Jan 072016

By Al Vuona
Posted Jan. 7, 2016 at 6:00 AM
Updated at 11:12 AM

For Worcester native Joe Paparella, wine has become a deeply rooted passion. He describes the experience this way, “While in my 20s beer was the beverage of choice. Then slowly this evolution began whereby I became captivated with wine.” Today as chapter chairman of the Worcester Wine Society, Paparella continues to extoll the virtues of wine appreciation with others.

The Worcester Wine Society is the local branch of the American Wine Society, the oldest and largest consumer organization in the U.S. dedicated to promoting wine appreciation. The Worcester group, with its 40 or so members, meets regularly to taste, discuss and evaluate wines from around the world. In addition, they attend social events, winery tours and wine dinners. While learning and education is certainly a big part of the group’s focus, it’s the enjoyment of tasting wine and sharing ideas with one another that members find most appealing.

According to Paparella, membership at the local level is free and prior wine experience is not required. The Worcester chapter was formally launched in 2012 and since that time has attracted wine lovers from Worcester and surrounding communities.

“We don’t expect people to be wine experts,” Paparella says. “We want our members to enjoy wine and not feel intimidated, that’s really what it’s all about. Each meeting features samplings of wines from a particular region of the world along with food and appetizers. Note-taking and discussion is a big part of what we do, along with enjoying one another’s company.”

I asked Paparella who he felt were better wine tasters, men or women.

“I would have to say that based on my experience women tend to pick up aromas and nuances that most men overlook. I think it has something to do with how keen their sense of smell is.”

The monthly wine tastings are usually held in members’ homes, hotel meeting spaces and other spots in and around Worcester. Participants feel comfortable getting together in smaller venues where they can freely discuss the wines being tasted. This is especially true for new members, who sometimes feel overwhelmed.

Founded in 1967, the American Wine Society has more than 125 chapters throughout the US. Membership fees start at $49 and members must be at least 21 years old. In addition to national conferences, the association hosts wine judging and competitions, which are open to all members.

As for future plans, the Worcester chapter is exploring the possibility of hosting a regional symposium in which tasting groups throughout Central Mass. will gather to taste wines from various regions of the world. Now that’s what I call a wine loving society.

Original article: http://www.telegram.com/article/20160107/ENTERTAINMENTLIFE/160109520

Nov 242014

A wine-loving society

Written by Al Vuona · 06/27/2013 · Worcester Magazine

As Americans we love to join together with likeminded individuals to share common interests. That is certainly true about those of us who enjoy wine. Such was the impetus behind the American Wine Society, an organization founded in 1967 for those interested in learning about and sharing in all aspects of wine. Best of all, the Society has a local chapter right here in Worcester. The group has an online presence through Meetup.com, which helps people with shared interests plan events and facilitate off-line group meetings in various locations.

The Worcester chapter has been in existence for little over a year and has roughly 25 paying members. Yearly membership cost is $49 for individuals and $62 for households.

“We think it’s a great way for people to learn about wine,” says Peggy Ducheney, vice president of the AWS of Massachusetts and member of the Worcester group. As she puts it, “We want people to understand the fundamentals of wine appreciation in a casual, nonthreatening way.” The Worcester chapter hosts regular wine tastings and sponsors wine competitions as well as educational seminars.

To ensure that those attending are serious about wine and being a part of the group, the organization requires that after two meetings individuals become a full member of AWS. Unique among the group is that some members, like Decheney, make their own wine. In addition, the group selects and evaluates wines at various quality levels and price points. “This really makes it interesting for our members,” Decheney notes. As for women being a big part of the AWS, Decheney says, “Yes and the ranks of women who love wine are growing steadily. They bring enthusiasm and energy to the group.”

The group does not overlook the importance of the paring of wine and food. As Decheny explains, “Food and wine are the perfect marriage. It is the best way of evaluating any wine; all the characteristics and subtle nuances of a wine are accentuated when matched with food. Therefore, members are encouraged to bring an hors d’oeuvres to each tasting in an effort to match the wines to the food.”

As part of the education process the group evaluates wines by using a 20-point rating scale. A score of eight or less denotes a wine of lesser quality or deficient in some manner. A score of 12 or better is considered very good to outstanding. Discussion and analysis are always a big part of wine tasting and as Dechney points out, “Over time one’s palate becomes finely tuned. This enables a wine lover to uncover what makes for a great wine.”

Theresa Crump, recently elected Worcester chapter chairperson echoes similar sentiments. “We encourage both new and prospective members to ask lots of questions. It’s really all about sharing ideas with one another.” Like many people, Crump too has felt intimidated by the vast world of wine and admits that wine education is a lifelong process. “That’s why our approach is a slow build. We would rather have 10 lifelong members then a hundred who never attend gatherings,” she says.

Crump insists that social media sites such as Meetup.com have helped to attract younger wine lovers. “Those who have grown up with technology are searching online for organizations and people who share common interests. Ultimately, we strive to have a balance of both young and older members.”

Rather than overwhelm its members by tasting numerous wines at each meeting, the group prefers to sample one varietal at a time and focus their attention on that particular grape. “The discussions are centered on a particular wine and by the end of the tasting members come away feeling they have learned something. Sitting down with other wine lovers to share food and wine is really an attractive idea,” says Crump.

You would think all the wine tastings are held at formal venues, but you’d be wrong. Instead members take turns hosting a tasting in their home. This follows along with the idea of keeping it both casual and relaxed. “Of course it requires us to be diligent in whom we select as members,” says Crump. “We want our members to feel comfortable both as guests and as host.” Crump sums it with, “At the end of a day it’s about wine appreciation and not about getting drunk.”

Link to the original article.