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If you are a hospitality management major at AU, you can take a lot of interesting classes, including event planning, cost control, cooking, and of course, the infamous beverage management class! Wines have very diverse names and qualities, but how does one decide? There’s a lot more to wine than just sweet or dry and AU’s got the class you need to figure it all out. So here is just a taste (no pun intended) of what you can learn in Ashland’s beverage management class.

Types of Wine

The Whites:

Chardonnay– a typical chardonnay wine usually has flavors of butter and oak due to the oak barrels that the wine is aged in. It also can have characteristics of vanilla, tropical fruit, lemon, green apple, and figs. Chardonnays are usually full bodied, have an oily texture, and a deep golden color. Chardonnay’s pair nicely with chicken, trout, lobster, crab, scallops, etc.

Sauvignon Blanc– is typically a dry wine that has characteristics of lime, green apple, passion fruit, and white peach. Sauvignon Blanc can also have secondary flavors of bell pepper, jalapeño, gooseberry, and grass. Some Sauvignon Blanc’s are aged in barrels like a chardonnay; and thus can acquire flavors like butter, nutmeg, or cream. Sauvignon Blanc’s have a medium acidity and tend to be less oily in consistency. This wine pairs well with chicken, pork, tilapia, crab, lobster, and clams.

Pinot Grigio- a typical Pinot Grigio is a dry wine and has flavors of lime, lemon, pear, apple, and white nectarine. This wine often has a floral smell of honeysuckle and almond. It usually has a high acidity and a weighted feeling on your tongue like wax paper. This wine pairs well with fish, scallops, chicken, and spiced duck or pork.

The Reds:

Merlot– is typically a medium robust wine that has flavors of black cherry, raspberry, and plum. With some common secondary flavors of graphite, cedar, tobacco, vanilla, clove, and mocha. These secondary flavors come from the oak barrels that this wine is aged in for roughly 8-12 months.  Merlots tend to have an easy tannin (that dry feeling) and a smooth finish. This wine is somewhat on a chameleon because it pairs well with chicken, other light meats, as well as lightly spiced dark meats. It does not pair well with fish or leafy greens.

Pinot Noir– is typically a lighter bodied wine and has characteristics of cranberry, cherry, raspberry. It also has secondary flavors of vanilla, clove, licorice, mushroom, wet leaves, tobacco, cola, and caramel. Pinot Noir gets these secondary flavors from the oak barrels that the wine is aged in. This wine pairs well with salmon, duck, other rich meats, and creamy fatty cheeses.

Cabernet Sauvignon– is typically a much fuller bodied wine and displays characteristics of black cherry, black currant, and blackberry. It also has secondary characteristics of black pepper, tobacco, licorice, vanilla, and violet. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the more complex and layered wines available. It has a higher tannin content (dry taste) and savory characteristics. This wine pairs well with things high in fat and umami (savory) flavors. Some examples are burgers, mushroom pizza, and marinated ribeye steak.

Wine Tasting: the Process

  1. The number one rule of wine tasting is to TAKE NOTES!
  2. Look at the density of the wine. Is the wine translucent? Rich in color?
  3. What is the viscosity? Viscosity is when after swirling the wine if is “sticks” to the sides or doesn’t run down the sides as quickly. It usually will have an oily look on the sides of the glass if it has a high viscosity.
  4. Swirl your wine for about 15-30 seconds and then smell the wine. This mixes some air into the wine to bring out the aroma. Then identify what you smell (fruity, floral, alcohol smell, etc.). Note: Do not do this for champagne or other sparkling wines, it will get rid of all the bubbles.
  5. Then taste the wine. You want to inhale as you sip and then hold the wine in your mouth swishing and “chomping” down on the wine a little making sure the wine touches all the different parts of your tongue. Then identify the different things you are tasting (i.e. sweet, dry, fruity, bitter, oaky, moldy, etc.).
  6. Repeat step 5 until you feel you’ve identified all the flavors and move onto the next wine. You always want to start with the driest wine and move onto the sweeter wines as you go.

How to Read a Wine Label Being able to read a wine label is a necessity if you’re going to explore the world of wine. The label tells you many things, including where the wine came from and what type it is. It also tells you a lot of other things like how sweet the wine is going to be, what the flavors of that wine are going to be and even what the weather was like that year. The vintage of the wine will be on the bottle and depending on if there was a lot of sun, rain, or heat that year will tell you what the flavor is going to be. This is very advanced for the beginner, but you still must be able to identify what the kind of wine is so you can pick what you know you like or what sound appealing to you. Learn how to read the two most common types of wine labels.

Old World Label

Wine Label


New Wold Label 

wine label 2


You can learn all this and more in Ashland University’s Beverage Management class. This class focuses on the safe service and management of alcohol. Not only will you gain valuable knowledge, but you will also obtain a ServSafe alcohol Service certificate and get hands on engagement in the classroom. Students must be at least 21 years old in order to take the class and will learn how to correctly identify someone and what kinds of IDs are acceptable, how to tell when alcohol service should be terminated, how to correctly set up a bar to best serve different kinds of events, and how to manage the amount of alcohol that go into various drinks so that guests are not over-served. For more information about this class, please contact Professor Roberson by email at rrobers1@ashland.edu. Or register online, search for HSM 430.


Elizabeth Papantonio is currently a Senior at Ashland University who is double majoring in hospitality management and marketing. She is currently the president of the N.S.M.H. club on campus and an active member of Phi Mu Sorority. She has accepted a job in her field with EcoLab pending graduation.


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