The Instant Sommelier: Choosing Your Best Wine

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Palatable Learning! By the end of the first lecture, you might want to lock your credit cards. This lovely course will have you headed to the wine store very quickly. I now look at shelves of wines differently. Before, the bottles just seemed to blur; now, I can read the labels and make more intelligent decisions. Mr. Wagner is an amazing instructor with a unique ability to convey his enthusiasm for wine to beginners like me. Very good stuff: the wine and the course!
Date published: 2021-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved This Course!! The teacher was interesting, informative and made the subject of wine both fun and non-threatening. I feel much more confident in making selections. .
Date published: 2021-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this lecturer's welcoming and casual style Not only did I learn a lot of practical knowledge about wine, but I was kept entertained with his wit. I really liked his non-snobbish attitude about wines, basically encouraging us to embrace our own tastes and not try to imitate someone else. He did a great job in knocking down those myths about being a wine connoisseur. Very entertaining and helpful.
Date published: 2020-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent introduction to the Basics of Wine! Excellent introduction to the basics of wine. It contains everything you need to know to select and enjoy a good wine. If you're new to wine, this course provides you with a good first step into really getting to know wine.
Date published: 2020-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Course was refreshing, like a nice summer wine! This course was the first course that I took as part of my GreatCoursesPlus subscription. Knowing a little bit about wine is very useful in social and professional settings, and in this course Mr. Wagner gives you information that will enable you to serve wines that you and your friends and colleagues enjoy. The lectures are well-organized and the appropriate length, and they provided coverage of most varieties of wine. I did not often drink wine while watching the lectures, but I walk away with some great notes and some wonderful experiments for wine tasting parties. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2020-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wine made fun Anyone new to wine should view this course. It takes all of the mystery and apprehension out of wine.
Date published: 2020-08-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Stimulated enjoyment The extensive varieties and qualities of wine are presented in a comprehensive yet fascinating manner. The experience will stimulate your enjoyment of wine as well as broaden your appreciation for wine. At times the discussions can not go into the depth necessary for true understanding. You will come away better able to present an appreciation of wine to you friends.
Date published: 2020-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy to understand and use to choose wines, short enough to see again and again to stay current.
Date published: 2020-07-14
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The Instant Sommelier: Choosing Your Best Wine
Course Trailer
How to Explore Your Glass of Wine
1: How to Explore Your Glass of Wine

In this lesson, we explore how to use four of our five senses to explore a glass of wine, and what these senses can tell us not only about the wine, but also about our own taste profiles and sensitivities. This is the first step toward determining which wines we really like the best.

27 min
Key Elements in Wine and How to Taste Them
2: Key Elements in Wine and How to Taste Them

When sommeliers talk about wine, they focus on a few key elements that define wine style and character. Now that you know how to use your senses to taste wine, let's use those tools to identify these elements and help you understand them. And in the meantime, this will also let you speak to those crazy sommeliers in their own language!

24 min
Choosing White Wines
3: Choosing White Wines

What kind of white wines do you like? In this lesson, we'll explore the best-known white wines and get a basic idea of what each one tastes like. Once you are familiar with these, you'll be able to talk to a sommelier in a restaurant without fear, and you'll be able to use these examples to understand thousands of other wines in the world.

24 min
Choosing Red Wines
4: Choosing Red Wines

Now that you have a firm grip on white wines, let's tackle red wines using the same basic techniques. And since there are even more styles of red wine than white, this one will be even more fun—and more helpful in your visits to a restaurant or wine shop.

23 min
Choosing Sparkling and Dessert Wines
5: Choosing Sparkling and Dessert Wines

While 90 percent of the world's wines fall into the categories of red and white, here is where we discover the rest, from sparkling wines and rosés to legendary dessert wines and aperitifs. Sure, sparkling wine may be perfect for celebrations, but by the time we are done with this lesson, you'll use it for far more than that. And you'll have a lot of other wines that will serve just as well.

21 min
The History of Wine: From Babylon to James Bond
6: The History of Wine: From Babylon to James Bond

Since the beginning of recorded history, wine has enjoyed a special place in social celebrations around the world. In this lesson, we follow the course of wine’s role in society and how it affects the way we enjoy wine today.

23 min
The Wine Service Ritual in Restaurants
7: The Wine Service Ritual in Restaurants

There are few things that cause as much anxiety as ordering wine at a fine dining restaurant. And yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. This lesson explains each step of formal wine service, gives tips on the best way to proceed, and focuses on how you can you best use this moment to make sure that your wine, and your dinner, are a success.

21 min
Having Fun with Wine
8: Having Fun with Wine

Wine isn't just another drink. It's part of a meal, part of a celebration, or maybe just a celebration in itself. This lesson will lead you through the ways that wine can add joy to lots of different occasions and guide you to find the ones that might be best for you or for your guests to enjoy in any situation.

24 min
Paul Wagner

I’m here to share my knowledge in a down-to-earth, practical, an accessible guide that will take the intimidation factor out of choosing, drinking, and enjoying wine.


Napa Valley College

About Paul Wagner

Paul Wagner is a Viticulture & Winery Technology Instructor at Napa Valley College. He is also a guest lecturer at many universities, including the University of Rovira i Virgili, the University of Bordeaux, and the University of Porto. He has judged more than 100 international wine competitions and has spoken at more than 80 conferences throughout the world on wine, wine tourism, wine education, public affairs, and wine marketing.

Mr. Wagner is the coauthor of Wine Marketing & Sales: Success Strategies for a Saturated Market,which won the Gourmand Award for the best wine book for professionals in 2007 and is now in its third edition. He is also the author of Artisan Public Relations: A Hands-On Guide to Getting Your Food & Beverage Creations the Attention They Deserve and coauthor of Wine Sales and Distribution: The Secrets to Building a Consultative Selling Approach. He was a columnist for Vineyard & Winery Management magazine for 10 years, and he previously served on the board of directors for the Society of Wine Educators. He also cohosts Bottle Talk, a weekly conversation about wine, at

Mr. Wagner is also a founding member of the Academy of Wine Communications; consultant for the International Wine & Food Society, London Branch; member of the nominations committee for the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame; and member of the Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference advisory board. He was inducted into the Spadarini della Castellania di Soave in 2005, and in 2009, he was honored with a Life Dedicated to Wine award at the Feria Nacional del Vino (FENAVIN) in Spain. In 2018, he received the American Wine Society’s annual Award of Merit, joining such luminaries as Robert Mondavi and Gina Gallo, and was named the winner of the McPherson Distinguished Teaching Award at Napa Valley College.

Mr. Wagner is the founder and president emeritus of Balzac Communications & Marketing. His clients there included the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux; Caymus Vineyards; Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines Company; Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico; FurmintUSA; La Rioja Alta, S.A.; Constellation Brands; Sogevinus; Bodegas Salentein; Villa Trasqua; Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano; Regione Siciliana; and a host of other wine, food, and regional tourism clients.

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