My first year in wine

If you had asked me this time last year what the grapes in champagne were or to name which region and a left and right bank, I would have looked at you quite blankly.  Then in June it all changed.  At the time I was writing a food blog and wanted to improve the way I described flavours and aromas and I also wanted to start recommending wines for the recipes I was creating.  So I signed up for the WSET level 1 course in London and haven’t looked back.  In the short time since then my life has been a whirlwind of tastings, visits, courses and of course drinking.

Here are a few of the highlights:

In August we visited the Hennessy site in Cognac.  A brilliant tour in a stunning part of France.  Unfortunately this photo is the only one where it wasn’t tipping it down!  We were actually in Bordeaux but left early because of the rain.

The alcohol fumes or Angel’s share that hits you when you enter this room is incredible.  This barrel contains brandy as old as me!

From Cognac and Bordeaux we headed to Reims and the Mumm factory.

I was supposed to be driving us back up to Calais as my husband had driven us up from near La Rochelle but who could say no to all the lovely glasses of fizzy.  So my husband ended up driving us all the way home.

But it hasn’t all been trips to France.  I have also attended some more local events including The Wine Show at Olympia where I sampled some lovely English wines, including a selection from Nyetimber.

I also attend the Avery’s Portugal tasting hosted by Charles Metcalfe, a delight in itself, that was culminated with a rendition of the Vintners’ Song by Charles and John Avery.  The event was hosted in the stunning cellars underneath the main store – what a fantastic place to work.

For Christmas there was another jaunt back to France and my tasting of the year – a (very) small glass of Château d’Yquem 1998 at the O Chateau restaurant and wine bar.  Now I just have to save up to try some more.

To anyone planning a trip to Paris I recommend O Chateau – fantastic food accompanied by some amazing wines (thanks to the wine dispenser system).

I have also visited the less romantic but equally fascinating Accolade Wines distribution centre at Avonmouth.  Millions of bottles and boxes of wine are processed here every year in their 400,000 sq metre manufacturing hall, something which requires incredible efficiency and planning.

Now as much as my friends and family believe that my new career and studies are nothing but an endless round of drinking, I must protest.  This year I have studied for WSET levels 1-3 and started an MBA in Wine Business Management with the Royal Agricultural College – at times it has been enough to melt my brain.

But what are my plans for the year ahead?  I have started the WSET level 4 diploma in Bristol – and can feel my brain already starting to protest.  We are also planning a road trip to Tuscany, Umbria and back up through either Burgundy or Provence (I know it’s a hard life!).  I will also try to attend as many trade events and tastings as possible as this seems to be the best (and cheapest) way of trying as many wines as possible, and committing them to memory ready for next year’s big exams.

Wine of the year:

Skillogalee Liqueur Muscat from Great Western Wines in Bath.  Truly outstanding – amazing concentration of flavours, perfect with chocolate desserts.



  1. Happy anniversary! Great post and amazing journey & highlights. Very jealous of you trying that Yquem (although not ready to spend £70 on a glass yet…!).
    May 2012 be as rich and successful to you!
    Count on me and the WSET course for some hundreds more tastings! ;))

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