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    Wine class and happy hour rolled into one

    Barry Chin/Globe Staff

    At Asta in the Back Bay, wine class is in session. Think of it as a learning opportunity disguised as a happy hour for the vinously inclined.

    On Tuesdays to Fridays in the late afternoon, and on the first Monday of the month, the bar at the tasting-menu focused restaurant of chef Alex Crabb and Shish Parsigian transforms into Wine School. Inspired by the New York Times’ column of the same name, the class features flights based on the grape or style of pour recommended and discussed that month by wine critic Eric Asimov.

    Theresa Paopao, Asta’s wine pro, launched the sessions. “Back when I worked retail, I knew clients were having trouble assembling wines from [Asimov’s] column,” she says. Bottles were often unavailable in Massachusetts, or gettable only by special order. Now at the restaurant, she does the behind-the-scenes work to procure those specific wines or pours in the same category. “People like the idea of, ‘Here’s an opportunity to study and be held accountable,’ ” she says. “And you get to check your work in the New York Times.”


    Last month, the spotlight was on Italy’s fiano grape. Silver-haired professor types, as well as a couple of graduate students, sipped and compared, peppering Paopao with questions. “We’re providing an opportunity to study, or just come in for an afternoon glass of wine,” she says. “You make it what you want.”

    June’s featured grape is aligoté! Asta is located at 47 Massachusetts Ave., Back Bay, Boston, 617-585-9575,

    Ellen Bhang can be reached at