Notts Derby Wine School is the pick of the bunch


Do you know your Pinot Grigio from your Pinot Noirs, or your Rioja from your Bordeaux? What makes a good wine and how can you tell its quality from its look, smell and taste? All was explained in just one evening under the expert tuition of Debbie Ault of the Notts Derby Wine School who took us on a journey exploring the wines of Italy, Spain and Portugal.

The course took place at Nottingham’s Jury’s Inn Hotel and on arrival we met our ‘course mates’ for the evening, a group with one thing in common: a love of wine. Once introductions were done we were ready to begin tasting the wines.

I admit to having very basic knowledge of wine other than the fact that I like a glass of most varieties. But choosing a good wine is often hit and miss as I really don’t know what to look for – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Debbie began by taking us through the main wine producing areas of Italy, Spain and Portugal, some of which we were very familiar and others less so. She then took us through the all important tasting notes: how to detect the quality, maturity and of course value of the wine you are buying or drinking. We were told the three main elements of tasting – the look, smell and taste.

Some of the wines we sampled during the evening.

Some of the wines we sampled during the evening.

At this point the first wine came out and was poured into our first taster glass. Debbie asked us all to tilt our glass to a 45 degree angle and then take a good look at the colour of the wine along with the rim of the wine. The depth of colour or its lightness can be the first clue into how old the wine is that you are sampling. If you then hold the glass by the stem and swirl it take a look at whether the alcohol sticks to the sides of the glass before returning to normal, this will indicate just how much alcohol is present and is known as the ‘legs’ or ‘tears’ so if holds the side of the glass you have a wine with a higher alcohol percentage!

The next thing to try is swirling your glass and then taking a good smell of the wine. It is only by swirling the wine that you can release the different elements that are contained within, such as fruits, oak and smoked aromas etc. The thing to look for in a good wine is the intensity and cleanliness of the aroma. Try this next time you have a glass of wine and see what you can smell! At first I was decidedly rubbish but after the third tasting wine I could really detect different smells that I never thought possible – I even likened one to strawberry jam.

The final and most important element was the taste, but this was no ordinary taste. The way a professional would do this would be to slurp and almost drag the wine through the teeth to really taste the wine to full effect. The room was filled with varying levels of slurping and a little dribbling as we all struggled to copy Debbie’s expert demo. But after we had all settled on our technique we were treated to some amazing tastes from the wines that were served to us from these Mediterranean countries. Debbie encouraged us to think about how long that first burst of taste lasted and also the acidity levels, again all giving the indication of maturity, quality and value.


Our first half of the evening focused on white wines whilst the second explored reds. During a break Debbie treated us to some beautiful cheese, crusty breads and Italian meats which were the perfect accompaniment and a lovely touch; after all who can resist cheese and wine? Over the course of the evening we sampled a total of seven wines including a mystery wine of which we were asked to guess it’s maturity, alcohol content, country of origin and price. Happily none of us were far off the mark, all because of what we had been taught to look out for, smell and taste. Perhaps I could be a connoisseur in the making.

The two hours we spent in Debbie’s company simply flew by. This was a course that I would recommend to anyone and perfect whether you a real wine buff or a novice like me! Yes it was undoubtedly informative and jam packed with information but it was also great fun and so very interesting.

This Christmas, treat your loved one to a gift voucher from Notts Derby Wine School so they can enjoy a tasting session in the New Year. Further information on vouchers and courses is available via the website or by calling 0115 772 2041.

Posted on 04 December 2014
Featured author: Anna

Fun loving Nottingham lass with a love of festivals, real ale, cheese, Bryan Adams and my home county of Nottinghamshire.

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