You settle into your chair at a ritzy restaurant and peruse the sizable wine list, overwhelmed by the selection. You feel the waiting eyes of your dining companions and haphazardly choose a familiar varietal at the right price point, crossing your fingers. The server arrives and presents your choice, pouring a taste for your approval. You give the glass your best swirl, creating the illusion that you know what you’re doing. Tipping the glass back, you catch an unexpectedly funky aftertaste. Wait … is this how this wine is supposed to taste? You nod to the lingering server in approval anyway.
If this scenario is even remotely familiar to you, you’re in luck. Faking it won’t be necessary after attending Zero Restaurant + Bar’s monthly wine seminars led by Advanced Sommelier Ashley Broshious. The seminars are designed to teach you how to order with confidence, differentiate between styles, and pair perfectly — even vino virtuosos will benefit from Broshious’ extensive knowledge.
“This class is definitely for every level,” confirms Broshious. “But I wanted it to be focused on people who sincerely want to learn. We still have fun and joke around. It’s not super serious, but the goal is to leave feeling comfortable with these wines.”
Each class has a different theme that takes your taste buds on a trip around the world. September’s class examined Rieslings from Germany to Australia; October takes sippers to Napa; and November will lead tasters through the Barolos, Barbarescos, and Brunellos of Italy. In December, Zero will host a holiday-themed class showcasing traditional holiday wines from around the world. In February, Broshious is considering a class focusing on Greece. “By then we’ll be like, ‘Let’s get rid of this winter funk and taste wines from the Grecian islands where it’s sunny and bright and beautiful’,” she says.
If you really take a deep dive into the study of wine, you’ll find yourself simultaneously studying history, geography, the arts, even language. Wars have been waged, laws instituted, gods conceived, festivals celebrated, all in the name of that lovingly cared for, curated, and bottled beverage. From terroir to table, Broshious walks you through the journey each bottle has taken before it landed at Zero.
For September’s Riesling class, for example, Broshious began with a brief history of how and why Riesling developed in Germany. With a map of Germany in hand, the group traced the region’s rivers, and Broshious explained how these rivers made the area uniquely suited for growing Riesling grapes. The wine, Broshious says, has fallen victim to a cliché as an overly sweet or simple variety. “I wanted to show people that Riesling isn’t basic,” she says. “There’s a style of Riesling to go with everything. We’ve even done a vintage Riesling with steak before, and people are blown away.”
Broshious’ passion is anything but self-serving. Her primary ambition is to inspire a love and enjoyment of wine in others and to help the local wine community thrive. If she can help people learn to love wine while at Zero, they’ll have the knowledge needed to enjoy wine anywhere. It’s kind of like wine karma. The more wine lovers there are out there, the better for all. “I’ve always believed that all boats rise on high tides,” she says. “I told my Riesling class, ‘Go to The Establishment, go to Charleston Grill or Peninsula Grill. Go sit at the bar and enjoy because their Riesling collection is great. When people know more about wine, and they’re excited about it, they’ll come drink with all of us.”
Broshious was med-school bound when she changed course and became a certified sommelier at age 21. “My parents weren’t super happy at the time,” she laughs. “Thirteen years ago when I started this process, being a somm was still relatively unknown.” It wasn’t until she sent her parents a copy of the documentary Somm that they understood the prestige of the title and the effort required to achieve it. “I had a degree in biology. I was going to be a doctor, and I just loved this so much more,” says Broshious. “I loved the hospitality. I loved the feeling of being taken care of, and I loved the idea of being able to share that with others.”
For nearly a decade, she lived in Napa and studied wine until her father’s health necessitated a move back to Charleston. She returned as an Advanced Sommelier — one of only six in the state. “It’s so much more popular and cool to be a somm these days, but one thing that’s happened between the celebrity chef movement and all these kids wanting to go to culinary school is I think people can sometimes lose sight of why we’re here. We’re here to take care of people. We’re here to find something that somebody loves and to share incredible stories.”
Broshious is also hoping to eventually host a class for service industry professionals to brush up on their wine knowledge. “We’re going to see what we can do to get out there and maybe give discounts to industry, so if anyone has servers who want to come to the class, we’ll do something to make it easier for them to attend.” They’re still working through those details, but the intention remains the same: “We just want to be teachers for the community. I think that’s what Zero is. We want people to feel at home and welcome here and for us to learn something new together.”