City Paper: Class Act

Picking the perfect vintage can be a frustrating venture — the employees at PLCB stores are often unhelpful; labels on the bottles can be harder to decode than the exemptions for Philadelphia’s smoking ban; and experimenting with different wines gets expensive.

Much like Prometheus stealing fire from the gods to give to man, Keith Wallace (pictured) has made it his mission to demystify wine and make it more accessible to the masses. “It’s an art form that’s to be enjoyed, not to be rarefied,” says Wallace. “The more you know about it, the more you’ll love it.”
Frustrated by the quality of wine education, Wallace founded The Wine School of Philadelphia in 2001. “Everything everyone was learning was bullshit. Every major wine book is underwritten by a distributor or an importer,” explains Wallace. “This really bugged me, so I started the school.”

Wallace didn’t know whether it was going to be successful; he just knew he liked doing it. But in the last six years, The Wine School has sold out every class it’s ever hosted. His teaching staff has grown to include writer Brian Freedman, local wine distributor Pete Mitchell, and Frank Cipparone, a retired teacher who spent the last decade studying Italian wine.

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