lose track of the fact that you’ve come to taste and drink wine. You’ll taste over 100 hundred wines your week (usually poured by the producer), and drink again as many (the difference between tasting and drinking, the presence of spittoons). And by the end of the course, what seemed impossible on Monday- that by Friday you’d be able not only identify, but describe 15 unlabeled glasses in front of the faculty, producers and peers- we’ll be as easy drinking your favourite wine among good food and friends.