Saturday, February 20, 2010

An American and Ais..the Next Step to 'Wine Geek'

About 4 years ago, I stareted dabbling in the wine world. Friends, who I thought at the time were wine geeks, asked me to help organize a bus trip to a winery and agriturismo. Though somewhat fluent in Italian, I was shakey when it came to winemaking terminology. But at some point over the years, after organizing numerous wine tastings and winery tours throughout the Campania region, the bug hit me. The world of wine and winemaking changed for me. I remember a trip to Torre Gaia a couple of years ago. I had a great time translating for our sommelier, Luigi. He was decked out in his sommelier uniform as he gave us a tour of the winery and led us through a wine tasting. Then came the many trips to Taurasi, Benevento, Campi Flegrei area, , wine fairs, and eventually wine tastings at Ciao Vino.    

The time came to take this hobby to another level. A couple of friends suggested that I should take the sommelier course that Ais (Italian Sommelier Association) offers. I really wasn’t sure, I mean, what does a sommelier do anyway? 

Hmmm. So I’ve decided to take that first step…I signed up to take the 1st level course. It begins on the 8th of March. I’m a little nervous but at the same time, excited. The course is 15 lessons, once a week, about 2 ½ hours long.  There are 3 levels with an intensive exam at the end of each course.  The path to sommelier takes 18-24 months.  Here is the schedule of the first part of a long journey....

MONDAY, March 8 Lesson # 1 - Figure the Sommelier

Presentation of the Italian Sommelier. Presentation of the Course. The figure of the modern restaurant sommelier. The tastevin, the glass tasting and other tools of the sommelier. Demonstrations of service. Introduction to wine tasting.

Presentation of three wines, including one or Franciacorta Spumante Metodo Classico.

Monday 15 March Lecture No. 2 - Viticulture

Viticulture and wine quality. The vine: notes on the evolution and spread throughout the world. Biological cycle of the vine. Breeding systems, pruning and harvesting. Soil and climate environment. The major indigenous and international grape varieties.

Presentation of three significant wine regions.

Monday, March 22 Lecture No. 3 - Winery - Wine production

The bunch of grapes and wine. Vinification.

Presentation of a white wine, a rose wine and red wine.

Monday 29 March Lecture No. 4 - WINE - WINE COMPONENTS evolution

Oenology and wine quality. Maturation and aging of wine. Stabilization and correction of the wine cellar practices. Short outline of changes, defects and diseases. The composition of the wine according to taste.

Presentation of a white aged in wine barrels, a young red wine (last year, just steel), a red wine evolved (at least 3-4 years spent in wood).

Wednesday, 7 April Lecture No. 5 - THE TASTING - VISUAL ANALYSIS

Sensory analysis. Work on the stimulus, sensation and perception. The best conditions for the tasting. The technique of tasting, the parameters of assessment of visual and links with other characteristics of wine. The terminology of visual AIS.

Tasting of a light white wine last year, a white wine structured, developed and aged in barrels, a Classic Method Sparkling Wine / Champagne Rosé, using terminology AIS and analytic-descriptive card only for the parameters of visual.

MONDAY, April 12 Lecture No. 6 - THE TASTING - Nose

The families of scents. The technique of tasting, the parameters of assessment and examining olfactory connections with other characteristics of wine. Terminology AIS olfactory examination.

Tasting of a white wine aroma of a young red wine (last year, just steel) and a structured and evolved (at least 3-4 years spent in wood) using terminology AIS and analytic-descriptive card only for the parameters of visual and olfactory tests.


The taste sensations, tactile and olfactory. The technique of tasting, the yardsticks for examining taste-olfactory and links to other characteristics of wine. Terminology AIS exam taste and scent.

Exercises with solutions of water with glycerin, sugar, ethyl alcohol taste, citric or tartaric acid, tannins and salt, to assess the feeling of "softness" and "hardness." Tasting of a red wine importantly, using terminology AIS and analytic-descriptive card for the parameters of visual, olfactory and taste and scent.

MONDAY, April 26 Lecture No. 8 - SPARKLING

CProduzione and features classic method sparkling wines, the most important Italian and foreign products. Production and characteristics of Martinotti Method Sparkling dry and sweet.

Tasting of three wines: two Method Sparkling Martinotti, a dry (Prosecco) and a sweet aroma, a sparkling Franciacorta Metodo Classico or, using terminology AIS and analytic-descriptive card; samples of scale combined with Parmigiano-Reggiano and bread, biscuits .

MONDAY, May 3 Lesson No. 9 - dessert wines, late harvest, Muff, ICEWEIN,  FLAVORED LIQUEUR

Production and characteristics of dessert wines, Late Harvest, mold, Icewine, Liqueurs, Flavored, the most important Italian and foreign products.

Tasting of three wines: a past, or Eiswein Mold, a sweet liqueur, using terminology AIS and analytic-descriptive card, blue cheese tasting in conjunction with honey and slices of bread, chocolate.


The classification of wine: table wine, IGT, DOC and DOCG. As you read the label. Work on the major wine legislation in EU countries. Characteristics, dissemination and use of the most important international and local grape varieties.

Table wine tasting of a wine or IGT in the region of a DOC and a DOCG, using terminology AIS and analytic-descriptive card.


Beer: production, classification and main types. Distillation. The main distillates made from cereals: whiskey, vodka and gin.

Tasting of three types of beer: light, red and Trappist.

Monday, May 24 No Lesson 12 - OTHER SPIRITS

(brandy, rum, cognac, armagnac, calvados, tequila ...) AND LIQUEURS (domestic and foreign)

Different distillation systems. Main types of distillates and their tasting. The classification of liquor.

Tasting of a distillate of cereal, one of wine and one of marc.


The cellar of the restaurant. The wine list. Practical service.

Guided tasting of three wines of excellent quality and different types, using terminology AIS and analytic-descriptive card.

Saturday, June 12 No Lesson 14 – WINERY VISIT

Monday June 14, Lesson No. 15 - DEPTH SAMPLING AND SELF

Written and tasting (two wines), with the use of analytical-descriptive card. Correction collegial and links to other characteristics of wine. Consolidation and deepening of the most important and the technique of tasting.

Tasting a white wine and one red (such as tests for the trainees). Tasting of a wine of high quality using terminology AIS and analytic-descriptive card.

So I am ready to become a wine geek.....All of this will be in Italian, so I definitely will have my work cut out for me….I read on the Ais Napoli site that the course is full.

I’m not the first American who has chosen this path in Naples, nor will I be the last. I can guarantee, however, that I’ll be in the front row!!!


  1. WOW!!! After that you can teach Loren and myself. I wish I could be able to explain how it taste.