News & views | How to learn about wine without opening a book (or spending hours on the internet)

News & views

How to learn about wine without opening a book (or spending hours on the internet)

One of the things that still surprises me after all these years is how scared otherwise confident people are of wine. The number of people who preface a comment on a bottle with ‘I really don’t know ANYTHING about wine’ as if their view didn’t count is ridiculous. Even people like chefs and food writers who taste for a living.

I can only put it down to the fact that they perceive wine as immensely complicated subject they couldn’t possibly master - and just don’t have time to get to grips with. But the same is true of cheese yet whoever goes around saying "I’m afraid I don’t know much about cheese"? No-one.

I’ll let you into a secret. I’ve never done a wine course in my life. I’m not a Master of Wine. I have absolutely no qualifications to write about it other than passion for the subject. And the fact that I've tasted (er, drunk) a lot in my time.


When you go to the supermarket buy at least one wine you’ve never tried before. That’s probably 50 new wines a year for a start. If you have a local wine shop you've never been into, walk through the door. Tell them the kind of wine you like, let them know what you want to pay and ask them to recommend a bottle. Another dozen-odd discoveries, I'm betting. When you go to a restaurant or wine bar make it a rule to order an unfamiliar wine by the glass. That’s at least a couple a month more. Carry a notebook with you or snap the labels with your phone to record your discoveries

If your interest is piqued find a group of friends or work colleagues who would like to know more about wine and get together once a month for a wine tasting. Have a different theme each month - six pinot noirs from different parts of the world, say or six sherries. With appropriate food which doesn’t have to be made from scratch if you’re casting around for excuses. Just raid the local deli or get a takeaway.

Or, best of all, go to the London Wine Sessions in Hackney this Saturday, a fun, totally unintimidating wine event where you can try wines you might like if only you let yourself.

My session at 12 noon (for which I’m not being paid in case you think this is a commercial plug. It’s for charidee) is on Wine Basics. How to find the kind of wines you’ll enjoy. We’ll be tasting a fascinating fizz I’m almost 100% certain you won’t have tried before, an astonishingly good Italian white at a bargain price, a truly sumptuous chardonnay (it’s my mission to get people back drinking chardonnay), a lovely light summery red and a big bold gorgeous red from one of my favourite winemakers.

There are other great sessions too. Three of the best wine writers around - Victoria Moore of the Telegraph, Anthony Rose of the Independent and Richard Hemming of talking about the bottles that turned them on to wine. A session on ‘the unlovables’ - wines you probably think you don’t like but which will undoubtedly surprise you - that’s with Mike Sager-Wilde of the wonderful Sager & Wilde wine bar, Charlie Young of Vinoteca and Courtney Stebbing of Lyle’s, a hot new restaurant in Hackney. A ‘moon walk’ with organic and biodynamic wine supplier Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrène and award-winning wine blogger Jamie Goode unravelling the mysteries of biodynamics. And ‘rad’ food matching with Matthew Young of Mayfields and Jack Lewens of Skye Gyngell’s Spring. That’s £40 cos it includes food but all the other sessions are just £20. And you can book them here.

So come, have fun and go away with some new favourite wines. If you're in London this weekend it would be rude not to.

The London Wine Sessions take place at The Apiary at 458 Hackney Road, London E2 9EG on June 7th, 2014 and are part of London Wine Week.

Top photo © jillchen -

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