Kent Wine School, Tunbridge Wells, 12 March 2020
The evening before I visited Ferah for my Turkish lunch, I took a trip to Tunbridge Wells for some wine tasting. The lovely folks at Kent Wine School had invited me to a tasting and, as you might expect, I had jumped at the chance. As someone who’s partial to a glass or few of wine, I like to try to sound knowledgeable and so, pre-lockdown when the evenings were still dark, my trusty tasting companion, Cathy and I strayed from Tonbridge and popped along to the Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells to learn more.
The Kent Wine School was established in 2012 as the Sussex Wine School and changed its name in 2018. Jonny and Victoria, owners and tutors, both have alcohol-fuelled careers, spanning the globe and many alcoholic drinks, not just of the grape variety.
Victoria was our tutor for the evening entitled ‘Posh or Plonk’ where we would learn more about why we like certain wines. Fortunately, this would then help us in the booze aisles in the future to find some good deals and try some new wines.
For some reason I had expected to be standing up but actually we were seated, with platters of cheese and charcuterie laid out, the obligatory water to cleanse the palate like any good wine taster knows, bottles of wine mysteriously encased in covers so that they couldn’t be identified and three other couples.
Throughout the evening, Victoria educated us on the geography of wine, the importance of the terroir, the climate, irrigation and wine classifications with some well-thought out, detailed slides. Every few slides we would stop for a slurp of wine (I didn’t master the sucking in over the top of the wine; too worried I’d dribble) and a table conflab on what we could smell, taste, how long the taste lingered and other winey details.
The actual tasting was the most fun part, naturally. I’m not going to tell you which was posh or plonk as I don’t want to spoil it for you should you go but needless to say, there were a few surprises and a lot of education. It’s so interesting how we all taste and smell differently: sometimes, for me, a smell was overwhelming whilst others couldn’t pick it up at all and other times, the group were saying they could taste gooseberries, chocolate (chocolate??!!), apples and the like and I could just taste, well, wine. But no answer is wrong, according to Victoria so I didn’t feel like a plonker. Victoria did advise us that the way to improve your taste and smell senses was just to take the time (perfect for lockdown) to smell and taste everything you eat that little bit more – when you bite into an apple, really savour it, focussing on the taste and smell of it.
The group was great – no wine snobs, just a group of lovely people who like wine!
We really enjoyed the evening. My friend was rather profound about it actually:
“I’d never been to a wine tasting before and it took about four glasses before I had the courage to voice an opinion on what I could or could not smell or taste. That said, it was an incredibly interesting and fun experience. The pace of it and the knowledge of Victoria were excellent. I loved learning how vines that struggle and have to work hard against all the odds are vines that produce the most robust and expensive wines. I work in an SEN setting and so it hit a chord with me that those who face significant challenges can succeed not despite the challenges but as a result of them. It’s an analogy I’ll remember!”
Kent Wine School are hosting online tastings at the moment during coronavirus so this could be a great idea for a group of girlfriends, couples or even a work social. I am looking into it for a group at the moment too – that’s how much I enjoyed it. And if you want to add another string to your bow during lockdown, you can sign-up to gain some wine qualifications! Now that is a fun way to make lockdown time go faster!
The tickets for the evening were £30 each and this included tasting six wines as well as the food and presentation. The Kent Wine School kindly invited me so my ticket was free but that has not influenced my views; I remain impartial.