Ex- marketing executive Heidi Cullip quit her corporate job when she fell in love with wine, and hopes to instil the same passion in her students

A new wine school hopes to take the snobbery out of enjoying the fruit of the vine with “fun, informal” courses and tastings.

Heidi Cullip held her inaugural North London Wine School course last month at Camden Town’s Irish Centre.

The former marketing executive lined up six different grape varieties from both supermarkets and independents for her Introduction to Wine Tasting evening.

“The people coming have been nervous if they’ve never done it before. There can still be that stigma of feeling you are not in the club,” she says.

“But we are all about fun and informal winetasting for everybody. People can come along with friends as a social event or alone to learn something new.”

Cullip had “always loved wine” and enjoyed trying interesting new bottles with like-minded friends but bit the bullet when she took a six month sabbatical to travel around South and North America.

Meeting producers and learning about different grape varieties was a life changing experience.

“I realised this makes me happy. I was determined to make a career out of wine and make it part of my daily life.”

Heidi took a WSSET course (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) course, and also volunteered at harvesting in The Mount Vineyard in Shoreham, Sussex.

She now runs tastings and private events but says once her friends thought of her as a connoisseur many “refused to even look at the wine list when we eat out”.

“They say ‘you choose’, but being into wine doesn’t turn you into a snob. I’ll happily drink a £6 bottle of prosecco.”

She hopes to give course participants greater “breadth” in their wine tastes.

“People say ‘I only drink Pinot Grigio’ ‘I don’t drink reds’. It’s comfortable to stick to what you know and not try something new. People don’t want to make a mistake. But I want to help them understand their own taste, their preferred grape varieties and where to buy them – instead of getting what’s on offer from a supermarket in their weekly shop a good local independent will talk you through what you like, start to build a relationship and contact you when something interesting comes in.”

She adds that wine courses are about making better decisions.

“They have an idea that wine has to be expensive and are shocked when they taste one they really like for £8.99. There’s great wine out there for under £10 if you know where to look.”

Many worry about swilling and spitting at tastings but Cullip has “seen it all and done it all” and reassures that “it’s a bit like smoking and not inhaling most people just drink it.”

She finds huge satisfaction in running courses for total beginners.

“A whole world opens up for them, they come with no knowledge whatsoever and leave with an enormous amount of knowledge and confidence and a little spark of interest. I enjoy seeing that in people.”

The next North London Wine School ‘Christmas Sparkling Wines and Champagne is on November 17 at the London Irish Centre in Camden Town, at 7pm. Participants will taste quality Champagne and compare it to the best sparkling wines from cool-climate locations around the world accompanied by matching food samples.

Price: £32.50. Bookings: northlondonwineschool.com