It has usually been the case with games that there was an end. A winner was declared based on previously agreed-to parameters and the game ended. Over. Fini.

The victor could either be gracious and note what a good and worthy player you were and he/she was lucky to win, or there could be catcalls and chest-thumping by the soon-to-be despised King.

Today, there are many virtual games in a constant and ongoing state of play. The players don’t have to be sitting around the same board at the same time in the living room. They can be across the globe, looking at the same on-screen configuration and victories come in minor accomplishments, after which the game continues. Sort of like "Golden Girls" reruns: seen this one before. Not any better the sixth time around but let’s do it again.

In a sense, wine education follows some of those lines. It is enjoyable but there is no end-game. It’s never over. New vintages arrive every year, and those wines you are storing on your rack or under your bed are ever-evolving. To wine’s credit, there is no victor. There’s some good stuff, some not-so-good stuff, and a whole lot of in-between.

The key to understanding wine is constant contact, respect and education. You will like a wine today, and in three years wonder what you ever saw in it. By contrast, you will purchase two bottles of a wine, taste it, wonder if you should take the other back, put it on your rack and forget to return it. You will come back to it in five years, find it during a purge, and wonder why you did not buy a case when you had the chance. The juice moved on to a better place and caught you by surprise.

Wine education can be challenging, confusing, demanding, rewarding, all at the same time and maybe even with the same wine.

A wonderful way to have a good time and learn about wine is at wine festivals: lots of wine and lots of knowledgeable folks eager to answer your questions. Lucky for you, New Orleans just happens to be hosting one this week, the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE). In a wide variety of settings, you will be exposed to many wines and great foods. From there your own judgement can be shaped. Are you finding that you particularly enjoy a single grape varietal, a particular style, a talented winemaker or a region that strikes your fancy? This week all over New Orleans you will be able to answer some of those questions.

 

Begin tomorrow evening, Thursday, with 31 Wine Dinners, unfolding in restaurants in the French Quarter and the CBD, with a few Uptown, and one each in City Park area and Metairie. Fine wines from all over the world will be paired with special culinary creations from local chefs. These dinners are the traditional beginning to the annual NOWFE, with this one numbering 24.

You will want to bring your “A” game on Friday to Vinola, a free-form tasting featuring wines that meet the retail price requirement of $75 or more. Following Vinola is the historic Royal Street Stroll, staged along New Orleans’ grandest mercantile street. Wineries and restaurants will set up in galleries, shops and even on the street itself to ply you with fine wines and tasty culinary bites in an authentic Crescent City setting.

Continuing with filling in your information gaps, there will 13 seminars during the course of NOWFE staged for enjoyment and educational experiences. Some of these sessions are still available and several are already over-subscribed.

Saturday evening brings two key events to the fore, the first of which is the Grand Tasting. Only the expanse of the New Orleans Convention Center could hold this truly overwhelming experience. More than 1,000 wines are available for sampling and the challenge will be to decide where to focus. A personal plan of action is suggested before you enter the door so you can take full advantage of what unfolds.

During the Grand Tasting, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion Board will stage their eighth chefs’ competition to determine who will reign for the coming year as the King of Louisiana Seafood. Don’t be fooled, the King could be a talented woman.

The Grand Tasting lives up to its name by featuring New Orleans restaurants serving delightful nibbles of representative cuisine from their repertoire. Many of the restaurants have previously competed for the coveted Fleur de Lis Awards, and the winners will be announced during the Tasting.

Later in the evening, just across the street from the Grand Tasting, the could-only-happen-here, Big Gateaux Show, brings pastries and desserts, wine, cocktails, music, and Burlesque together in a mash-up of epic proportions. Your eyes, ears and your palate will not know which way to direct the focus.  

 

All of the details, and ticket purchase information, are available at www.nowfe.com.

It’s always a lot of fun, and you can’t help but learn something about cuisine, wines, or just life in general. See you there. 

 

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Read Happy Hour here on MyNewOrleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at www.wgso.com. Also check out Last Call, Tim’s photo feature every month in New Orleans Magazine.