French Wines 101

When it comes to wine, France is a classic. Geographically diverse in climate and topography, it is suitable for a wide range of grape varietals. While not the leader in cutting edge technology or value-priced wines, French winemakers are producing wines of great quality and diversity. Vines were introduced to France 2,600 years ago by the Greeks. Viticulture developed along rivers (Garonne, Rhone, Gironde, Loire) by the Romans, then by the Catholic Church which diligently documented winemaking processes.

Today, French wine and food are intertwined, forming part of a strong cultural and gastronomic heritage. Participants will taste and learn about Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, often called “Noble Varietals” because they yield exceptionally complex and well-balanced wines. We’ll also discuss the basics of flavorful pairing and purchasing quality and value wines.


Tribute to Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is the leading red grape varietal in terms of quality and distribution. More high-quality wines are made from Cabernet Sauvignon than any other variety and the most expensive wines in the world are made from this grape. In this class, we will discover four different versions of this wonderful grape -- from France where the grape first originated as well as from California, Italy, and Australia.


We’ll experience the ways that winemakers create wines representative of their respective terroir. By the end of this class, participants will have learned about the important style differences between New World and Old World wines and gained an even greater appreciation of this wonderful wine.

The Many Styles of Pinot Noir

Wines made from the Pinot Noir grapes are very popular around the world because they are great food companions and easy to drink without food. Pinot Noir is a celebrity: it was the movie star showing off its upscale profile in the popular movie “Sideways.” At a recent wine auction, a bottle of French Bourgogne 100% made from Pinot Noir reached $10,000 per bottle, among the most expensive in the world.


This workshop will introduce wine styles. I love the idea of exploring the many ways the Pinot Noir grapes are transformed into delicious quality wines from sparkling to vibrant rose, from light to full body reds. Comparing the winemaking styles of these wines is educational and fun. We’ll learn about the impact of the climate and the soil on the grape as well as the winemaker’s decisions in the vineyards and in the winery following time honored traditions…or not! We’ll taste excellent wines made in different wine styles -- five from the Pinot Noir grapes and two others with contrasting flavors.


Wines from the Coast of the Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea is where it all began. People and goods have crossed its waters for millennia, exchanging money, ideas, technology, and culture.  The same can be said of grapevines and winemaking techniques.  Without this exchange, and the resulting experimentation, many of today's wines would not exist.  Grapes have grown naturally in the South of Europe for tens of thousands of years, and have been cultivated to make wines for about 4,500 years. Many believe that the Rosé wines that we drink today are a close representation of the wines made by these ancestors.

The Catholic religion was instrumental in popularizing wine and developing viticulture and vinification methods. Crusaders settled along the shores of the Mediterranean and produced wines, including, the legendary Banyuls, suitable for transport and still produced in the same manner and on the same land in the Roussillon (France). The entire range of wine styles is produced here from light whites like the Frascati from Italy to full-bodied reds like Super Tuscan. Many varietals are indigenous to the area and produce excellent wines awaiting discovery.  Some of these, such as Grenache, Mourvèdre, Nero D’Avola and Nebbiolo are less famous and less frequently distributed in the US.

By the end of this class, participants will have learned about the lesser known varietals and wine styles enjoyed along the northern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and gained a new perspective on the vast and wonderful world of wine.


Quality Wines Under $20

This class is all about understanding the process that produces quality wines and how to evaluate wine, not based on price. Quality wines can be found at all price points. What makes a wine of good quality are the same things that make shoes or clothing of quality: the maker’s experience, knowledge, workmanship and good materials.


Together, while drinking excellent wines and focusing on the taste and pairing experience, we identify clues that are indicative of quality -- the label, (location, bottling, age), the winemaking process, experience and longevity, expensive vs. value varietals and the business of wine (auction, primeurs, real estate).


Provence: More than Rosé!

Provence is renowned worldwide for its beautiful rosé wine, drunk very cold with olives and salted nuts on the shore of the ultramarine Méditerranée. But did you know that this southern region also produces great red, white and even sweet wines?  Dany leads a class showcasing delicious Provence wines and explains the art and science behind pairing wine and food as we eat herb-coated goat cheese, picholine olives, almonds, apricots, tapenade. It will inspire you to bring a little Southern France spirit at your next dinner party.


❝ Bringing a little sunny Provence to a cold, rainy Chicago, sommelier Dany Saint-Pierre recreated her own Provençal wine experience for guests at the Alliance Française in Chicago. During which, she led us through a masterclass showcasing a group of delicious French wines that will bring a little Southern France magic at your next dinner party.❞


WRISE Annual Wine Benefit

Women Winemakers

For 5 years, Dany has led the selection of the wines supporting the Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) annual networking and fundraising event -- a Wine Tasting featuring fabulous wines from women winemakers -- sustainably produced and powered by renewable energy!


This successful and popular event attracts a sell-out crowd, a cross-section of the men and women in Chicago’s renewable energy industry. Proceeds from the event support WRISE programs including fellowships awarded to female college students or recent graduates to attend leading industry conferences and start on their own paths to becoming Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy.

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