Back to school for wine

school deskTerm is starting for the children, and in a few weeks time it’ll be the adults’ turn. Evening classes begin in September and it’s not all about beginner’s French. Wine tasting is still being offered by many local education authorities and if you’re lucky the course will be taught by a wine tutor who is knowledgeable and understands you’ll be nervous when you first arrive.

During each two-hour class expect to sniff and taste up to six wines. Your tutor will encourage everyone to describe the wines for themselves, with perhaps a little prompting.

sniffing wineWhen the course tutor asks the inevitable “so what do think this wine smells of?”, what’s the ‘correct’ thing to say? Expressing your thoughts to a group of strangers is nerve wracking, but you’ve got to say something it’s expected. Just say what the wine aromas smell like, you won’t be wrong.

Most of the rest of the class will nod in agreement and then go on to express their own different, and often contradictory, sentiments. By the end of the course you’ll find there are as many opinions of what a wine ‘should’ smell like as there are class members.

Next you’ll be asked to take a large sip of wine and swoosh it around your mouth a bit. This is a good way of allowing taste buds to register a wine’s many flavours. But what does the wine taste off?

cut lemonHopefully something fruity (don’t be afraid to say grape). Often red wines taste like darker coloured fruits (blackberries, blackcurrants, plums, cherries) and white wines of lighter coloured fruits (lemons, bananas, melons and apples).

The great benefit of attending wine courses is that each class gives you the chance to try many different wines without having to buy them yourself, and they’re often wines you wouldn’t have been brave enough to try at home.

Try your tasting technique with the following wines to get some practise in.

PG Wine Tips

£3.99 and under

There are still some good bottles to be found that cost the same as a couple of National Lottery tickets.

Tesco Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon


Cherry Tunes aroma and taste with a hint of liquorice and coffee.

Spar South African Red

£3.99 (down from £4.79 until August 31st)

Black Forest gateaux in a glass. Pretty good.

Storks Landing Portuguese Fernao Pires Chardonnay

£3.99 Co-op (down from £7.99 until September 13th)

Refreshing and quaffable wine that needs food to match its orange peel and melon flavours. Good value at its offer price.

Pontoro Sicilian Nero D’Avola

£3.99 Co-op (down from £7.99 until September 13th)

What used to be known as a ‘pizza wine’ – cheap with light cherry and plum flavours. Plonk. But good plonk.

£5.99 and under

There are a few fruity, slurpable wines among the forgettable masses.

Montgravet Vin de France Cabernet Merlot

£4.99 Waitrose

Blackcurrant and Bisto, with a hint of strawberry. Think main course and dessert in one. Rather nice.

Tesco Simply German Riesling


Light apple and lemon with a sweet edge. A beginners wine. Nothing complicated and nothing to dislike. Bit expensive though.

This article has also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on