Vintage Intersession: JHU students expand their palates in wine appreciation class

Student sips wine

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Vintage age. Astringency. Decanter. Finish.

These examples of class terminology replace typical vocab such as "square root," "antibiotic," or "dénouement" in the personal enrichment class called Wine Appreciation.

Student pouring wine sample into glass

Image caption: Junior Jake Kim pours a sample of wine into his glass.

Image credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

The Johns Hopkins University Intersession course attracts handfuls of students who want to expand their palates in an inexpensive way, or simply to nibble on cheese, eat bread, and sip on an assortment of wines.

It helps that the only class requirement is a clear wine glass.

The course focuses on the history of major wine regions in Europe and the most prominent grape varieties used in the wine-making process. Students also sample from other important wine producing regions, such as the United States and South America.

Charles Lawrence, the class' instructor, has been teaching Wine Appreciation for roughly 20 years. The retired JHU employee and psychologist said that students get a chance to try something new while taking a break from their studies.

"It's also, I hope, a true learning experience," he said. "You don't only just taste wine, but you learn something about the history of wine, the making of wine, comparisons of different wine, and so forth."

At each class, Lawrence brings in a selection of 12 or so wines—conveniently purchased from The Wine Source in Baltimore's Hampden neighborhood. He serves light bread and cheese with the white wines and dark bread with the red.

Students carefully observe, smell, and taste each sampling of wine while they discuss its history, origins, and characteristics.

During the first class, participants were relatively quiet in the beginning, but engaged, curious, and laughing midway through.

"It usually takes a few glasses of wine before folks start asking questions," Lawrence said.

Jake Kim, a junior biomedical engineering and applied math major, said he learned that there is a subjectivity to tasting wine, and more about what types he tends to enjoy.

"I always wanted to learn more about wine, but it was difficult to learn more by myself or without formal guidance," Kim said. "I thought this was a good intro to learning how to enjoy wine with other people."

Wine Appreciation instructor looks at the label on a bottle of wine

Image caption: Charles Lawerence, instructor of JHU's Wine Appreciation course, examines the label on a bottle of wine.

Image credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

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