For more than two decades, the Smoky Mountain chapter of the American Wine Society has offered area residents an opportunity to explore wine.
The local chapter was formed in 1999 by Alcide Porell.
“A lot of people move here in Tellico Village and they come from various parts of the country and they’ve learned to appreciate wines,” Porell said. “They come over here and they don’t know how to get started here, so our organization helps them to get started in the local community and learn about our local wineries as well and how to appreciate wine.
“We have a lot of wine clubs here in the Village — a lot of them are just basically social, have dinners and have a social,” he added. “We also have dinners where we compare the wines with the food to eat, so food-wine pairing is what we call those events.”
The chapter, which has fluctuated in size, now has about 40 members.
On Friday, 20 members and four guests gathered at tables in the Yacht Club to participate in the AWS National Tasting Project, which is an annual initiative that unites members across the country for a themed educational wine tasting.
“We score them and we submit our scores to the national organization and then they compare that with the American Wine Society certified wine judges and then they publish that in their newsletter and journal every year,” Porell said. “... Every sample is only two ounces, so six of the total 12 ounces they’re going to have, that’s all they’re going to have. Nobody is going to leave here inebriated. That’s one of our goals is to teach people the essential elements of wine and wine tastings and also the responsible use of wine or alcoholic beverages for that matter.”
Attendees learned about wines from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“We try to have one tasting every month,” Porell said. “This month we have wines from Bosnia. In October, we’re going to have wines from Croatia. ... All our members are interested in learning more about wine, the components of wine. How do you know whether you’ve got a good wine or not so that when you go to a restaurant you know what to look for on the wine list. Also, just to enjoy wine. We have social events; this event tonight is more technical. We score the wines for taste, for aroma, balance.”
There’s more to the chapter than tastings for members, whether that be tours to area wineries or simply fellowshipping with like-minded individuals.
“The fellowshipping is a big deal,” Porell said. “All these people in here, we’ve got a lot of new members here tonight, which is kind of exciting because we’re all friends. We’re going to make them welcome today as much as we can so that they keep coming to our tastings.”
Bobbi Taylor, chapter treasurer, joined two years ago after friends and chapter members Mimi and John Bacilek said she might enjoy the experience.
“This particular wine group you learn about wine,” Taylor said. “We belong to a couple of the other wine groups and you don’t really learn that much about the wine.”
For more information about the local AWS chapter, visit www.tellicolife.org. Porell asks that potential members to join the national AWS first.