Wine class review: WSET Level 1 at The Vineyard at Stockcross
The course: Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 Award in Wine (£199 for a one-day course including lunch with wine. Overnight stays from £275 B&B for two)
Where: The Vineyard at Stockcross, Berkshire
What’s it like
WSET courses are for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in the wine world and, if Level 1 ignites your passion, you can go on to Levels 2, 3, 4 and up to a Master of Wine (years of study; few attain). But don’t be put off by that, Level 1 is a great introduction to one of humankind’s best inventions, and you won’t feel intimidated even if you can’t tell a PG from a cab sav. Plus, the setting is pretty swanky: the Vineyard is a smart hotel renowned for its food and drink – the perfect place to learn, I’d say.
What I learned
I like my wine (yes I do) and found I knew some of the stuff covered by tutor James Hocking, but I also learned a whole lot, including the characteristics of grape varieties, how to pair wine more reliably with food, and the influence of climate and soil (terroir). You also learn about tannins, acidity and faults in wine. Ever sniffed a glass and thought it smelled of a musty old church hymn book? That means the wine is corked – and no one leaves a Vineyard course without being able to spot a corked bottle at 50 paces.
This isn’t just for wannabe sommeliers. For any wine-quaffing amateur, the day will enrich your experience beyond knowing, in a vague kind of way, which bottle of red to open with the spag bol you’ve made for dinner. It’s slightly daunting to have to take a written test under exam conditions (with sweaty palms), but satisfying if you pass. You find out the results by post two weeks later, and for the record I did pass – phew. Time for me to do some research for Level 2.