Wine: Recommendations for beginners

Anna Behrmann learns about a new wine tasting course at Bibendum

For those who hesitate over what bottle to bring; and who like a bit of red, but are never sure about white, there is a new wine course starting in Primrose Hill.

The Wondering Wine Company, part of Bibendum, are running a course for beginners, or for those who already have a taste for drink. The evening course offers an industry-recognised qualification, but wine educator Julia Bailey says that it can also be fun.

“Wine is such a social thing that it’s good to have just a bit of knowledge,” she explains. “If it’s just to drop in an anecdote at a dinner party, or so you can order something confidently on a wine list without feeling like a bit of an idiot, which a lot of Brits do, it’s quite a good skill to have.

“It means that you can just walk into a shop, and you’ll be able to understand what the majority of the wines are, what grapes you need to make them, where they come from, and more importantly, what they taste like, and whether you’d like to try them.”


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As part of the course, punters will sample styles of wine from around the world, including traditional wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux, Italian wines, Spanish wines; Rioja, Barolo, and new wines such as Australian Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc.

They’ll also learn a bit of the basic science behind winemaking. Bailey explains how wine is essentially fermented grape juice, and it’s possible to taste how the grapes have been treated. Winemakers can choose to store their wine in a stainless steel vat, or in an oak barrel, and it makes all the difference to the flavours that are brought out in the wine.

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Now 27, Bailey says that she first became interested in wine in her early 20s, while travelling in South America and lingering in the vineyards of Chile and Argentina. For anyone who is new to wine, and perhaps plans to stay in England, she suggests signing up to newsletters from wine magazines, or downloading a wine app.

Other than that, she recommends that people taste new wines often, to get a sense of their palate and, importantly, what they like – all in moderation, of course.

The course runs from September 16 for nine weeks on Wednesday evenings. To book, email winecourses@wonderingwine.com

Julia’s five recommended wines to get started with:

Chablis, from France, produces very elegant and delicate white wines. It’s made from the chardonnay grape variety, which not a lot of people realise.

At the complete other end of the spectrum for white wine, and for something that’s really aromatic and fruity, try Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, one of the biggest selling New Zealand wines in the UK market.

For people who like red wine, Malbec from Argentina is much more of a fruity, smooth, easy-drinking wine, and it’s really popular at the moment.

If you have a sweeter palate, and you tend to prefer fruit ciders to wine, try a rosé, such as Zinfandel Wine from California.

A red wine from Bordeaux, something like Haut-Médoc, is a classic, and great to accompany a roast dinner.

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