Learning coffee could help with wine appreciation

Starbucks was a sponsor of the 24th Annual Food and Wine Classic in Aspen this summer, which begs the question: is coffee food? Because it certainly isn't wine.

Or is all of it food? I am a firm believer that wine is, in fact, food.

It is part of cuisine, and a meal is simply not complete without it. Now, Starbucks pinpoints that idea with their food and coffee pairings campaign.

But here's the part I like: There are no coffee snobs that I know of.

Maybe I just haven't met them, but I don't know of anyone who tries to intimidate folks at the diner with his knowledge of coffee. Never have I heard someone say, "Looks like we have a slow roasted, medium bodied South American single-origin bean here that has been allowed to be exposed to a little too much heat and it's lost a lot of its complexity and taken on an overly acidic, almost chemical astringency."

Coffee has escaped the tradition that wine is desperately trying to free itself from - that it's is somehow only for the upper class and those who have the knowledge to appreciate it. Anyone who has a day of work ahead can appreciate a good cup of coffee.

And I don't know of anyone who worries about the "correct" way to order a cafe mocha, or whether it would be appropriate to serve coffee before, during or after a meal. People like coffee, so they drink it. What a concept!

I love the way Starbucks organizes the "coffee education" page on its Web site, www.starbucks.com. Each section is well written in common sense, everyday language, and includes information that is practical and immediately useable. Many wine sites and writers would do well to take such an approach.

I particularly like the "geography is a flavor" concept, where they explain how different regions of the world impart their own flavor into the coffee they grow. Us wine lovers have long known that about wine, but Starbucks explains the concept in a way that's perfectly clear on the first read, which is very refreshing.

Perhaps those of you who still feel like the wine world is spinning too fast would benefit from reading this information about the bean, and transferring it to wine. If wine had been as open and unassuming when I first wanted to become a connoisseur as Starbucks is making coffee, I would have enjoyed it much sooner in life.

Fortunately, I did learn wine, and then took it a step farther. I realized that wine is meant to be enjoyed by anyone, anytime, and that you don't need qualifications to drink it.

Next week we will look more in depth at pairings and hopefully we will create some of our own. Whether coffee, tea, wine or anything else, make it yours, and let it be a part of making life more enjoyable.

To share your favorite pairings, ask questions, or just to talk wine, write me at goodellwineguy@sbcglobal.net. Until next time, happy pours.