I attended an Israeli wine tasting at a local cultural center earlier this week. The instructor spoke both about the Israeli wine industry as well as basic wine appreciation. Among the instructor’s opening statements was a proclamation that the Israeli wine industry took a major step forward with the introduction of the Golan Heights Winery 15 years ago (it was more like 25 years ago). Shortly thereafter we tried the first wine, a sauvignon blanc. He began by pointing out that it is not straw in color, as a straw color indicates a flaw (not true). Upon tasting the wine he pointed out that this wine was NOT oaky like some other whites since Sauvignon Blanc generally only spends 6 months in barrel (when in reality this Sauv Blanc was made in stainless steel tanks and saw no oak – hence the non-oakiness). Finally he alleviated the concerns of an attendee regarding sulfites in wine informing the class that white wines, although written on the label “contains sulfites”, don’t really contain sulfites. I raised my hand and announced that i thought all wines contained sulfites, even organic wines (albeit in smaller quantities). He emphatically responded that I was wrong, reds contain sulfites but whites do not.
Speaking of his angry response, in a crowded room with over 50 people drinking (not spitting) wine, he consistently “sshhh-ed” the crowd. I can appreciate the challenges of speaking before a loud audience but while drinking wine in a crowded room did he really expect the audience to remain perfectly silent??
Other “facts/tidbits” he shared with us (that I can remember) were that screw cap wines are cheap in quality and gimmicky (often not true). One should always decant red wine. And if a decanter is not readily available one should aerate it by pouring back and forth between beakers (probably a good idea for many young wines, but certainly not for older wines). He spoke of the legs of the wine and how it indicates alcohol level (this has been disproved – although it is still said to indicate viscosity). The last thing I recall was that he spoke of a favorite Israeli winery of his as one that is 2-3 years old (the winery is actually 10 years old but did only start to release wines about 6 years ago).
How should one deal with such a situation?
I learned many years ago that different instructors often have different styles. I have also discovered that when it came to non-factual teachings opinions will vary – but nobody is actually wrong (as much as you may think that those who do not share your opinion ARE WRONG).
And while there have been times in my life when I have heard people claim questionable facts/information as absolute, I was no expert on the topic and often was not passionate enough about said topic to attempt to clarify the (potential) misinformation.
But this instructor and the bad information he was sharing with people regarding wine in general and Israeli wine in particular drove me nuts. I had to bite my cheeks to keep my mouth shut.
After the tasting ended the instructor was surrounded by eager participants asking questions. Rather than get into it I managed to simply point out that the long necked Gewurtztraminer that he claimed was 500ml. was actually a full 750ml. To which he thanked me for the clarification and I left.
Did I handle things right? I may have been rude with my sulfites comment. I was apparently shaking my head at many of his misstatements as a fellow audience member approached me afterwards and asked me if I too noticed the inaccuracies in his teachings. I admitted that I did but wondered how she knew. She laughed that my head did not stop shaking back and forth each time he said something wrong. I felt somewhat validated by her acknowledgment…and embarrassed that I had been caught acting as I did. BUT, should I have spoken up more? Should I have kept my mouth shut the entire time? Was my head shaking incredibly rude?
I’m not sure that there is any one right answer here. I just hope that tastings that I lead more accurately represent the facts than this one did and that any tasting YOU may attend is led by someone who has a solid grasp on the facts.
Happy accurately led wine tasting!