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The Ham. & High - 8th January 2009


From an article by Liz Sagues, Louis Roederer Reginal Wine Writer of the Year, 2005.

Rather more relaxed learning come in specialist courses. Way back, when I first took a serious interest in wine, Lena Inger was a great mentor at an evening class.

Ever since, whenvever I've recommended courses run by Lena and her fellow tutors at the Wine Education Service, the feedback has been very positive indeed. Much of what they offer is in Ham & High land or nearby - centres include South Hampstead High School, the London School of Economics and locations in the City, with introductory courses starting this month and next on most evenings of the week.

Cost of the eight two-hour sessions incliding all wine and a detailed course manual is £210 and the system is flexible enough to allow students to swap date or place if they can't make a session.

For details, see www, or phone 020-8991-8212.

There are higher level courses and one-day wine workshops too, all an excellent investment for future wine enjoyment.

The Guardian- 6th September 2008


Champagne is Hadley Freeman's favourite drink. We sent her to an evening tasting.

It all begins with an erotic whisper. Or, if you're in a less romantic mood, a nun's fart. "That's the sound the champagne cork should make when you ease it out of the bottle," explains Sandy Leckie, our teacher, cradling a bottle in his arms. He pauses for a second, gazing at the cradled object as if it were an infant babe. Then he uncorks it, so tenderly that it does indeed whisper (or fart, if you must) - certainly there is nothing as coarse as a pop.

" Never shake the bottle like racing drivers do," shudders his co-teacher, "business and life partner" Lena Inger. Does it bruise the alcohol? "It's just so naff!"

Lena and Sandy run champagne tasting courses. Which must be a nice line of work, judging from their anecdotes about visiting vineyards around the world.

In fact, they met on a champagne course, when Lena taught Sandy - "I taught him everything he knows" - and they make for a fabulous double act, one pouring, the other teaching. Champagne is clearly a subject on which they are equally passionate. In our two-hour class, there is a pause for a full-on 10-minute debate between the two about what pudding goes best with champagne. Strawberry pavlova is decreed to have a level of sweetness that would compete with the champagne. Instead, Sandy suggests, "just have strawberries with champagne poured over them - very healthy".

Champagne is far and away my favourite drink, particularly (and yes, I know this is wrong) pink champagne, which is also, I once read somewhere, the favourite drink of Chantelle from Big Brother. "Pink champagne is getting an increasingly classy image," says Lena, soothingly.

When I first heard about this tasting evening, I imagined it would take place in an elegant salon or perhaps a dark and woody cellar. Instead, the instructions read "Conference Room 5, Skills and Learning Centre", which isn't so romantic. But it turns out to be apt, because the class, although very jolly (after testing eight champagnes - no spitting - I can barely walk out), has a definite emphasis on learning. Sandy and Lena start with the announcement that Britain is "the second biggest consumer of champagne after France" which, judging from my and my friends' consumption, comes as no surprise. My other favourite fact is that you should "always" buy champagne in bulk, "purely for economical reasons". So very, very true. The other tip Lena gives is that "usually, the most expensive champagnes are the best - but that doesn't mean they're necessarily worth the price". Someone asks about Woolworths launching its own-brand champagne for a fiver a bottle. Lena's face falls several inches in palpable distress.

We note our views on each champagne's appearance, smell and taste. "Look for finesse, complexity and dryness," urges Lena. I'm still struggling to think of any descriptions other than "yellow" and "pale yellow", but others are now bandying around phrases like "hint of raspberry on the tongue" and "a yeasty scent". I look over at the chart of my drinking companion, who has tagged along for the evening. "Polished and zesty," he has written in the taste box for the Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve. I think he is getting into this.

Determined not to be beaten, I firmly note that the blanc de blancs from Waitrose is "very citrus". "So what did you all think of the blanc de blancs?" asks Lena. "Not very citrussy, is it?" But no matter. While I might never get a handle on the connoisseur's terms (how can a drink smell "buttery"? Does butter even smell?), I do learn an enormous amount, not least that there is, actually, a huge variety in taste as opposed to always tasting (as I'd always suspected, and this is by no means a criticism) like carbonated white wine. My favourite is the Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve (one of the more expensive bottles, of course) and I feel a small glow when Lena says that it is very popular, but any pride is quashed when the word "mainstream" passes her lips. Perhaps the biggest triumph, though, is that after a night of steady champagne chugging, I can't face any of the stuff for almost a month. And that really is a result of sorts.

Hadley's tasting was run by the Wine Education Service:

Woman & Home Magazine - September 2007


"Learning abot wine has given me so much more confidence"

Erica Weindorf, 39, wanted to know more about her favourite wines, so she signed up for a wine tasting course in her area. She lives in London.

“I've always enjoyed drinking wine with my friends, but sometimes felt silly looking at wine lists and not understanding what I was choosing. The course was so enjoyable and the tutors took us through different types of wine, from Bordeaux to Merlot, and what to look for in a good wine. Now when I'm out with friends, they pass me the wine list and I choose the drinks.”

Erica's one-day course was with The Wine Education Service and cost £110. For details, call (020) 8991 8212 or visit

The Times - Careers Supplement - January 19, 2006


Consider the scenario. You’re at a restaurant, the wine list is thrust into your hand, your client, who is French, politely suggests that you choose, and you don’t know how to pronounce a single one of the listed vineyards, let alone hold forth about what they’re like. Sound familiar?

More professionals are now interested in wine as a result of a wider awareness in the media, better educated sales staff and films such as Sideways, but “wine choice angst” persists. So why not take a course?

"Our clients generally want more confidence in dealing with their own clients when they’re entertaining,” says Sandy Leckie, a director of the Wine Education Service, a London-based wine course which ministers to some 2,000 students a year, many of them corporates. “There’s still huge angst — mostly because of the relative obscurity of European wine labels, in particular French ones, which still inspire a lot of awe.”

For £195 in London (£185 elsewhere), you get an eight-week introductory course covering all the major wine-producing regions, as well as techniques for tasting, cellaring and storing. Subsequent courses allow you to cover a preferred region in more depth, and there are also one-day courses for the time-pressed (£110), as well as one-off tastings (from £30, depending on the wine).

For further costs, locations and dates visit:


Sunday Times - Simply Wine Supplement Part 1 - September 07, 2003


When wine's on the curriculum, Tim Clifford can't wait to get back to school

A rich golden fluid swirls around 14 glasses as tutor Quentin Sadler invites students on the Wine Education Service’s beginners course to release the aromas of an Urziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 1993. Quentin has helpfully written this long name on the board of our room at the LSE. Even better, he’s explained what it means. What he hasn’t done is prepare us for the wine’s smell.

To me, it reeks of petrol, although I’m sure everyone else will suggest “ripe persimmons”. When several people say petrol — one man even likens it to outboard engine diesel — I feel relieved. Quizzed by Quentin, we all agree there’s a hint of apple and lime, too.

Then we take a sip. The correct way to do this is to suck in air with the wine to release its flavours. Think Hannibal Lecter, liver, fava beans and a nice Chianti and you have the action. The riesling tastes honeyed, though Quentin suggests it also has a mineral quality. “Have any of you ever licked slate?” he asks. Some unusual homework beckons.

If, like me, your thirst for knowledge and thirst are aligned, structured courses are the logical place to start. Comprehensive ones are run by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (; 020 7236 3551), which can take you from amateur enthusiast to wine professional. The courses of the Wine Education Service (; 020 8992 8212) are more sociable, perhaps because the wines are swallowed rather than spat out.

The WES runs courses in Aberdeen, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and London. Over 8 weeks, students on the £185 course taste 48 wines. Along the way, they grow more confident talking about taste and smell, senses I soon realised I had taken for granted for far too long.

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