The Instant Sommelier: Choosing Your Best Wine [TTC Video]

The Instant Sommelier: Choosing Your Best Wine [TTC Video]
The Instant Sommelier: Choosing Your Best Wine [TTC Video] by Paul Wagner
Course No 9033 | MP4, AVC, 2000 kbps, 1280x720 | AAC, 192 kbps, 2 Ch | 8x22 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 2.86GB

With nearly 150,000 wines for sale in the U.S. market, the world of wine can seem needlessly complex. Cut through the clutter with eight down-to-earth, practical, and accessible lessons that will take the intimidation factor out of choosing, drinking, and enjoying wines, led by Professor Paul Wagner, who has dedicated his career to what he calls, “democratizing wine appreciation.” From swirl to finish, he’ll introduce you to the vocabulary you need to speak intelligently about wine and to understand what each term means when it comes to finding wines you’ll love.

The same can be said with wine. You don’t have to master the entire repertoire of grapes, techniques, ingredients, variations, and other components to truly appreciate the wine you’re drinking. Simply armed with the senses you already have, an expert guide, and a glass of your favorite, you can learn how to better enjoy the wine you’re drinking, while at the same time gaining a deeper recognition of your own tastes.

But let’s face it. Choosing wines can feel daunting. There are nearly 150,000 wines for sale in the U.S. market alone. And there are just as many books, articles, websites, and other resources instructing you on the plethora of ways to choose, drink, and enjoy wine. So, how do you cut through the clutter and find the best wines for you? Paul Wagner, an instructor for Napa Valley College’s Viticulture and Enology department has spent the last 25 years helping people do just that. He’s dedicated his career to what he calls, “democratizing wine appreciation.” After spending years working in wineries, leading hundreds of tastings, and having hands-on experience in every aspect of winemaking, he shares his deep and comprehensive wine knowledge through the eight down-to-earth, practical, and accessible lessons of The Instant Sommelier: Choosing Your Best Wine, which will take the intimidation factor out of choosing, drinking, and enjoying wines. From swirl to finish, he’ll introduce you to the vocabulary you need in order to speak intelligently about wine and to understand what each term means when it comes to finding wines you’ll love.

Explore Each Glass

In addition to each insightful lesson, Professor Wagner includes tasting exercises, where you’ll flex and develop four of your senses:

  • Vision. Examine how really looking at wine and understanding how to identify the color and clarity of the wine can allow you to assess if it is fresh and lively, or older and more evolved.
  • Smell. You’ll hear sommeliers go overboard describing all the essences they can smell from one glass, but the reality is you’re looking for two basic smells: fruits (from citrus to berries) and vegetables (grassy or herbal). Knowing what smells appeal to you in a wine can help you find more wines you will probably like.
  • Taste. Cooks can tell you there are six basic flavors: salty, sweet, bitter, sour, spicy hot, and umami (a meaty flavor). Learn how to translate what flavors you like into wine descriptors—sugar, acid, and tannin—and how to use that information to select new wines you will love.
  • Touch. Far from dipping your finger into your glass, the term “touch,” in wine, refers to the body of the wine, which is determined by how it feels in your mouth. The richer flavors of a fuller bodied wine such as a Chardonnay or Cabernet often go well with richer foods, while a lighter bodied wine will be more refreshing.

Economies of Wine and Taste

Most important, Professor Wagner’s lessons are eminently accessible. You won’t be dealing with rare vintages or bottles that cost more than your mortgage. In fact, as you better understand your own tastes and pair reds, whites, and rosés to your own personal palate, you’ll discover that the “best” wines—the award-winners or most expensive bottles—are not always YOUR best wine.

But before you discover this, Professor Wagner breaks down exactly what makes some wines better than others and why you do often pay more for them, including:

  • The region of the vineyard,
  • The conditions during the year the grapes were grown,
  • The ripeness of the grapes,
  • The balance of acid, and
  • The equipment used in the winemaking process.

Given that winemaking is a wonderful combination of art, science, and the unpredictability of Mother Nature, it's no wonder that the old saying goes: “The best way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to start with a large fortune, and then watch it slowly dwindle away.”

However, even understanding the expensive grapes, techniques, labor, and equipment that go into creating a “great” wine—and thus, raising the cost per bottle—it’s often difficult to taste the difference. When it really comes down to it, your preferences are all that matter. As Professor Wagner states, “If you want the wine that you love, you have to pay what it costs to buy that bottle. That’s why it’s so important to understand what you like.”

Red, White, and Bubblies

Many people can tell you they prefer whites, reds, or rosés, but it gets more complicated beyond that. Professor Wagner spends one lesson each digging into the different nuances between each genre of wine and suggesting what food best complements each type. Among dozens of options, you’ll examine:

Whites:

  • Muscats: These include Moscato, Moscatel, Muscat of Alexandria, Gewürztraminer, and similar styles, which have a lovely floral character in the nose, a pure flavor of fruit, and relatively low acidity. The sugar found in these wines pairs well with spicy foods.
  • Chardonnays: Oak aging and powerful flavors provide winemakers with additional flexibility to create new style options that can pair well with richer foods such as roast chicken and creamy sauces.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: An herbal white wine, often without oak aging. They typically offer notes of herbal green grass, green peppers—and even a note of what Professor Wagner claims to be similar to cat pee. Don’t let that turn you away. A good Sauvignon blanc can be delicious and can perfectly complement a seafood salad.

Reds:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Flavors of plums and blackberries, sometimes with a little bit of green olive, these full-bodied wines are typically aged in barrels to soften up the tannins and add nice notes of vanilla and cinnamon to the wine.
  • Pinot Noir: Often drinkers will taste black cherries, strawberries, and sometimes a little hint of something like leather or even a bit of mushroom. The variety of flavors it presents, and the medium body, means it pairs well with a huge range of foods.
  • Merlot: Boasting aromatic notes of plums and sometimes even licorice, Merlots are medium-bodied, and with tannins that are soft enough to enjoy when the wine is only a few years old.

Bubbly and beyond:

  • Sparkling Wines: See how Prosecco, Asti Spumante, Champagne, and other similar bubbly wines can be enjoyed with most dishes that pair well with white wines. But they will also surprise you by working well anytime you might choose to drink a beer—for example, with Mexican food.
  • Sherry: Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Cream Sherry, and Amontillado, among others, make wonderful aperitif wines to stimulate the appetite, but the sweeter ones can also work well after dinner with dessert or on their own.
  • Madeira: The founding fathers reportedly drank about a bottle of Madeira a day while they debated the writing of the Constitution. A rich and powerful wine, it’s fortified and essentially indestructible. The notes of deep rich flavors include orange rind, figs, and vanilla, perfectly complementing blue cheese or dark chocolate.

Building Your Wine Confidence

Once you understand the differences in each type of wine, Professor Wagner introduces you to the history of wine, tracing the evolution of this globally celebrated drink back to ancient Babylon. And he’ll review how to put everything you’ve learned throughout this course into practice when ordering or buying a wine.

Many people look at a sommelier as a tool of the restaurant whose job is to help increase your bill! But a good sommelier understands how to help you find a wine that will make YOU happy—regardless of the price of the bottle. As mentioned, there are 150,000 wines in the United States alone, and at a good restaurant, it can feel like they offer at least half of those on their wine list. The sommelier is there to help you wade through the clutter and find something you will like, so it’s important to know what you like, why you like it, and how to explain that to the sommelier. And don’t let the presentation ceremony intimidate you. Professor Wagner walks you through exactly what to expect and how to respond to each step, including why smelling the cork isn’t necessary.

If you enjoy drinking wine, want to learn more about wine, or you’re just curious what all the fuss is about, join Professor Wagner for this short course jam-packed with everything you need to know about wine on an everyday basis. All you need is a corkscrew, a couple of wine glasses, and an open mind when it comes to the wonderful world of wine.

The Instant Sommelier: Choosing Your Best Wine [TTC Video]

A Field Guide to the Planets [TTC Video]

A Field Guide to the Planets [TTC Video]
A Field Guide to the Planets [TTC Video] by Sabine Stanley, PhD
Course No 9566 | MP4, AVC, 2000 kbps, 1280x720 | AAC, 192 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x31 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 11.76GB

Humanity’s first steps on the Moon were an immense accomplishment in 1969 and a fantastic milestone in the history of space exploration. And yet, how little we knew about our solar system as compared to what we know now!

Since those famous steps were taken, we’ve discovered what is approaching 200 additional moons of all shapes, sizes, and compositions. We’ve sent spaceships and robotic laboratories to photograph and study each of the planets, dozens of moons, and even the Sun. We’ve discovered ring systems around three additional planets; landed robotic explorers on Mars, on asteroids, and even on comets. We’ve also found thousands of exoplanets around other stars, with implications for our own origins. There has never been a more exciting time than today to explore and understand our solar system and beyond with A Field Guide to the Planets.

Your instructor, Professor Sabine Stanley, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University, guides you on a thrilling ride of discovery, illustrated by the phenomenal images NASA has gathered from throughout the solar system. In 24 lectures, you will experience a journey that was never before possible as your professor makes these astronomical wonders accessible to anyone, allowing you to experience, via our robot explorers, what it is like to visit worlds that were previously unknown.

What Is Our Solar System?

When we think of the solar system, we tend to visualize it in two dimensions, generally as a map with planets orbiting in almost circular ellipses around the Sun. We also imagine some moons in that same plane, an asteroid belt, a few more planets and satellites, and maybe a comet coming in at a different angle. Our visual map tends to end with Neptune, the eighth and farthest planet from the Sun, and the Kuiper Belt objects, including Pluto.

And yet the solar system is also so much more. We now know that even Neptune’s orbital distance is less than one tenth of one percent of the distance from the Sun to the farthest objects bound by its gravity—the Oort Cloud, a spherical shell of small icy bodies orbiting the Sun 50,000 times farther out than the Earth. The solar system that began its formation 4.5 billion years ago is still a work in progress today—a three-dimensional, dynamic, ever-changing system of energy and matter all gravitationally bound to our star.

And if we had any doubts about the continuing forming and re-forming of the solar system, recent exploration has allowed us to:

  • Witness for the first time a collision between two bodies in the solar system—Jupiter’s gravity capturing comet Shoemaker–Levy 9, ripping the comet apart, and causing it to crash into the planet;
  • Monitor active volcanic eruptions on moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune; and
  • Discover propeller moonlets constantly shaping and reshaping the rings of Saturn.

These and other observations have helped fill out our knowledge of the solar system—and by doing so, has helped us better understand our own place in the universe, too.

A Grand Scale and Unique Features

Earth is home to spectacular features created by erosion, plate tectonics, and collision impacts over billions of years. But many of Earth’s features pale in scope compared to those on other planets and moons. As we’ve explored farther out into the solar system, we’ve encountered features whose magnitude we hadn’t anticipated or even imagined, such as:

  • Jupiter’s Auroras. Some of the most energetic auroras in the solar system, they are 1,000 times more powerful than those on Earth and are emitted not just as visible light, but as high-energy X-rays.
  • Verona Rupes. A cliff face on Uranus’ moon Miranda, measuring 20 kilometers high. With a gravitational acceleration 100 times smaller than Earth’s, a rock falling from the top would take almost 12 minutes to reach the bottom.
  • Olympus Mons. Located on Mars, it’s the solar system’s tallest mountain and largest known volcano, measuring an amazing 27 kilometers tall. But when it comes to volcanic activity, Jupiter’s moon Io is the winner with 400 active volcanoes mapped to date.
  • Diamond Rain. On Uranus and Neptune, it’s possible that carbon atoms could condense into crystals of diamonds that would rain out through the icy layer above. Uranus might even have an ocean of carbon under high pressure with floating chunks of solid “diamond-bergs.”

With Professor Stanley’s guidance, you’ll learn more about these and dozens of other unexpected features and objects—from the surprising prevalence of water throughout the solar system (even on blazing hot and dry Mercury); to puzzling shapes on the Moon; to the quantity of near-Earth objects we need to track for safety, now numbering upwards of 20,000.

Looking Outward to Understand Ourselves

One thing we’ve learned from our solar system exploration is precisely how the Earth is unique—and not just because our planet is teeming with life: Earth is the only planet or moon whose surface has been constantly reformed by the process of plate tectonics.

While all planets and moons have a hot core and experience the process of outward cooling— and some are even transformed by their own geological processes—the Earth is the only body whose outer layer is formed of rigid plates that “float” on top of the mantle. Across billions of years, these plates have ridden on top of and underneath each other, causing earthquakes and volcanoes. But this process, along with weathering and erosion, also means that the surface history of our planet has been almost completely erased.

The only way we can learn about the earliest history of Earth is by exploring the nearby terrestrial planets and moons. And we continue to make new discoveries using fieldwork from decades earlier. In fact, the oldest Earth rock ever found was discovered in 2019—when scientists re-examined Moon rocks Apollo 14 brought back almost 50 years ago. Embedded in this cache of Moon rocks was a 2-gram fragment whose chemistry indicated it came from the Earth almost 4 billion years ago, likely jettisoned onto the Moon by a collision with a large asteroid.

Did you know the Earth shares its orbit around the sun with an asteroid? We already knew other planets had so-called Trojans asteroids that share an orbit with a planet at a stable point either in front of or behind the planet—but we did not know Earth had a Trojan until it was discovered by NASA’s WISE mission in 2011. We’ve also been able to make amazing headway into understanding the building blocks of life and how they might be more common throughout the solar system than we had thought. In fact, we have discovered complex hydrocarbons on several bodies in the solar system. This suggests that we may be able to learn about the earliest development of life on Earth from the processes we study on these other moons and planets.

With A Field Guide to the Planets, you will experience a uniquely satisfying, vicarious journey—to every major destination in our solar system, and really understand a whole range of features with the excitement of a traveler who’s just returned from a truly eye-opening trip. You will look to humanity’s next space missions with new anticipation, and experience our own Earth with greater understanding and appreciation than ever before.

A Field Guide to the Planets [TTC Video]

The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin [TTC Video]

The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin [TTC Video]
The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin [TTC Video] by Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
Course No 8071 | MP4, AVC, 2000 kbps, 1280x720 | AAC, 192 kbps, 2 Ch | 12x27 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 5.16GB

Communism has decisively shaped the modern world. After the Second World War, Marxist regimes ruled over one-third of the population of the globe. Even today, after the fall of the Soviet Union, communist ideas continue to steer current events in Eastern Europe and East Asia.

According to award-winning historian Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to understand the inner dynamics of communist thought and rule (and the reasons they linger in places like Cuba, North Korea, and China), you have to go back to the crucial beginnings of communism. How did it become such a pervasive economic and political philosophy? Why, of all places, did it first take root in early 20th-century Russia?

These and other questions all get addressed as part of a fascinating story that stretches from the intellectual partnership between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the late 19th century to the Russian Revolution of 1917 to the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924. It’s a story whose drama, Professor Liulevicius notes, “has few equals in terms of sheer scale, scope, or suffering.”

The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin invites you to go inside communism’s journey from a collection of political and economic theories to a revolutionary movement that rocked the world. Rich with historical insights, these 12 lectures zero in on the “how” and “why” of the Bolsheviks rise to power and how communist ideas worked in theory and practice—and how they didn’t. You’ll meet thinkers and revolutionaries like Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, and Leon Trotsky. You’ll unpack the meaning of texts like Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto. And, you’ll experience the shock and awe of events including the Paris Commune and the October Revolution. After these 12 lectures, you’ll have a new and rewarding understanding of one of the most important—and problematic—economic and political philosophies of the modern age.

Unearth the Roots of Communist Thought

As shaped by Karl Marx, communism is defined as the abolition of private property. Along with this came the promise of social equality and a liberation from history’s record of struggle, exploitation, and suffering. “From each according to his ability,” Marx said, “to each according to his need.”

In The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin, you’ll examine five internal contradictions within the philosophy of communism that recurs throughout the historical record, sometimes in different forms. They include:

  • The role of the individual in communism,
  • The geographical spread of communism,
  • The ties between communism and nationalism,
  • The evolution of communism into a tradition, and
  • The idea of communism as a political religion.

As the 12 lectures of this course examine events throughout decades of history, two main periods of time will be discussed.

  • In “The Spectre Haunting Europe” (named for the opening line of The Communist Manifesto), you’ll examine the utopian movements that influenced Marx and Engels, and how these leaders came to develop their revolutionary philosophies.
  • In “Lenin and the Founding of the Soviet Union,” you’ll discover how Lenin became the first person to put Marxist ideas into action by violently seizing power in the wreckage of the Russian tsarist empire and the chaos of the First World War.

Explore Decades of Political Turbulence

Moving chronologically through some of the most turbulent decades of modern history, The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin explores terms, ideas, events, and people that you may have heard of in other historical surveys—but never delved into with such depth or insight.

  • Dialectical Materialism: Marx’s doctrine was based on historical (or dialectical) materialism and postulated the basis of reality as rooted in matter, not ideas. Human reality was, at base, economic—even if people were unaware of this. Thus, there could be no just law as such, but only a legal system protecting the interests of the ruling class.
  • The Paris Commune: The radical socialist government that ruled Paris for 10 weeks in 1871 (March 18-May 28) would become a template for understanding later revolutionary action. Despite its failure, the Paris Commune was viewed by Marx and Engels as the first living example of the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
  • The Okhrana: After the 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II, the Okhrana (“guard department”) came into being. A secret police force organized to quell radicalism, the Okhrana also undertook psychological warfare operations. The organization is suspected to have written the notorious anti-Semitic text, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
  • Red October: Celebrated as the Great October Socialist Revolution, the 1917 seizure of power in Russia by Lenin and the Bolsheviks gave birth to a state devoted to the overthrow of all other world states. For this reason, some historians believe the Cold War didn’t begin after the Second World War but rather with this coup.
  • “The Internationale”: The song that became emblematic of international socialism was written during the Paris Commune by a Parisian transport worker. In the decades that followed, “The Internationale” became an inspiration to marchers, instilled fear in the ruling classes, and would later become the national anthem of the Soviet Union.

Crafted by a Knowledgeable Professor

While the topic of communism with its intricate links between philosophy and history might seem intimidating to tackle, Professor Liulevicius takes care to make the subject easy for anyone to understand.

A lecturer of some of the most popular modern history courses of the Great Courses, Professor Liulevicius has crafted another lecture series that offers an uncompromising look at one of the dominant political ideologies of the 20th century, exploring the origins of communist thought and the communist state.

The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin is a fascinating, and sobering, study of how ideas and theories rise to power in a bid to create a new civilization—whatever the human cost. And it’s the first part of a lecture series of upcoming Great Courses by Professor Liulevicius that will continue the story of global communism. It’s the first chapter in a long story that would see the brutal rule of Joseph Stalin, the expansion of communism into Eastern Europe and Asia, and the eventual decline and fall of the Soviet Union.

The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin [TTC Video]

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