Adventures in Wine with John Keating

November 18, 2011

“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.” Benjamin Franklin

John Keating, wine maven of 36 years, and professor of the popular class “A World of Wine”, challenges us to break through our preconceived notions to become intrepid wine adventurers. He asks us – point-blank – if we have opened our minds to a Malbec or a Torrontes from Argentina or a Chenin Blanc from South Africa. How about a Carmenere from Chile, a dry Reisling or Alsace from South Africa, a dry Rose or Monastrell from Spain, a Syrah from Walla Walla, a Pinot Noir from New Zealand?

Late one Sunday afternoon, we drop in on his last class for the semester, where everyone is in the midst of a French wine-tasting extravaganza. A total of ten French wines are on-hand, complete with water pitchers for rinsing glasses and crackers for cleansing palates. Our handouts include regional maps, wine evaluation charts, and labels for identification. With humor, Keating provides encyclopedic information about each wine’s history, vintage, supplier, price, and more. The air is filled with fellowship, geniality, and discovery. At the end of the class, we pull Keating aside for a talk.

WIH Reporter: What is the most important thing you want to get across about your wine classes?
Keating: The purpose of the classes is to demonstrate the wonderful diversity, quality, and value that is available in the world of wine today. Our recent class explored everything from overlooked high-quality southern Italian wines to red wines of Portugal and Spain to new perspectives on French wines.

WIH Reporter: Thanksgiving is almost upon us. What interesting wines would you advise us to serve for this holiday?

Keating: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It features family, comfort, and a great feast. I always enjoy the aromas that permeate the home while the turkey and its fixings are being prepared. On this day, food is “king”. The traditional meal has an abundance of flavors and tastes. For me, simple wines are best. Because it is a family gathering, I would also serve diverse wines.

WIH Reporter: Such as…?
Keating: A  Beaujolais  Villages or Pinot Noir from  California for the red. A Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc from Washington and a Rosé from  Spain. I would stray from the simple theme with an older Spatlese or Auslese Riesling from the Mosel region of  Germany. It goes great with my turkey favorite: the stuffing. 
WIH Reporter: How can we increase our wine IQ and augment our wine instincts?
Keating:  Perform a blind tasting of  Texas wines against their West Coast grape counterparts. You will be surprised. Another idea is to go wine shopping and buy your color of choice but add three bottles from wine areas you never heard of before. Let the discovery begin! 

For more details on Keating’s upcoming Spring class, check the Women’s Institute website at