Noah making wine. (source: wikipedia)

As if I wasn’t stressed out enough, I decided to take on an Italian sommelier course in Florence with FISAR (stands for Federation of Italian Sommeliers, Hospitality and Restaurant Professionals.) 

I’d taken college-level food and wine pairing courses, which is how I got to Italy in the first place, plus other wine awards (like WSET) but I got sick and tired of 2 things: having some holes in my wine database and 2. I was also fed-up with my answer to people asking me if I was a sommelier- I first had explain my life story first “well, no but I’ve done bla bla bla boring xyz wine course here and there which is basically like a sommelier but it’s not.”

I wasn’t looking forward to the 1st level because I thought it’d be somewhat repetitive (i.e. basics like how wine is made, how to taste wine) And again my arrogance was served with a little slice of humble pie.

To sum it up- I LOVE this course and look forward to every lesson. The FISAR community is great and everyone is so nice that I wonder “are all the pleasant (and sane) Florentines quarantined in this little conference room?” Maybe wine brings out the best in people!

The lessons are all conducted in Italian, which is fine by me. There is a word here and there I don’t understand so I just write it down and look it up later. So if anything, my vocabulary is expanding. I must say this isn’t for everyone, i.e. following lectures in Italian. Luckily, all my university courses were conducted in Italian so I’m somewhat used to squinting my face and furrowing my eyebrows intently concentrating on every word that comes out. I don’t care either that some people laugh at me when I say “pickles” when the teacher asks “what do you smell?” when what I really meant was that “dill” scent from pickles. Don’t ever care if people laugh at you. Just serve it right back!

So I’ll start to make a weekly habit of reporting the fun things I learn!

I should preface that I am a big fan of science. One lesson was on wine history, and how the grape vines appeared on planet earth like over 100 million years ago and that the common grape vine that grown all over the world named “vitis vinifera” can be traced back 10,000 years! Makes you feel quite small and insignificant, doesn’t it? Don’t even get me started on how old the planet is and the friggen’ universe!

Shiraz in Shiraz (source: the economist)

I’ve always found it interesting that the first tales of wine production (and consumption) traces back to Egypt, the Caucasus and that some of the finest wine centuries ago came from Shiraz, Iran- yet wine consumption is so forbidden/frowned upon in some those lands now (not Georgia, thankfully!). Furthermore, it was documented in Genesis that Noah (or Noe’ in Italian) was the first to plant grape vines and his subsequent inebriation. “Noah, the tiller of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within the tent.” (Genesis 9:20-21) That cheeky Noah…

Another fun “wine for thought” I learned is that we can thank biology for wine.  Well, basically the teacher pointed out that we instinctively eat fruit which is mature. Who likes sour grapes? We are naturally turned off to unripe fruit- perhaps an evolutionary trait? Because what does it mean when a fruit is mature? It means the seeds are ready and formed! And what do we do with the seeds? Discard them and then they grow new fruit! Because we also instinctively don’t like the taste of fruit seeds! And even if we did eat them, I wonder how much our digestive system actually breaks them down. So basically, wine is biology. We drink wine to help fruit flourish and make sex with the earth to make more fruit which makes wine. Every time you drink wine, you’re basically helping grapes not go extinct.

In your non-expert science trust,

Curious Appetite

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