Years ago, when I lived closer to Boston and first started off trying to understand the world of wines, I searched for fun ways to learn about wine. One of the ways I chose to begin my wine journey was by attending wine classes and one of the places I selected was the Allston-based Boston Wine School, owned and operated by Jonathan Alsop. Jonathan not only established the Boston Wine School, he is also an author of “The Wine Lover’s Devotional: 365 Days of Knowledge, Advice & Lore for the Ardent Aficionado. ”
My article this month shares with you my interview with Jonathan and an introduction to him and how he began his career in the wine industry.
Jonathan first started his career in the corporate world organizing and operating corporate events, parties and dinners for clients. He was presented with the opportunity to write about wine in 1998. Since then he’s written for a large number of publications including Beverage Business Magazine, Fodor’s Travel Guides, the Boston Globe, and many others. Ten years later Jonathan had the opportunity to take the knowledge and experience that he gained and teach others about wine.
He first began teaching classes in the cellar of his home until the Boston Wine School was developed and opened its doors in 2000. This past fall, Jonathan expanded the Boston Wine School and is now offering classes at the Boston Winery located in Dorchester. He’s not only expanding locally, but is starting to teach and train people all over the world, with programs overseas in Shanghai and in Italy.
Jonathan teaches everything from an introduction to the fundamentals of wine, wine and chocolate pairings, specialty wine classes highlighting countries from all over the world, comparisons of certain grapes and — for the Italian wine lover — he holds A Night in Tuscany, which is a four-week virtual wine tour of Italy.
Jonathan’s classes are for people that love wine and are curious about it and want to use the education to improve their wine lives. It’s all about learning about wine and getting to know yourself. It may be about discovering what you like and don’t like about certain grapes or it’s texture and using that information to further discover other wines you may enjoy. According to Jonathan, most wine education happens from the outside in.
Most modern wine lovers understand wines by grape names. When Jonathan presents new Italian grapes, like nero d’avola, it’s easier for folks to process because they relate it to other grapes they have heard of. Italy is known for hundreds of native Italian grapes and many winemakers throughout Italy have resuscitated these grapes and pushed to market them. The average consumer may be intimidated to try something they’ve never heard of or can’t relate to. One class that Jonathan runs is a class called “best new wines you’ve never heard of” and he introduces Italian grapes such as frappato, grillo and gaglioppo. I always recommend going outside the box when it comes to wine as there are plenty of pleasant surprises along the way.
Thinking about wine
Jonathan not only teaches classes on Italian wines, but teaches his students how to think about Italian wines. Italian wines are an integral part of the Italian culture and it’s a deeply embedded part of the curriculum. When introducing folks to wines in general how do you not talk about Italy due to its history and beginnings in the world of wine? You’re probably familiar with the fact that Italy has no east or west and it’s all dramatically north to south, but this orientation is what makes Italy special when it comes to Italian wine production and all its varieties.
Some of Jonathan’s favorite Italian grapes include nero d’avola from Sicily, since it’s an affordable, tasty grape that typically really pleases people. Also from Sicily, he enjoys gaglioppo as it’s a light red with a ton of personality. From the region of Tuscany his top choices are the grapes, morellino di scansano and other sangiovese varieties. Jonathan also loves valpolicella ripasso from the Veneto for its date nut bread flavor, earthiness and mushroom notes. For white wines, Jonathan enjoys the zippy wines from Trentino-Alto Adige in northern Italy, including pinot grigio, gewurtzminer and pinot bianco as well as grillo and catarratto from Sicily.