Wine & Spirit Ed­u­ca­tion Trust Ber­mond­sey

Food and Travel (UK) - - Tried & Tasted -

‘So you think you know wine? Prove it,’ said a friend at a din­ner party ear­lier this year. Hav­ing been part of the food in­dus­try and re­view­ing restau­rants for over a decade, I’ve been for­tu­nate enough to sam­ple some fine wines and grape va­ri­eties, and I’d like to think that I have some­thing rel­e­vant to say about them. But could I tell you why a pinot noir is lighter in colour than a caber­net sauvi­gnon, or a Aus­tralian shi­raz drinks dif­fer­ently to French? No, I could not.

The same friend and I en­rolled on the Wine & Spirit Ed­u­ca­tion Trust Level One Award in Wines course, taken from WSET’s HQ near Lon­don Bridge, to an­swer these ques­tions. It’s an in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised qual­i­fi­ca­tion with out­posts all over the world, and there are four lev­els, with the fourth a som­me­lier-grade diploma that lasts as long as a de­gree. Level One, how­ever, is a day course with an exam at the end to in­tro­duce us to wine and how it’s pro­duced.

As I en­ter the class­room, it strikes me that it’s the first time I’ve been in front of a teacher since univer­sity. But there’s no sign of musty book­cases, mis­matched fur­ni­ture and ques­tion­able tai­lor­ing here. Rather, a per­fectly turned out, air-con­di­tioned room re­plete with tast­ing glasses, note­books and course syl­labus. As I look around the class, there are sev­eral peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing the on-trade, a group of guys on a team-build­ing ex­er­cise, and sev­eral bankers look­ing to add weight to read­ing a wine list. Our teacher, Lucy Stevenson, is ex­cel­lent. Clearly spo­ken with stac­cato syn­tax and repet­i­tive em­pha­sis on im­por­tant el­e­ments, her style is friendly, with a suc­cinct an­swer to any ques­tion the group may have. The course be­gins with an in­tro­duc­tion to cool- and warm-cli­mate wines, im­me­di­ately an­swer­ing my query as to why shi­raz from the south­ern hemi­sphere tastes dif­fer­ent to that grown in Europe. It’s the heat.

The first round of tast­ing be­gins with four idio­syn­cratic wine styles. Lucy ex­plains the process – look, smell, taste – then dis­cusses the kind of aro­mas that char­ac­terise the world’s most popular grape va­ri­eties. Af­ter lunch, we move into pair­ing wine with food. Small bites of cheese, sal­mon and fruit are laid out to match with red, white, sweet and rosé wines. We’re en­cour­aged to try them with the food to see how they work – or don’t, for that mat­ter. Lucy ex­plains it’s the tan­nins in dark-red wines like cab sav that means they do not go well with fish, yet do so tremen­dously with meat. As an in­tro­duc­tion to tast­ing wine and learn­ing why el­e­ments drink like they do, it’s a great way to spend a day. I passed, too. MS. WSET Level One one-day wine course from £169. wset­global.com

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