My wine course got off to a great start this week – I identified 7 out of 8 wines correctly in a blind tasting. If I carry on at this rate, at the end of the course, I can be sure of having a qualification in wine. And, probably, a hangover.
I began a Wine and Spirit Education Trust level 3 course run by the Sussex Wine School this week. I will be doing it every Wednesday for the next five weeks. All being well, I will get a recognised qualification at the end of it – the equivalent of something between an O and an A Level, in old money.
Brighton’s smart Hotel du Vin is the venue for the course. Eight of us, plus our teacher, tucked ourselves away in a room usually reserved for hen and stag parties.
We are learning all about wine production and about the main grape-growing countries and regions of the world. Importantly, learning how to taste wine is also a big part of the course. And there is a significant amount of blind tasting.
On day one, we had to identify 8 wines during the day, based on appearance, nose and palate.
First up was a youthful, lemon-green white wine with aromas of green fruit. I knew it was a Muscadet – not least because it’s one of my favourite wines to have during the summer months. Next came a Beaujolais, then a Hungarian sweet wine called Tokaji.
I guessed all three correctly (OK, in the case of the latter, only after having been tipped off that it wasn’t from France).
The oak ageing in the Rioja that followed confused me, so I got that wrong. However, I was back on form for the two Chardonnays (one unoaked, one oaked, both from the Mâconnais district of southern Burgundy, the teacher revealed).
We were told that the final two wines were both made of the same grape but in different parts of the world. I knew the first was a French Syrah (a Crozes-Hermitage, as it turned out) and the second an Australian Shiraz (from the Barossa Valley, apparently).
“All being well, I will get a recognised qualification at the end of it – the equivalent of something between an O and an A Level”
Doing the course is all about preparing myself for when Damon and I take the plunge and set up a cheese and wine shop/bar in France in the coming years. The fact that I did so well on the tasting has boosted my confidence. My classmates have all done the level 2 course, and some of them work in wine already, so I feared I might be at a disadvantage.
The other thing that singles me out from them is that they were happy to spit. I didn’t finish any of my glasses, but I did swallow the wine I tasted.