Did you know that the color of wine doesn’t come from the color of the grape itself? Or that today’s average room temperature is too warm for most red wines, while modern refrigerators are too cold for whites?
Hoboken resident and wine educator Zita Keeley, who runs a wine appreciation company called “All I Do Is Wine,” tackles those and other common misconceptions with a six-week wine education course focused on tearing down the stigmas of one of the world’s most popular drinks.
Keeley’s classes are a crash course in wine tasting, wine pairing and “expanding the palette,” and at $390 are relatively inexpensive – Manhattan-based courses can run into the thousands. Tips like pairing spicy Indian food with a sweet Riesling – think sweet and spicy – are imparted by Mrs. Keeley at her classes held Monday nights at the Melting Pot, 100 Sinatra Dr. in Hoboken.
“It’s just fermented grape juice.” – Zita Keeley
Although Keeley is a certified wine educator and studied at the world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu School, she honed her courses by attending wine tasting all over the tri-state area. Most of her clients, she said, just want to feel comfortable ordering a bottle of wine at a restaurant or from a store.
“There’s just so much wine being made right now,” Keeley said. “There used to be either the really cheap wines that you would drink in college, or the really high-end vintages for wine snobs.” But with every state in the US now making wine, she said, “It’s not a luxury anymore. And a real enhancement to everybody’s lives.”
The classes, which Keeley held twice over the past three years, usually welcome eight to 10 tasters. The most recent group is especially intimate, with only five.
“It’s important that the group get to know each other,” Keeley said. “One of my clients even made the decision to change her career after the course,” she said. “It’s not often that you help someone find their passion.”
Tricks of the trade
For Keeley, who first fell in love with wine during a six-year stint living abroad in London, a wine tasting is all about “taste profiles.” According to the wine connoisseur, every person has a different number of taste buds in the four taste categories, which once analyzed, can lead to the perfect glass of wine.
“People really need to learn to come up with their own interpretations,” Keeley said. “Most people just get tongue-tied,” when using common wine descriptors like oaky or fruity, she said. “Instead, think of wines in terms of memory, and what those thousands of aromatics mean to you.”
Keeley, who was featured in the New York Times last month, said that the most important thing to remember is that the taster’s taste buds are always right. And if a particular taster is getting a bit snobbish about his or her wine, remember: “It’s just fermented grape juice.”
Next reality craze
With the recent success of food reality-TV shows like “Cake Boss,” Hoboken-based Coalition Films has signed with Keeley to produce a wine-education program, aimed at specialty networks like The Food Network and The Learning Channel. Although Keeley said there are elements of a reality TV show involved, her main goal is still education.
“I was always watching Food Network and cooking shows, and realized there was nothing on wines,” she said. “There was such a big market for it.”
Keeley originally experimented with a low-budget wine show called “Time to Wine,” which gained success on local access stations. Now a pilot for the show, tentatively called “The Zita Keeley Show,” is in production.
“I’m going to be the Rachel Ray of wine,” she said.
Sean Allocca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org