Raise the Glass for Class

HSA to offer new wine tasting course in October

Jessica E. Zbikowski

Wine expert Kelli A. White demonstrates wine tasting at the University Wine Shop in Cambridge.

Building off the popularity of its bartending course, Harvard Student Agencies (HSA) is looking to appeal to a more refined palate.

On Oct. 9 and 10, HSA will offer a two-day, 10-hour introductory wine tasting course. The trial program will feature a blindfolded testing of 30 varieties of wine in addition to classes in wine jargon and matching wines with food.

“We want students to be able to tell the difference between a chardonnay, a cabernet and a riesling,” said HSA Manager Daniel A. Friedman ’06. “We want to demystify the wine list.”

The course, which can accommodate up to 25 participants, is only open to students over the age of 21 and costs $180. Online registration will begin next week and hardcopy forms are already available at the HSA office.

The wine tasting will build upon HSA’s successful Harvard Bartending Course. Now 32 years old, the course boasts over 35,000 graduates and, according to Friedman, is a significant source of income for HSA.

But unlike the wine tasting course, bartending is open to Harvard students of all ages because the class is taught with imitation alcohol and mixers.

HSA Vice President Silvia W. Scandar ’05, also a graduate of the bartending course, said the wine tasting class will provide another opportunity for Harvard students to improve their “social skills.”

“Brand-new drinkers want to learn about wine,” Scandar said. “Knowing wines…is something that will be useful no matter what career path you take.”

Friedman and HSA Assisant Manager Tori A. Zelt ’06 hired wine expert Kelli A. White to design the syllabus and teach the course.

As the wine buyer and general manager for University Wine Shop at 991 Massachussetts Avenue, White already offers HSA a 25 percent markdown on wines normally priced between $15 and $20. Friedman and Zelt both said they were thrilled to have the 24-year-old White on board [See sidebar above].

“One of the things about her being young is to make wine more accessible and less pretentious,” Zelt said.

Despite the high price of wine, Friedman said HSA expects the benefits of the venture to outweigh the costs.

“Competitors spring up all the time, so we need to be innovative and come up with new things,” he said. “The goal was to offer a course that could be expanded later on.”

Will P. Deringer ’06, who said he plans to take the wine-tasting course as soon as he turns 21, took both introductory and advanced bartending his freshman year. He put the skills to use this summer by manning a bar at a John F. Kerry fund-raiser at the Democratic National Convention, which earned him $15 an hour.

“A lot of people do it because it’s just fun,” Deringer said. “If you take the course freshman year, it’ll make three better years of partying. The best experience is throwing your own party and having drinks that people appreciate.”

And Deringer said he is looking forward to the next step. “I would probably say I’m more of a red wine person in general, but I have only had the opportunity to have good wine maybe a couple times,” he said. “I’ve had just enough to know it can be really good.”

—Staff writer Elena P. Sorokin can be reached at