Wine university

classroomIf you've just started an evening class in wine appreciation at your local adult education centre and don't know what to say when the course tutor asks the inevitable “so what do think this wine smells of?”, then have a read of my column on livingit.com. Hopefully you will be taught by a knowledgeable wine tutor like Pamela Brown, a tutor with the Kent Adult Education Service, who took over the teaching of my existing wine courses when I was moving to Warwickshire in 2006.

Pamela Brown, a language tutor, had become fed up with teaching Spanish and was thinking of giving up teaching altogether. Then the opportunity arose to take over the wine courses I had built-up from scratch when I moved to the Midlands. Pamela remembers: “The wine-tutor idea was put into my head when you asked ‘Do you fancy taking over the wine classes?’ My first thought was ‘I can’t do that!"

“I’ve always had an interest in wine”, she says. “It was originally sparked by visiting wineries in Spain and France.” Pamela organised trips to Spain for the language students she taught at the Sevenoaks adult education centre.

Before Pamela could accept the wine tutor post she had to turn herself from wine amateur to wine expert. “I looked into doing a wine qualification which I funded myself”, she explained. “I booked myself on an intensive week’s course in London run by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. It cost about £600. You needed to have a fair amount of wine knowledge already to pass the course.” Having qualified to Advanced level with Merit, Pamela started designing her new 15-week evening classes in wine appreciation.wine pour

“I cover the major grape varieties and regions in class. I can decide for myself what I teach,” she said. During each two-hour class Pamela starts with a short talk on that night’s subject before handing out some background notes and a tasting sheet: “Students just want to learn a little bit and enjoy drinking wine.”

Students then pour themselves the first of up to six wines to be sniffed and tasted. Pamela encourages everyone to have a go at describing the wines for themselves.

“We look at the wine’s appearance first, you judge a lot by appearance. A good wine will have a good deep colour. We then take a deep sniff to determine depth of aroma. Finally we take a large sip to taste.”swirling

Some of the wines come from supermarkets, while others are from specialist vendors such as Averys of Bristol. Each class costs just £8, which Pamela claims is excellent value. “You could taste wines at home but the cost would be greater. Each class gives the student the chance to try six different wines without having to buy six wines themselves – you can taste six wines for less than the cost of one.”

PG’s Tips

If you want to taste Pamela’s favourite wine you’ll have to visit Spain or go to Hedley Wright Wine Merchants (at Bishop’s Stortford, Hitchin or online www.hedleywright.co.uk).

Txakoli de Getaria, Txomin Etxaniz 2006, Basque region, Spain. £9.99

Getaria is one of only three Basque villages to make this slightly fizzy white wine. Txakoli is great accompaniment to seafood and tapas.