Good Instructor, Bad Instructor: what makes a wine class great?
I'm writing an article on elements that make for really great (single) wine classes (of the non-date oriented variety), where beginners or advanced students can really gain great knowledge.
If you have things you enjoyed or could barely tolerate in a class, would love to hear it.
I agree with KaySS about a down to earth wine instructor, someone with a lot of patience that will answer all the most basic questions without a hint of boredom. My absolute favorite task in wine class is blind tasting. Having no clue what you are drinking and having a basic deduction list. It really helps people understand. I also really enjoy an aroma class. FUN!
Blind tastings are often quite good. The only draw back can be the reticence of some participants to express what they actually experience. Some folk want to convince all others that what they think that they encounter are the ONLY answers. They seldom are.
Personally, I love blind tastings, and greatly encourage all to contribute. There are no "wrong answers." My palate is different than others. My taste memories are different too. Many is the time that a participant comes up with something, that I feel is off the wall. Still, I work to "find" that element. Often, it IS there, though not in the forefront. To me, that is part of the fun, and the learning.
Just personal observations,
For me, a good instructor need not be an expert, though they should have knowledge of that particular block. They should be enthusiastic, and want to expose the class to to the wonders of wine. They should be good communicators, and also know, and use, various communication tools. They should be able to temper their knowledge to the class, and be willing, and able, to tailor the class to different levels of interest. Along these lines, they should be able to convey the same info in different forms, to accommodate the differences between the individuals in the class.
A lot of planning needs to go into the syllabus for the class. The "necessary" points need to be made, and the class should be an introduction to a "pathway," and not an encyclopedia of all knowledge.
Sorry if I am going against others' postings,
re: Bill Hunt
You're not, Bill, at least not that I see.
One of the things I always did was have a detailed and lengthy syllabus for my classes. I knew that covered all the detailed info I wanted to convey, and so I was free to encourage class discussion and -- even if it went off on an interesting tangent, I was free (within reason of course) to let it go.
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava
MIchel Turgy, NV Blanc de Blanc
Domain Chandon, Blanc de Blanc Chandon', CA
This is too often the case with wine classes in the US. $50 per person to try the above. That is crazy! Other then the Turgy the rest are not good examples of sparkling from around the world.
And you replied to me because . . . . ???
I don't understand: I have never, nor would I ever, teach a class using these four wines alone, let alone charge $50 to taste them. Nor would I use Turgy in a class as the one and only example of a Champagne -- nor any of the above wines as the sole example of their type and origin. So, I hope, you can understand my confusion . . . .
A good instructor will tell the group what wines are being poured prior to the event with the vintages. Is is 2000 Bordeaux or 2002 Bordeaux?
Also don't over lecture. The focus should be on the wines with some information instead of all information and a small focus on tasting the wines.
Also teach the tasting process.
A bad instructor is one who takes short cuts and gives "absolute" answers to many questions. As any wine geek will know, a lot of answers are "it depends" with a litany of words following. The food pairing question is just a small example.
A good instructor will be able to distill an answer so the students can understand and follow without being drowned in technical and esoteric knowledge.
What makes a good wine class for me:
-Instructor is an expert, and knows how to present information to the student's level
-Subject of class is finite - i.e. reds of Rhone, sparkling wine, home wine making, etc.
-I learn something or a lot
-I walk out of the session more energized and more curious about wine
-Wine tastings are well structured and relevant to subject matter
What I cannot tolerate:
-If instructor is snobby toward anyone or any aspect of wine enjoyment
-If tasting does not occur
-Hard and fast wine pairing rules are given as 'gospel'
Lots of what Kay said. Here's what I try to be mindful of when I teach:
Information appropriate to the students' current level of knowledge and interest.
Information that is organized into easily assimilated bites, one after the other.
An instructor who believes the goal of teaching is to serve, to be useful, and to open the door to another world.
An instructor who has no need to show off a storehouse of information.
An instructor who leaves time for class discussion and questions, and who knows when to return to the lesson plan.
Food and Wine Pairing Class: the classic tried-and-true rules, covered and tasted; the role of experimentation in discovering unexpectedly great pairings (they usually illustrate a rule).
For one time classes, especially: An agreeable personality, an instructor who understands that learning should be fun.