Seven Top Wine Study Tips from the Italian Wine Room on Clubhouse

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Three Jumbo Shrimp Guide to Italian Wines authors, Jacopo Fanciuli, Lan Liu and Lyka Caparas, continued their quest to help people immerse themselves, as well as simplify the complicated and mysterious world of Italian wines. These three wine musketeers are both roommates and work colleagues, maintaining their enthusiasm for Italian wines by sharing their individual pursuits, namely, continuing their wine studies towards certifications, refresher courses, or simply learning for fun during their time off...wine can be intoxicatingly fun after all (pun intended).
May 13, 2021 - VERONA, ITALY

Three of the Jumbo Shrimp Guide to Italian Wines authors, Jacopo Fanciuli, Lan Liu and Lyka Caparas often spend time in discussion about wine and their studies after work; most recently they pondered the best ways to undertake studying wine and wondered if others have had the same questions or ideas on the matter. For this reason, they put their question to a larger wine community, that of the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA). The initial tiny discussion group of three transformed, opening the mic to many other wine students all over the world, people who were likewise broaching topics that average wine students or professionals ask themselves every day. The discussions that ensued on Clubhouse (the audio-only social media app) encouraged community building through the sharing of ideas, offering practical hacks and the exchange of stories and experiences.

To digress back onto the topic of the best ways to undertake studying wine, several VIA community members contributed their answers; the best suggestions made it onto this list. Contributors include Erin DeMara, Paul Bologna, Corrine Keddie, Melissa Sutherland, Deena Altman and Peggy Baudon. The following are seven great tips - some of them might surprise you!

1. The Pomodoro Technique: Peggy Baudon suggested using the Pomodoro Technique. This technique requires you to allocate focus for a specific period of time (like 20 minutes at a time for example), followed by periods of rest. This rest period, or rather shift in focus, will enhance your concentration each time you go back to studying. It is quite exhausting to put in 100% of energy, 100% of the time, but by moderating your efforts into manageable chunks of time, the mind is able to absorb more information.

2. Don’t be a Stacker, opt for synthesizing: Melissa Sutherland is an advocate of synthesizing (arranging or harmonizing) a large amount of information. This is done by grouping related research from various books and resources – organization can be done by region, by grape, etc. Visual learners can do this too by drafting a mind map to identify obvious connections between one set of data with the other. Corrine Keddie also said that organizing the information is key and she finds excel spreadsheets an efficient tool for this (and no, you don’t have to be an excel master to accomplish this!).

3. Create Blind Tasting moments as often as you can: When tasting several wines, placing numbers below glasses with similar tasting wines (e.g., all full bodied reds) is a technique that Erin DeMara often practices. After doing the first round of tasting, he asks his daughter to shuffle the glasses, so he can then guess the wines. Another technique was raised by Corrine. after recognizing taste profiles of each wines, she puts away the remaining wines in 175ml bottles for future blind tasting practice. Lyka Caparas also suggested that using black wine glasses during this process can make this even more challenging!


4. Taste and take notes every chance you get: Jacopo, Corrine, and Paul all agreed that it is important to taste as many wines as possible (it is safe to say, every wine student -everywhere- would whole-heatedly agree with them). Corrine emphasized the importance of creating tasting notes, either manually or digitally, then double checking your blind tasting notes with text book notes. Erin advised seeking help from your local bartender, ask for some samples for wine study, they are likely to oblige!

5. Practice reading back labels (even when grape varieties are not listed): Melissa shared her practice of reading the back labels on wine bottles. If there are no grape varieties specified, she always pays attention to the wine region, then connecting it with possible grapes.

6. Visualisation and spatial recognition also enhances memory: Lan Liu and Melissa Sutherland talked about this method. During their study sessions, they often imagined themselves on a run, a very long one, every region they came to became attached to a memory, an imagined memory, filled with vineyards, mountain ridges, valleys, culture and even different cuisines! Deena Altman did something similar as well. During her studies she visualized information through the maps she collected - even going so far as to paste them all over her hotel room during the VIA course!

7. Different strokes for different folks: Everyone seems to have a different trick up their sleeve when it comes to retaining grape cartloads of information but the key is to identify your own unique way of learning first, specifically, you need to understand whether you learn best through visualisation, storytelling, analogies, syntheses or through some other method. Corrine Keddie, VIA Italian Wine Expert emphasized that whatever method of learning you are comfortable with, the most important thing is to be systematic and consistent.

Studying Italian Wine can get complicated at times with so many grape varieties and regions to learn about, but there are some tools out there that are helpful and entertaining. Italian Wine Ambassador, Erin DeMara is a fan of the Italian Wine Podcast and the Jumbo Shrimp Guide to Italian Wine. He has admitted to listening to every English episode released on the podcast (and that is a lot since there are almost 570 episodes at this point!), in particular he recommends: Sarah Heller MW’s tasting technique, and Professor Attilio Scienza’s native grape discussions to name just a couple. He also enjoys toting his paperback copy of the Jumbo Shrimp Guide around with him for those occasional spare minutes throughout his daily travels. It goes without saying that he highly recommends these resources for Italian wine study or for those just wanting a refresher on the topic.
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