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Learning Wine – where to begin?

Red and White wine glassesLearning about wine always seemed a little overwhelming to me. I was never sure where to begin — and then you had to get past all that snooty wine talk, which to a novice is a little intimidating.

Perfect for a learning experience! Here’s a domain where you have to know a lot of terms, be able to distinguish between the terms, and then be able to establish a point-of-view of your wine preferences — as opposed to Robert Parker’s wine preferences, or the Wine Spectator’s wine preferences. Yes, and then there’s understanding all these wine point guides.

So let’s just reiterate these key points:

  • Audience – novice wine drinkers who want to learn more about wine, who are intimidated by the language of wine, and who may position themselves as anti-wine or anti-elitist.
  • Outcomes – establish a point-of-view on what wine one likes to drink – wine preferences; be able to “defend” or speak-to that POV.
  • Learning Tasks – some initial thoughts
    • Distinguish red from white (hey! an easy win, no?)
    • Understand fortified wines are, blends vs. single varietals, old world vs. new
    • Distinguish main varietals – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, common blends (Bordeaux)
    • Know some of the lesser varietals/blends
    • Pair wine with foods – the basics, more complex
    • Going into a wine store and buying wine for:
      • a drinking party
      • a special occasion
      • for your cellar – collecting wines

Distinguishing is both a visual task (red/white, etc.), cognitive task – knowing the terms, and being able to taste the difference. It’s also about being able to understand the mental models in the wine world (such as old world vs. new world). It may also be possible to define some cognitive strategies: systematic approaches to problem solving in this domain or rules of thumb (especially when it comes to wine pairings). Developing a cognitive strategy for oneself and a POV is about creating an approach to answering the question – “What wine do I want to drink?” To this end, a tool such as a wine journal, is a good start.


  • This could be done as an extremely long PowerPoint presentation (save me now…put me out of my misery!) – or maybe just some part of it….
  • It could be an in-person learning experience — in fact, some of it *has* to be!!! Virtual wine is just no fun. Self-directed, in-person learning experience — include a guide to wine bars, wine tasting, or do-it-yourself tryouts
  • It could be a game – stay with me. If you have a group of people who are resistant to wine, one could create a game (part-task practice) on suggesting wine to a particular type of wine drinker. The more “right” suggestions you make, the more the will drink (although not P.C., it would be fun to see how much you could get people to drink…. creating drunks…. hmmm…sub-goal)

So these are just some initial thoughts on creating a learning experience about wine. I have to thank my friend Paul for all his years of encouragement on experimenting with wine. More next week.

p.s. If you have thoughts or experiences on who you learned about wine, please share!

Posted in games, instructional design.

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  1. learning vs. development | wander@will linked to this post on April 26, 2010

    […] why I joined BAodn. p.s. I’m a little behind on my Learning About Wine instructional design. Will get back to it […]

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