Essex Wine School - Introduction to Wine

For those of you who know me, I like a drink or two – wine, fizz, beer, spirits, mouthwash – I’ll drink it happily. I do tend to drink wine fairly often, but I’m a bit crap with it, I’ve no concept of where it comes from, how the varieties and countries differ. I REALLY like a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc if I’m having white and a Rioja if I’m having red, but honestly – that’s all I really know. I do secretly admire people who ‘know their wine’, my eyes tend to dart around a wine list like an 18 year old at a strip club – so when I was given the opportunity to visit the Essex Wine School to writing about it here, I jumped at the chance.

I was slightly concerned that it might be a slightly stuffy affair, filled with poncy people politely gobbing mouthfuls of wine into spittoons, while listening to a plum mouthed knob extolling the virtues of what we quaffed.

How wrong I was.

We were greeted at Anglia Ruskin University by the proprietor of the Essex Wine School, Neil Bull, for our ‘Introduction to Wine’. I wasn’t sure I needed a formal introduction to wine, it’s been my companion on many a night in and out since I remember. Seems though, I did.

The night started with Neil giving us an introduction to the Essex Wine School, and indeed his background – this man has a QUALIFICATION IN WINE, so he knows his stuff. Then we started at the beginning, how wine is made – I was vaguely surprised to learn it ISN’T made by French men stamping around in giant vats of grapes. Whilst the concept is roughly the same, there aren’t any beret clad chaps with grapes in-between their toes.

Then we got the ‘science bit’ about where the major wine regions are, and why they are there, and how important the climate is in the growing of the grapes. All of this was done with a slick Powerpoint presentation and a confident delivery by Neil. We were then given a blind test on some different ‘smells’ from numbered vials, these scents would feature in the wines we were consuming later. I like to think I’ve a fairly good sense of smell, but when you’re sniffing from a colourless liquid, with no idea of what it is, it’s surprisingly hard.

Then came the fun part – WINE TASTING!

In front of each of us were six empty glasses, and a selection of bread, meats and cheese. We went through each wine in turn with Neil explaining the region that they came from, and most importantly, the technique for ‘tasting’ a wine effectively. There wasn’t a spittoon in sight, it all felt very relaxed and not at all stilted, and with each wine, I felt like I was learning something new. There was a slight ‘quiz’ element with each wine as to guessing the cost of each bottle – I think with a few wines we were ‘fooled’ into thinking they would be expensive because the quality was so good, but the prices were very reasonable.

On the subject of price, it was very interesting to learn how much the wine maker makes from each bottle, it’s mere pence with your supermarket ‘five quid a bottle’ plonk, but, as you spend more, it quickly ramps up. This means the quality of production is much higher and therefore you’ll end up with a better wine. It obviously makes sense when you think about it, but having the figures laid out in front of you, it’s food (or drink) for thought.

Wine gone. Sad times.
Wine gone. Sad times.

The two hour session with the Essex Wine School flew by, and I was quite sad for it to be over. I feel like I want to learn more, thankfully Neil offers a range of events so I imagine I might well go back – the whisky tasting (just in time for Father’s Day) sounds AMAZING!

In summary, I LOVED my Introduction to wine with the Essex Wine School, I’d heartily recommend any of their events, Neil is an excellent teacher and certainly the ‘host with the most’!

As the night was still young, my companion and I decided to take the short walk into Chelmsford for a few cocktails before calling it a night! What a great way to spend a Tuesday evening!


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