COVID-19 UPDATE (1 September 2020)
In line with current Government social distancing guidelines, wine school events scheduled from mid-March until the end of August, were postponed. We have resumed tastings at some of our venues in and, if you were due to attend an event, you will be contacted with details of the new dates. Don't worry if you can't make the tasting on the rearranged date - you will be advised of an extended period for which the ticket will be valid (which may be used on any similar events at the the school).
If it looks as if you haven’t received our email, please check your spam folder or, contact me for confirmation.
The managers of our venues at The Plough & Harrow (Harpenden), The County Club (St Albans) and Thompsons (St Albans) have implemented enhanced hygiene regimes and compliance with Government regulations. At each venue, the rooms are large enough to ensure adequate social distancing and, in addition, we have reduced the number of attendees premitted at each event.
Gift vouchers are still available, which will be delivered free of charge and will be valid for at least two years from the date of issue.
As a small, local, business we are extremely grateful for your understanding and continued support, and look forward to seeing you again soon.
David Rough, Hertfordshire Wine School
Revised Terms & Conditions (from 22 March 2020 until further notice)
In the event of cancellation of a wine school course, or tasting, as a result of COVID-19, due to take place up to, and including, 31 August 2020* we offer:
• free rebooking with no amendment fees; or
• free cancellation and a credit, equivalent to your original ticket price, to be used as payment for future events. This credit is valid for two years from the date of the original event
Any gift vouchers purchased during the same period, will be valid for use until 30 September 2022.
*Developments are being reviewed on an ongoing basis and this time period will be revised accordingly.
For our full Terms & Conditions please follow the link here or at the foot of this page.
Films about Wine
If you are stuck for something to watch, until you can get out again, you may like to read the Hertfordshire Wine School Film Blog, which first appeared in the June issue of our newsletter:
If, by now, you’re done with your ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Fleabag’ and ‘The Sopranos’ box sets, you might fancy a wine-related movie instead. Every once in a while a wine film is released, often to mixed reviews. But, some stand the test of time and, this month, we run down some of the best – all of which are available on major streaming platforms. So, grab a bottle, dim the lights and kick back in front of these.
Uncorked (2020) A new ‘feel good’ movie about a young man from Memphis, Mamoudou Athie, who defies the odds, and his Dad, in his quest to achieve the notoriously challenging Master Sommelier qualification. Undemanding Lockdown viewing – a bit formulaic in its treatment of the ‘Father-Son relationship’ but enough here to keep wine fans interested. Where? Netflix. Rating – 3 grapes (out of 5)
Sour Grapes (2016) A fascinating documentary which follows an investigation into the mysterious Rudy Kurniawan, who, in the early 2000s began selling his stock of, mostly, fake wine, to a bunch of unsuspecting billionaires. The film lays bare the some of the pretensions, ‘must have’ attitudes and extortionate prices at play in some small corners of the wine world. Also confirms that blind-tasting can make a mug out of anyone. Where? Amazon Prime (£3.49) or Netflix. Rating – 4 grapes (out of 5)
Bottle Shock (2008) Based on a true story and starring the late, great, Alan Rickman who plays the part of the equally great, Steven Spurrier and the 'Judgement of Paris'. Spurrier had visited Napa Valley in the mid-1970s and, keen to show the quality of Californian wines to a sceptical French audience, organised the now famous blind-tasting competition. You can guess what happened next. The term ‘Bottle Shock’ relates to a temporary sickness, which can occur immediately after bottling and which, in this case, almost scuppered the success of the whole venture. The film also stars Bill Pullman and Chris Pine and, whilst it gets the ‘Hollywood treatment’ is, nonetheless, enjoyable and highly watchable. Where? Amazon Prime (free to Prime Members). Rating – 4 grapes (out of 5)
Sideways (2005) The original and the best. A story of two guys (above) on a stag tour of the wine country in the area north of Santa Barbara, in California, and the doomed attempt by Miles (Paul Giamatti) to educate Jack (Thomas Haden Church) in the finer points of wine. Also starring Sandra Oh (from ‘Killing Eve’) the movie was partially shot in real vineyards and wineries, most of whom are still making hay on the back of the film’s success. Is it a comedy, a love story, or a film about wine? All three, actually, and more. A rollicking good yarn and now a modern American classic. You’re going to need a bottle of Pinot Noir for this one. Where? Amazon Prime (£3.49). Rating – 5 grapes (out of 5)
Or, if you prefer to read, here's the Wine School Book Recommendations from our July Newsletter
There is plenty of reading material available to oenophiles keen to learn more about the technical aspects of the wine world and it’s not difficult to find books on grape varieties, vine growing, winemaking, food pairing and tasting. But, wine fans seeking a bit more narrative are also well looked after and, this month, we precis five of the best Summer holiday, or ‘Lockdown’, books about wine. These are not novels but factual accounts of wine adventures, or journeys, and written in way that makes them genuine page-turners.
The Ripening Sun by Patricia Atkinson The true story of an English woman’s attempt to establish a vineyard near Bergerac, following the debilitating illness of her husband. Against all the odds, and with some kind and generous help from local villagers, Patricia Atkinson transformed the unpromising land into a working vineyard which, in time supplied wine to Majestic and other UK retailers.
Wine and War: The French, the Nazis and France's Greatest Treasure by Donald and Petie Kladstrup If you enjoy wine and history, this account of the industry’s struggle for survival in occupied France is for you. There are heroic, touching and sometimes farcical, tales of how major producers managed to conceal cellars of bottled wine and protect vineyards from their oppressors.
Judgement of Paris by George M Taber The only journalist present at the now legendary 1976 contest, tells the tale of how Steven Spurrier persuaded leading French winemakers to allow their wines to be blind-tasted against those from California. Featuring profiles of the major players the book also goes on to explore the global ramifications for the wine industry and how the door was opened for New World wine producers to challenge the old order.
Phylloxera by Christy Campbell An unpromising subject-matter – a louse that destroys vines – makes for fascinating reading. When vines in the Southern Rhone began to wither and die in the mid-1860s, the French Government offered a reward of 300,000 gold francs for a remedy to deal with the pest, which had been accidentally introduced from America. A decade later, a solution, of sorts, had been found and is still employed around the world today.
Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker Published in 2017 ‘Cork Dork’ is the story of Bianca Bosker’s transformation from Journalist to sommelier in the cut and thrust world of New York’s restaurants and wine bars. Hilarious and exhausting in equal measure, the book follows her journey from ‘cellar rat’ to acceptance into a life of elite tasting groups, sommelier qualifications and other wine circles. Along the way she regales her readers with some of the facts, fiction, myths, pretensions and sheer pleasures of wine tasting.
And, when you’ve finished all those, two more honourable mentions for ‘Tasting Victory: The Life and Times of the World’s Favourite Sommelier’ by Gerard Basset and ‘Bursting Bubbles: A Secret History of Champagne and the Rise of the Great Growers’ by Robert Walters