You’re handed the wine menu and the panic sets in. Chardonnay. Yes, I’ve heard of that one. Shall I go for something French? They’re supposed to be the best, aren’t they? A decision is made through a method that greatly resembles pinning a tail on a paper donkey whilst blindfolded. The wine is brought to your table, a small amount is poured into your glass, you concentrate hard and take your first sip. Lo and behold, you’re not impressed. “I just don’t like wine,” you think, yet you continue to wonder why everyone else makes such a fuss about it.
That was me. Thirty eight years old, having stuck with water at most lunches and dinners because drinking wine gave me no joy. It wasn’t just the pleasure I sought, however. I longed to have a basic understanding of wine, if only to be able to grasp the most important bits and follow a conversation about it.
I contacted Andrew a few days before my husband’s birthday, realising that I had, as usual, left his present to the eleventh hour. Having always preferred gifts that made memories over ones that were material, I wondered whether a wine course for newbies might be a good idea. I explained that my husband and I knew nothing about wine; that we just wanted to get the basics so that we could navigate a wine list a little better and not feel like fish out of water if ever the topic of wine was brought up. He was accommodating and infectiously enthusiastic, and asked whether I would like to put a group of 8-10 people together myself or allow him to group us with others who had shown a similar interest. Taking a gamble, I opted for the latter, a decision that would prove to be a brilliant one an hour into our first session.
Through this wine appreciation course, Andrew has given us exactly that – an appreciation; for the variety, the process, the methods, the smells, the tastes, the everything. He’s walked us through the most important stuff and broke it down into fun, bite-size pieces, taking his passion and immense knowledge on the subject and delivering it in a way that we could absorb it. I can now proudly declare that I know which wines I like and which I do not, and can more confidently choose my wine when dining out. The experience of going out to eat, too, has been transformed. Selecting our wine and trying new ones has become an integral part of the experience, and one we can enjoy together as a couple.
Each and every one of those five evenings was wonderful. They were a great excuse to get out, enjoy the conversation of adults (I should mention that we are parents of young children), form new friendships, learn something new with my better half, and enjoy great wine over great dinners. I cannot recommend this experience enough.
Our final session was bittersweet, knowing that our weekly appointment was no longer. Judging by the many nudges and hints Andrew received from the group as we said our goodbyes, however, it is clear that we are far from done with the subject. An ‘Advanced Wine Appreciation Course’ of sorts is definitely on the cards, and we have unanimously volunteered ourselves to be Andrew’s first cohort. And then who knows? Perhaps a third round in the valleys of Champagne or Tuscany? We await the encore, eager to discover more of the bottled poetry that we have finally been taught to read.