Extra Curricular Activity


A few years ago I started taking wine classes. They’re at the local University and usually last for about four weeks at a time. The classes are only one day per week. Right now, it’s my Monday evening activity. And a very nice way to start your week, if I must say so myself!

Last night we had a special treat. Being that it was Valentine’s Day, the instructor focussed on dessert wines. We had 2 wines from Hungary and then we tried four different kinds of Madeira.

The two Hungarian wines we tried were both made from Furmint grapes. The first wine was a dry white (Kiralyudvar Tokaji Furmint Sec 2007). In the wine world Dry = Less Sugar. I’m not much for describing what I’m tasting. I usually code my sheet with either a 🙂 or a 😦 to note whether I liked it or not. The first two both had 🙂 on my sheet. Wine #2 was the same grape, but it had been processed differently, aged longer, etc and was a dessert wine (Kiralyundvar Tokaji Cuvee “Ilona” 2003). We had a little smaller pour because wine #2 was $55/500 ml bottle.

The second part of the class was Madeira. Madeira is a fortified wine. I have a little experience with fortified wines (port and sherry) from an earlier class. Madeira comes from the island of the same name 625 miles from the coast of Portugal. There are four main grapes used to make it. In the picture, from left to right they are: Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malmsey. They also get sweeter from left to right. I didn’t care as much for the Sercial. The Verdelho was fine, but I probably wouldn’t buy it. The last two, Bual and Malmsey, were my favorites. All of them were “Blandy’s 5 Year” bottles labeled with the grape name. They are all about $26/bottle here.

One really nice thing about Madeira is that it is already oxidized so it’s stable and you don’t have to drink the whole bottle within a few days of opening it. You can cork it back up and not worry much about storage.

Since it was Valentine’s Day we had a special treat. The instructor had truffles to go with the Madeira. The truffles were 85% (cocoa intensity) from Legacy Chocolates. I don’t think I’ve heard that many Mmm‘s of pleasure all in one room for a long time.

Our super awesome instructor did mention the cardinal rule of dessert wine. Dessert wines must be sweeter than the food you are serving them with. If not, the wine will taste metallic.

We’ve got one class left in this series. Next week will be Hidden Gems of Spain.

Over the last few years, the classes I’ve taken are: The Geography of Wine, Wines of the Iberian Peninsula, The Politics of Wine, Wine and War, California Wines, The Noble Grapes, and Hidden Gems of the Wine World. The next class in May will focus on California wine regions and include travel tips for visiting each area (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Monterrey).

Too bad I can’t get credit for lane changes with these classes…


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