Elated to host a class at Elan

Yesterday I had the distinct honor to entertain a group of seniors at Elan Spanish Springs, an assisted living facility in The Villages. It was the first time that I ever taught a wine class in front of a group that was older than me!

The experience was fun and instructive (hopefully for the participants and the instructor). But my takeaway was that people can continue to explore wine regardless of their age or level of knowledge.

The format was a talk and pairing menu for Australian wines. My client picked all of the wines on her own and then gave me the list. I prepared a list of possible food items to pair with the wines, while staying sensitive to a lower budget.

We poured six wines and paired them with six dishes:

  1. Yalumba Series Unwooded Chardonnay/cream cheese on cracker
  2. Hope Estates Semillion/chicken salad on cracker
  3. Layer Cake Shiraz/smoked gouda
  4. Flegenheimer Shiraz/summer sausage
  5. Flegenheimer Petite Sirah/spiced roast beef
  6. Yellow Tail Sweet Red Roo/bleu cheese on cracker

The cream cheese helped illustrate how the acidity of a brisk, dry white can refresh the palate. The chicken salad was richer, so I chose chicken/mayo to match the body of semillion. The Layer Cake introduced red fruit flavors and oak influence, so we paired with a smokey cheese. The Flegenheimer Shiraz (16.5% abv) was a beast, so I chose a fattier meat (the facility bought salami by mistake). The Flegenheimer Petite Sirah was actually lower in alcohol, but big and bold enough to stand up to the roast beef.

All of the first five pairings went well. There were plenty of head nodding in approval of how the wines take on new characteristics once paired with an appropriate food.

The last pairing of Sweet Red Roo and bleu cheese was an attempt to reproduce the wonderful harmoney of sweet and salt that one experiences with a Sauternes and Roquefort cheese (or maybe a Porto and bleu cheese).

It didn’t work. And I’m not sure why.

Unfortunately, because of the way the event was set up, I was unable to taste the pairings myself. So, it’s hard for me to guess why the sweet red wine with bleu cheese pairing didn’t go over as well as I planned.

The lesson here? Be wary about pairing wines you’ve never had before with foods. Every wine, and every bottle, is different. A pairing may look good on paper, but the proof is in the pudding. Or more accurately, in the case of Yellow Tail, the proof is in the plonk.


The SWIRLosopher is Sean Trapani, a professor emeritus of advertising who - despite a degree in philosophy - has abandoned all reason and is trying to make a living in the wine business.

Ape Artwork (c) 2014 Walter Moore, used with permission.