Great place great teaching

(by peter & susie)

We’ve been doing our sums lately.

Our calculations run as follows: in the last three and a half weeks we’ve run three wine courses, welcomed a total of 77 people through the Winchester Wine School’s doors, cracked open 122 bottles of fantastic wines, and munched our way through 30 squares of Montezuma chocolate and 41 jelly beans.

This inaugural season of courses have proved a fantastic launch pad for the Winchester Wine School, with much fun had and loads of positive feedback. (We’re including some of the feedback comments we’ve been sent at the bottom of this piece.)

Just last night we held our second Back to Basics wine course, a sell-out event attended by 30 lovely people in the delightful surroundings of the Hotel du Vin’s Balfour Room.

It was a brilliantly noisy and fun-filled atmosphere, with some very perceptive comments and questions being fired our way. You can get a feel for the atmosphere from some of the photos that accompany this piece, as well as from the following videos, taken by Susie’s expert hand.

The first captures the very beginning of the course:

The second comes in when we’re discussing how to taste, specifically with regard to what we like to term “the Mentadent moment”:

This event followed hot on the heels of our Master of Wine weekend, when 30 MW students attended a 3-day intensive blind tasting course over the early May bank holiday.

It really hit us how intense this weekend was, when we found ourselves decanting into unlabelled bottles and then tasting 1985 vintage port at 8am in the morning while still dressed in our pyjamas.

A total of 36 wines were used (three papers of 12 wines each, in mock exam conditions), with three bottles of each providing enough for generous tasting samples plus more for the feedback sessions. So 108 bottles in all. Quite some feat!

The Guildhall proved an outstanding venue – and a grand one at that – while the wonderfully talented tasters provided the impetus for a very educational and worthwhile course.

In addition, we were delighted that everyone seemed to enjoy not only the course but also Winchester, which was part of our concept when setting up the school. This came through loud and clear in the feedback with one participant stating: “I really think you have something special going – such a great idea for a wine school, great place, great teaching. I’ll recommend it thoroughly to everyone.”

Meanwhile, there’s still more to come.

We hold our final course of the spring season on Tuesday 25th May at 6.30pm in the Hotel du Vin, Winchester.

This one is nominally entitled our “Intermediate” course, though in reality it’s as much fun as the Back to Basics but just involves a slightly different take on wine.

Instead of a tour of the wine world by grape variety, we look at how big issues such as region of origin, vintages and winemaking can affect wines.

We’d love to see you there (please click here for more details). If not, we’ll be posting dates for our autumn course programme very soon.

Feedback from Back to Basics courses

“We had such a lot of fun and enjoyment last night, thank-you both so much. I certainly learned a lot [I liked the factoids!] Certainly the smile barometer told it all on the evening itself. You both have such a great gift of welcoming and sharing your love and knowledge of wine – very special. And I never once felt ‘stressed’ by my inadequate know-how, but on the contrary will be happy drinking what I enjoy! What a great start to WWS events, you have another 25 advocates and the word will spread very quickly.” (Belinda, Back to Basics, May 2010)

Just finished my back 2 basics course with @wineschools. A fantastic evening! Great atmosphere, learnt loads, highly recommend, really good! (Tweet by @VictoriaKennard after Back to Basics, May 2010)

“Congratulations on putting together a great intro to the world of wine tasting. [We] thoroughly enjoyed it, and we’ll definitely be recommending you to our friends. You guys have a huge opportunity to tap into a community of people who are interested in good food, good wine, and good value. Based on last night, it looks like you’re on the way already, so we’ll look forward to seeing the WWS storm onwards and upwards. I think we’ll be back to try the intermediate course at some point, and will keep up to speed via the website.” (André, Back to Basics, May 2010)

Thank you Peter and Susie, my friends and I had a really great night. I know [my husband] and his friends will look forward to the next basic wine course.” (Miriam, Back to Basics, May 2010)

“I [wanted] to say how much we enjoyed last night. It was both informative and also great fun so a big ‘thank you’ to you and Susie, and we will spread the word about the school.” (Iain, Back to Basics, May 2010)

“It was good to participate in the first Winchester Wine School course, we all enjoyed ourselves a great deal. It was a great idea to start the school in Winchester – I’d been looking for something like that ever since we moved to Winchester four years ago.” (Ian, Back to Basics course, April 2010)

Feedback from the MW tasting weekend, 1-3 May 2010

“I want to thank you for a really instructive and thoroughly enjoyable weekend.”

“A massive thanks to you both for last weekend. It was fabulous. I really think you have something special going – such a great idea for a wine school, great place, great teaching. I’ll recommend it thoroughly to everyone. It was very helpful for all of us and I certainly have taken a lot away to think about. Bring on the exams!”

“Thank you both so much for a fantastic weekend’s teaching. We really appreciate the massive thought and effort you put in. Will recommend WWS highly to students and consumers.”

“I wanted to thank both you and Susie for what has been an incredible weekend for me.  It was SO helpful – I now have a better idea of how I need to tackle my weaknesses over the next coming weeks – thanks to your focused feedback and by listening to my fellow students.  I appreciated the way in which you provided us each with first positive and then constructive feedback.  While I know I still have a lot more work to do, I came away feeling incredibly motivated and determined to put in the additional effort to give myself the best possible chance at the exams in June.  So, thank you!”

“I would like to say thank you to you both for a very useful few days. It was all extremely well organised and the quality of your feedback was excellent.”

“Thanks. For me a really great course, the advantages were a good location and excellent venue (plenty of space, nice bright, airy room), good options for lunch/food afterwards. I thought the selection of wines was also good, ‘benchmark’ MW examples. The feedback from Susie and yourself was great, balanced, and positive. It was for me, and on balance, the best of the MW practice tasting sessions that I have attended.”

“Thank you both once again for an invaluable and enjoyable weekend. I hope that you will be able to do more courses. We will spread the good word.”

“Thank you both very much for an excellent weekend. It was obvious how much effort and thought you put in to weekend and the wines. It was brilliant to have answer papers, extra wine and really good examples. The feedback sessions where also very good, a good balance of positivity and constructive criticism. Great to see you both and explore lovely Winchester.”

“Thank you so much again for the brilliant course. VERY useful!”

“The weekend was invaluable. It was the kick-start I needed. Doing your course with a room full of brilliant tasters and answer writers helped to give me a much better orientation going forward! The fact that you chose Winchester as your base is excellent. What a charming town (and surrounding countryside, which I saw from the bus on the way to Southampton airport). I’m sure I’ll be back!”

“Thank you for running such a great weekend. It was good to get the wines and questions set up by two people who’ve gone through the whole thing so recently – which also made the feedback so relevant. I really felt the course helped me hone both my timing and my technique.”

“Thanks very much for your an insight into your method. Eeks! I have some serious work to do to reach the standard that is needed to pass. At least I have an example as to what it is now. Again, the tasting course was well organised and immensely helpful. I would definitely attend again.”

“I would like to thank you for your encouraging and incredibly helpful weekend. You put a lot of work and thought into the flights. Both of you seem to love to help and improve people. This shows and it was a pleasure to attend, thank you very much for this.”

“Thank YOU both for putting on such am amazing (challenging and educational) week-end of tastings. It was obvious that you put so much thought and work into preparing it. It was so worth my while to come over [from New York]. I fine-tuned so much. It was a great group of people and I learned for everyone.”

“Thank YOU!! I was just thinking of what a great week end it was. I really feel you and Susie did a fantastic job and you were so focused and truly interested in everyone’s notes.”

“Just a note to thank you very much for the weekend I found it both challenging and motivating. The wines were very interesting and the flights really useful and you were both so kind and encouraging – I am really pleased to have attended.”

“Just wanted to say massive thanks. The weekend was so well organised and run. The wines were impeccable and the questions really made me think and I was challenged under the time pressure representative of the exam which is something I have felt is missing from [other such tastings]. I wish now that I had done one of these a quarter. Hopefully I won’t have to attend next year but if you did more I am sure I would be very happy to have more sessions earlier to help get prepared better earlier. Many thanks again.”