Starting the Wine Spirit and Education Trust course:
Why delve deeper?
Wine has long been a private passion of mine, enjoyed with a humbled opinion whilst being sought after with much desire to quench the thirst for knowledge.
I can remember a time, many years ago when I went to Les Trois Garcon, a restaurant at the end of Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch, East London. I had heard many wonderful things about this place and decided it was time to go and see what the fuss was about. The interior is an incredible display of taxidermy and exquisite Victorian objets d’art; chandeliers are draped with dangling glass beads hovering so low you could forgive yourself for ducking to get by, the almost life size stuffed tiger, monkey, crocodile and British bulldog, adorned with butterfly wings and his own tiara, all add to the mystic of this beautifully converted Victorian Pub.
Image via loveisspeedblog
Despite the flamboyant and obvious theatrical flare, Les Trois Garcon has retained many features from its past. The glass bar is complete with stools and still juts out into the room with its thick heavy dark timber columns. For a brief moment I was transported back to the early 1900s, until I noticed the designer handbags hanging from the ceiling.
The waiter came over to hand me the menu and the wine list, and I flicked through, doing my best to understand and make, what I hoped, would be a good decision.
The waiter came back a few moments later and asked: ‘would you like some help with the wine list sir?’ To my relief and gratitude I say ‘yes’, and he recommended a subtle red wine to balance the flavours of our coming meal.
That moment, staring at the wine list wishing I understood what might as well have been another language, had happened before and would happen again, always to my dismay.
So a few years later I decided to end this internal embarrassment and seek out an understanding of wine, at least to be able to make an informed decision when confronted with a wine list.
Thankfully I had some resources to hand. My French godmother and her husband run a small wine business, buying and selling wine from a delightful cottage in the Wiltshire countryside. Through years of combined experience in the catering and wine industries, they have an unrivalled expertise on the subject.
At first I would send through the wine list from where I was going for dinner and ask for recommendations. They would happily oblige, and send through a top three depending on the food we chose. I was now armed with a solid recommendation and could relax at the meal.
Since then, a few key pieces of advice have gone a long way to making choosing a wine easier. For example, when eating out I follow these three rules:
Only buy wines in the low 25% of the list, unless you really know your wines.
Buy less well known wines
Go for reds with as much age as possible.
I stuck with this for a while, and it has served me well, but without knowing the reasons behind the advice and what else is out there, I felt it was always going to be a stumbling guess at best, albeit with a nudge in the right direction.
So, almost simultaneously, I decided to start my own wine business and sign up to the Wines & Spirit Education Trust, to know exactly what I am reading, talking and most certainly drinking.
Disclaimer: The following Wine Diary posts on the WSET course will be a series of notes from time spent studying and being on the course, which will include extracts and written copy from the text book . This is not to be mistaken for the course material itself and for more information visit the WSET website. We do not take credit for the text from the WSEt hand book.