Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Why Learn about Wine?

Many people are interested in wine.  Some like to read about wine, some like to study wine, some like to talk about it endlessly....... but everyone interested in wine likes to drink it.

Drinking wine brings pleasure.  The pleasure comes in many guises - social pleasure,  sensual pleasure, relaxation pleasure.  It enhances a meal, an occasion and provides a central focus of celebration.  However, we all know that there is a dark side to the pleasures of alcoholic effect of wine.  Any alcohol taken in excess will have an impact on the drinker. 
These are well documented and many interventions are attempted with every passing generation.  Currently it is minimum alcohol prices, previously in America it was Prohibition.  Prior to that Gin houses of London had to be shut down and production allowed by only 9 producers as the population was so inebriated, productivity of the working population had sunk to lows never experienced before.
How do we strike a balance between the pleasure and pain?  We all have a responsibility to manage our alcohol consumption, yet so many of us seem to get the balance so wrong. 

In my opinion, one measure we can all take is to become more engaged in the alcohol we are purchasing.  It is estimated that over 70% of purchasers in the UK are guided by price in their purchases.  Offers and promotions not only entice us but guide us into buying something we do not know enough about.  How often have you bought a wine at half price assuming it is a superior quality as it 'used to be £12.99'.  Immediately we have made an assumption about how the wine will taste from the yellow ticket situated on the shelf below it. 

Have you ever about the marketing campaign behind this promotion?  Has a case of this wine been on a shelf in a corner of a remote store for 28 days gathering dust before being launched nationwide on the gondola ends of the supermarket by the pallet-load?  Yet many of us are happy to believe this wine is really worth more that we are paying for it.

How are you expected to know these tricks of the trade of a product which is so varied and confusing in the first place?  The answer is that you are not.

However, there is a growing trend of wine education which uncovers the complexities of the wine market.  By knowing the product, its provenance and how to taste it, you will enjoy wine in a completely new way.   This knowledge increases responsibility in consumption and reduces the potential to abuse.
The Wine WiseCompany offers a variety of courses for those wishing to understand more about the wine they drink.  On Saturday 13 October, we have a two hour introduction to wine called How To Taste Wine which will take you through the stages of tasting wine and the terminology used on a label.

We also offer formal Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) courses.  These are the globally recognised qualifications for both professionals and enthusiasts alike.   We have a WSET Level 2 coming up in November, taught over a period of 8 weeks on Thursday Evenings.  Please see the website

We also run a new program of courses aimed at the 18-24 year olds called Drink It:Taste It.  These aim to educate this age group through responsible wine and beer tastings to make smarter alcohol choices and therefore reduce the impact of alcohol in their lives.

For full details of these courses and more, please visit the website   You can also call Nina on 07804 494083 or e-mail 





How to Taste Wine

How to Taste Wine                                                        by Nina Smith

So, you know how to drink wine.  You may enjoy some of the rituals of drinking wine - decanting a good port, letting a red wine breathe, ensuring whites are lightly chilled and sherries extra chilled.  However, do you know how to taste wine?  Daft question?  Let me explain.
Tasting wine is often said to be different to drinking wine.  In my opinion, it is not that different, just a little slower. 

From pouring the wine from the bottle to drinking it, how long does it take?  'TOO LONG' my hardened drinker friends yell.  However, just slow down and enjoy the impact wine can have.  (A little like stopping whilst walking to observe the often beautiful or interesting scenery)

Have a look at the wine.  Is it a deep red, a water-white white or a salmon hued rose?  Does it coat the inside of the glass?  Is there any sediment or do fine bubbles appear?  All these give indications of the nature, provenance and potential flavours of the wine.

Next, hold the glass up and breathe in the aroma of the wine.  Swirl the wine around to release some of the characteristics of the wine.  What can you smell?  Is it warm and comforting, or light, refreshing and full of citrus burst?  Can you smell any flavours other than fruit (indicating ageing or some  wood influence), or is there little aroma at all? 

Finally, taste the wine.  Try to make the wine swish round all parts of your mouth.  There should be a plethora of sensations happening in there.  What are the flavours you can taste?  Are they fruity?  Is there a spicy tingle left on your tongue?  Are the sides of your mouth watering after tasting the wine?  How about that misunderstood sensation of tannins in the wine?  These show in red wines where your teeth and gums can detect a pleasant balance of dryness giving the wine elegant structure, or an unpleasant sensation as though you have licked a section of planed timber in B&Q.

These are some of the aspects we talk about when tasting wine.  It provides a basis to talk about the wine and enjoy the differences between different wines.  Wines from  different climates will have their own characteristics, as do wines made from different grapes or blends of grapes.  Production methods and local laws also impact on these attributes.   To the experienced tasters,  wines can be identified to particular winemakers at individual vineyards.

By talking about the wine, the enjoyment and interest in what you are drinking increases.  Some wines match particularly well with certain foods and it is great fun in discovering these pairings.  In many cases, consumption of wine will also slow down as the drinker is more engaged in what they are drinking.  This can only be a good thing.

So why don't you come and learn how to taste properly.  The Wine Wise Company is holding a two hour course on Saturday 13 October at Buzzards Valley Winery near Sutton Coldfield.  It is a fun and informal course designed to teach you how to start tasting your wine instead of gulping it! 

Course:      How To Taste Wine   

Date:           Saturday 13 October 2012

Time:           10.30am-12.30pm

Venue:       Buzzards Valley Winery, near Sutton Coldfield   B78 3EQ


To book or for more information, please call Nina on 07804 494083  or e-mail

The Wine Wise Company offers a range of wine education and tasting services including WSET exams, corporate entertainment, staff training, private parties and wine advice.  Please visit for more information.