For more than 30 years, Orlando has been the home of the Alliance of Sommeliers, a private club devoted to the appreciation of fine wines from around the world. These folks, some of whom have been members since the ’70s, are well-educated and serious about their wine; it is not uncommon to hear a mention of too much diacetyl (a buttery-tasting chemical) or a comment on the fusel content of a particular bottle. (Fusel alcohols create a “burning” or astringent character.) These are the sort of people who know the bordeaux of the Right Bank use more merlot grapes than those of the Left Bank, and they know it’s because of the clay content of the soil.
Their monthly tastings, which occur at some of the finer restaurants around town, are always educational and entertaining. Whether a blind tasting of big syrahs or a vertical tasting of champagnes from a single vintner, the presentations put together by club members usually include at least one or two examples that, due to their rarity or cost, would be outside the means of the casual wine enthusiast. Oenophiles of all experience levels are represented and every opinion is respected, which lends a richly inclusive feeling to the experience. At the end of each tasting is an auction of the remaining wine, so if you taste something you simply love, you’ll have a chance to add a few bottles to your own cellar.
For January, a somewhat different tasting is being offered. Dennis Kirkwood, a guild-certified sommelier, will present a selection of brandies and cognacs, including a premier grand cru du cognac that normally retails for more than $600 a bottle. While the tasting is open to non-members, space is quite limited, and reservations are required.
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