See. Sniff. Sip. Summarize. That is the philosophy Dr. Blake Cherrington, Certified Wine Educator, employs when appreciating the art of fine wine. Through Student Center Programs Council’s (SCPC) Options courses offered each semester, Dr. Cherrington and his wife, Meryl Cherrington, have been teaching the Exploring Fine Wine class since 2009.
Dr. Cherrington is one of seven Certified Wine Educators in Georgia, and one of four hundred worldwide. He also holds a Ph.D. in EE and formerly taught at Tech.
The class is held in Tech’s Historic Academy of Medicine—a fitting venue for a course on fine wine. Cherrington teaches his class using a PowerPoint and a few selected bottles of wine from the region of interest.
Students dressed in sweatpants and blazers alike sit around small circular tables with a “dump cup” in the center. Each student has his or her own wine glass and a binder containing the course material. Wine, paired with the dimly lit venue and ornately patterned carpeting, gives the class a debonair feel.
Cherrington begins the course by jumping right into wine tasting. During the first week he focuses on white wines, the second week on red wines, and then he introduces his students to the wines of the world. The global wines range from California to New Zealand to France.
“Last week, we did representative wines from California, Oregon and Washington State—well over 90 percent of the wines in this country. Tonight we’re going to do Chile and Argentina,” Dr. Cherrington said. “[Next week], Australia and New Zealand.”
After each wine sampling, Dr. Cherrington always asks for student input on the wine sampled. Students generally take the course either out of curiosity or for professional reasons.
“We have got a lot of people who are young professionals going out into the business world. Others take the course just for the sheer enjoyment of learning about wine. I think most of them enjoy it because after they leave here, they now have a foundation and can go to a restaurant or wine store and either pick out a wine or at least have an intelligent conversation with the wine steward,” Cherrington said. “My students are quite curious about the subject. And what other classes assign drinking wine? Can you beat that?”
Garrett Mallory, a fourth-year CS major attending the class this semester, has just such motivations for attending Exploring Fine Wine.
“I really like to cook, and I think understanding how the choice of drink complements a fine meal is the next step for me in understanding how to create a well-balanced dining experience,” Mallory said. “That, and I figured if I were ever at a formal event such as an invitation or professional dinner, knowing how to read the menu and choose a wine is a big plus.”
Exploring Fine Wine has been a popular offering for seven years now, and the class aims to target anyone affiliated with Tech. The class is proving successful in educating students on the finer points of wine.
“There has never been a negative review. It’s always sold out,” said Matt Pack, Options Chair of SCPC.
“You learn a ton, have a great chance to connect with people and get to enjoy a wide variety of unique wines,” Mallory added. “I feel a lot more confident on the subject after attending a few classes, and look forward to the rest of the wine tasting classes.”
“The great thing about wine is that it’s not something you drink by yourself,” Cherrington said. “Wine means food and friends as well. It’s a social thing, and it has a lot of culture built into it.”
Cherrington feels that appreciating wine is like appreciating any art; there is a certain class and elegance associated with the art of wine and a certain skill needed to fully understand it.