The Manchester school where drinking wine is on the curriculum

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When I signed up for Manchester Wine School at The Lowry Hotel last Saturday I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  Waistcoat-wearing experts with spoons round their necks or a load of wine-guzzling amateurs like me.

As I walked into a back room of the River Restaurant at the Lowry Hotel, making my excuses for being one minute late (thankfully I wasn’t the last one in) and squeezed past the backs of people’s chairs to get to my seat, I was already starting to think maybe five hours of this on a Saturday, with a slight hangover, wasn’t a great idea.

About half an hour later, I’d made my mind up that I couldn’t have picked a better way to spend my day. Not only hair of the dog, but some great company and a bit of education thrown in.

So what did we learn and what did we drink?

We started with some basic tasting skills which we put to good use throughout the day. Taking a look at the colour can help distinguish older wines from younger wines. Has it got legs, or viscosity if you want to use the correct terminology? Third is the nose, think about those smells, is it fruity, floral, spicy or vegetal even? And finally, slurp, swirl and coat the mouth, and taste for sweet/dry, any tannins, body, alcohol content and finally length. Then we’re good to go.

Then we looked at countries, regions, climate, grapes and other interesting titbits as we tasted the wines.

My two favourite wines of the day were the Dark Horse chardonnay, a great example for a very reasonable £8 (Ocado). It’s from California, which produces 90% of wines from the USA, where the climate is ideal for this grape with warm days but with the added cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean. This is a warming, big and rounded, rich white with flavours of baked apple, pear, caramel and brown spice. It has a lingering, smooth finish, and went down well with those in the group that usually prefer red wine.

For my red I’m choosing Gran Fabrica Gran Reserva 2006 from Carinena in Spain. Not only was it a neat little berry-tasting spicy red for only £6 (Tesco) but it cleared up some of my confusion with rioja in general. The tempranillo grape from which it is made is usually divided into three categories, Crianza which has a minimum 2 years of ageing, Reserva which has a minimum of 3 years ageing, and Gran Reserva which has a minimum of 5 years ageing. So now I know.

Nick Hoyle and Phil Eastwood, our two qualified wine teachers for the day, made us feel relaxed from the off and at no point did we feel like we were at back at school.

Manchester Wine School don’t sell any wine at their events. They just teach so they aren’t tied to any suppliers and source the best of what’s out there.

These fun and informal events are for people who really enjoy wine and want to learn a bit more about it, whether beginners or more experienced quaffers. They also teach professional WSET qualifications for anyone who wants to take their learning a bit further.

The day costs £85 which includes all thirteen wines you get to taste, plus a very good two course lunch (it is The Lowry).

So whether it’s a lovely birthday gift, something fun to do with your friends or even a corporate day out (much better than paint balling) visit www.manchesterwineschool.com and find out more.

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