A couple of weeks ago, Eddie and I were visiting one of our favorite restaurants, Le Bouchon, when we stumbled across a prix fixe menu in honor of “A La Carte Chicago.” A weeklong event celebrating French culture and French cuisine in Chicago, I was shocked that I hadn’t heard more about an event that spoke so squarely to my soul. With very little time to participate before leaving for New Orleans, I combed through the week’s events looking for a French food or wine class in Chicago. I quickly found one that both interested me and worked with my schedule.
War and Wine: Grand Cru of Wine Classes is a wine class in Chicago produced by The Chopping Block. While tasting a collection of six wines, the class teaches attendees about the lengths that French Vignerons went through to survive the German occupation of World War II. As soon as I read the description, I knew I had to attend. Drinking French wine and getting a little bit of a history lesson: what could be better?
A fruit and cheese board provided by The Chopping Block during the War and Wine Class.
War and Wine Class in Chicago: The Logistics
Where & When: The War and Wine class is held once monthly at The Chopping Block Lincoln Square location, at 4747 North Lincoln Avenue. It is a two hour class.
What:The War and Wine class in Chicago focuses on wines from three regions in France: Champagne, Bordeaux, and Bourgogne (Burgundy). Led by a certified sommelier and seasoned wine professional. The tasting involves two tastings from each of these regions as well as accompanying history of the region during World War II.
How Much: The cost of attending a War and Wine class in Chicago is $90.
Who: Open to up to 12 guests at a time, the class is taught by certified sommelier and owner of Cream Wine Company, Christophe Bakunas. A certified sommelier and 20 year veteran of the wine business, Christophe’s love of wine, French culture and history lent itself nicely to creating this class for The Chopping Block.
War and Wine Class in Chicago: The Wines
The night of my class was rainy and cold. I would have enjoyed getting flush from a touch too much wine, but it was a weeknight. I was in the mood for learning more than a good buzz. First, we compared two Champagnes: Henriot and Lanson. These houses were established in 1808 and 1760 respectively. Lanson is the oldest continuously owned and operated Champagne house. They were creating wine before America even declared independence! We drank champagne out of appropriate glassware as, contrary to popular belief, flutes and coupes are not well suited to champagne.
Next, we moved on to two wines from Bourgogne, or Burgundy. We tried one chardonnay and one pinot noir, both of which were excellent. It is especially mind blowing that both wines use the same technique today as in the past. Egg fining and copper sulfate use to combat molds are both terms that I had never heard of before.
Finally, we moved to the Southwest side of the country and sampled wine from Bordeaux. We tried a white and a red and discussed the finer points of old world terroir. My favorite wine of the night was the 2012 Château Barreyre Bordeaux Supérieur. It was complex with an oaky and earthy flavor profile.
Attending a War and Wine class gives all attendees a 10% discount on a purchase of any wine after class.
War and Wine Class in Chicago: The History
Without giving away the entire wine class, I learned quite a bit about the role winemakers played in World War II. Upon the German occupation of France in 1940, Nazi weinfürhers headed to each of the French wine regions. These weinfürhers supplied the German army with as much wine as they could get their hands on. In Champagne alone, Nazi Germans nabbed over two million bottles of wine. As scarcity of supplies made the wartime yields poor, winemakers went through great lengths to hide their best products. A fun fact we learned was that many wine houses built false façades in their cellars to hide their best bottles. To make sure that the walls did not look too new, the children of the house went to work. They collected spiders and moved them to the new wall in order to age it.
Consider a Wine Class in Chicago at The Chopping Block
I enjoyed the theme of the War and Wine class in Chicago at The Chopping Block. If you’re fascinated by French history and like wine, I’d recommend this class. If you are a history fan but not lukewarm on wine, I’m not sure that this class is for you. Instead, I would recommend one of the other classes offered by The Chopping Block such as “How to Bluff Your Way Through Wine.” For the science minded, the “Calling All Wine Geeks” class might suit your fancy. Prices, locations, and instructors vary from class to class so make sure to visit The Chopping Block website for details.
But Wait! There’s More!
If the prospect of this class appeals to you but you aren’t in Chicago, have no fear. This class is based on a book with a 4.5 out of 5 star review. Get the book below, get a bottle of wine, and enjoy!
Many thanks to The Chopping Block in Lincoln Square, Chicago for hosting my attendance at War and Wine Class. As always, all opinions are my own.