Our WSET Level 2 Weekend Course Begins

Session one - morning

The round of introductions on the first morning of the WSET Level 2 course at The Wine Parlour in South London showed that our group was interested in wine for many reasons – a few of us had jobs linked to wine or were considering a career change, others had been given the course as a Christmas present and some just wanted to learn more about wine, knowing nothing other than how enjoyable it is to drink…

One of the first things we learnt was how, whilst we’ll be learning how to describe the wine’s aromas and flavours using the WSET’s systematic approach, this will never be a fully objective process because people’s sensitivities to certain tastes differ. Our teacher Melanie demonstrated this by passing round small strips of paper which we were instructed to keep on our tongue until they started to taste unpleasantly bitter – as we took them out one by one, we saw what she meant: some of us had tasted the bitterness faster than others.

We went on to meet our laminated guide to how to taste wine – this will be our best friend over the next three weeks as it provides a structure to what to describe when you taste a wine and how to describe it. It seems quite complicated, but it’s actually format sticks to how you would naturally approach a glass of wine: start with its appearance, follow with what you smell and finally what you taste.

Seeing as by now we’d heard the theory (and it was past midday), it was time to put it into practice and taste our first two wines. As our sense of taste and smell is closely linked, Melanie demonstrated a technique reminiscent of Chinese noodle slurping, through which you can maximise the impact of the flavours to help you identify them. So, within two hours of meeting each other, we were practising our sniffing, slurping and spitting (in theory anyway), before taking a well-earned break for lunch…


Session one - afternoon

After a delicious selection of cheese and charcuterie, washed down with a crisp glass of German Riesling, we were feeling very relaxed as we returned for our afternoon session. But there was no time for an afternoon snooze, as we were keen to meet our grapes of the afternoon – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are next up for our WSET Level 2 course.

Chardonnay is an unusually versatile grape variety, capable of growing in a range of different climates and producing different flavours depending on the conditions in the vineyard and winemaking techniques used. White Burgundies are famed throughout the world, with French winemakers expertly using the process of malolactic fermentation (MLF) to soften harsh acids and add a weighty, creamy texture to their wines. Other examples, such as the Chablis we tasted, see no oak or MLF, allowing the grape’s delicate, pure fruit flavours to shine through – something we appreciated in the notes of lemon, crisp apple and minerality common to wines from this village. The example we tasted from California demonstrated how, in hotter climates, Chardonnay will express riper, tropical fruits such as mango or banana, as well as a more creamy lemon.

Pinot Noir, on the other hand, is known for being a difficult grape variety to grow. This is unfortunate as it widely appreciated for producing wines that are extremely easy to drink, a reputation it doesn’t have for nothing, as we learnt from the deliciously spicy Spätburgunder we tried, with notes of strawberries, red cherries and plums – and no, the wine didn’t dilute our concentration – Spätburgunder is the German word for Pinot Noir, and in fact Germany produces some of the finest examples of this grape in the world. Sadly, our second Pinot Noir failed to live up to the first, unusually expressing a very different personality on the nose than on the palate and showing us why wines are sometimes described as confused. At the end of the session, we leave fairly exhausted but eager to see what wines Melanie has in store for us next week.

WSET - Week Three & the blind tasting!!

As I made my way to The Wine Parlour on this rainy Monday in South London, I wondered what Melanie had in store for us this week… it is already week three of our WSET Level 3 course! Never failing to surprise, when we arrived we were confronted with our first ‘mock exam’ – two wines to taste and describe on two, very blank, pieces of paper.

So far, we’ve had Melanie prompting us about what we need to describe and, of course, giving us clues as to what we might be identifying in the wine. But apparently there’s no time like the present to give it a go alone and so we got peering, sniffing, swirling and sipping and spent 30 minutes scratching our heads and changing our minds.  The WSET Level 3 exam has a separate blind tasting element to the exam, so this experience is very valuable.

Whilst going solo was an unnerving experience, it taught us the kind of valuable lessons you only learn by making the mistake yourself. For example, don’t forget to state the wine’s development in the nose section (we’re not at WSET Level 2 anymore) and… be strict about time keeping! Half an hour disappears surprisingly quickly when you’re deliberating just how much saliva your mouth is producing after a sip (an indicator of acidity) or peering into your red wine glass and wondering whether you can see the stem clearly enough for its colour to be described as light rather than medium.

Finally, Melanie rewarded us with our cheese and charcuterie platter and a detailed account of the winemaking process: once they are harvested, the grapes are taken to the winery, where they will be treated, fermented and left to mature in accordance with the kind of wine that the winemaker wants to produce. Whilst some elements are common to the process of making any wine, some choices – for example length of skin contact or the kind of vessel used for maturation – can be used to achieve a certain style of wine. The grapes have not quite reached our glasses yet, but they’re certainly getting closer…


Week Two For Our WSET Level 3 Students

In week two of our WSET Level 3 wine course, our focus shifted from describing the wine to learning about the beginning of the grapes’ journey from seed to becoming the wine in our glass, with our topic of natural factors in the vineyard. The important factors are the soil, grapes, climate and the weather (in case, like me, you wondered what the difference is, the former doesn’t change from year-to-year, whereas the latter varies on a daily basis).

The influence of these factors can be detected in the wine, and it turns out that they provide further clues as to why the wine tastes the way it does, and Melanie gave us an exercise to demonstrate how this works in practice. Firstly, we described the colour intensity, tannins, acidity and flavour characteristics you would typically expect from four grape varieties. Then, she gave us two red wines to taste. The task? Identify which grape the wine came from.

This turned out to be just as difficult as identifying aromas, although with our helpful flipchart of typical characteristics, once we’d written our tasting note it was something of a game of mix and match. It would have been too easy if everything had fit perfectly though, so in the end it was put to the vote – with a narrow, but justified, win for Merlot. Both wines were high in acidity (not medium as you’d expect of Merlot) and this had set some of us on the wrong track; a good lesson that wines don’t always give you the flavours you’d expect from a grape.

Some characteristics didn’t lie though, with the riper fruit of the Napa Valley bottle expressing the hotter climate in California. Most importantly of all, I could genuinely taste the prune! One step on from week one and things are already starting to make more sense…

Our Latest WSET Level 3 Course Begins!

Session one of the WSET Level 3 course kicked off on a cold January evening in South London last week, with Melanie welcoming our group and going through the course programme. Our journey will see us taste 60 – 70 wines and learn about the factors that influence style, quality and price, with visits to some of the world’s major wine-growing regions along the way.

At Level 3, students learn how to taste wine and assess it using the WSET’s standardised technique. This means that we’ll be able to take a few sips of any glass of wine and give a precise description of how it tastes, an explanation of why it tastes the way it does, as well as a reasoned – and objective – evaluation of its quality. A step up from the Level 2 course is that we’ll also learn to determine whether a wine is ready for drinking and/or has potential for ageing, another vital skill for anyone investing money or anticipation in a cellar full of wine!

Exciting as this prospect is, on day one it certainly feels as if we’ve got a long way to go to reach our destination… “time to get drinking”, you might think. But our teacher Melanie is no walkover, and before a drop passes our lips, we need our ‘phrasebook’ – the vocabulary defined by the WSET to describe a wine’s appearance, nose and palate. This is what we’ll use each time we taste a wine and so it’s vital we become comfortable using the terms on the (helpfully laminated) tasting card we’ve been given.   

Finally, we hear that long-awaited ‘phut’ of a cork being removed from a bottle and we’re on our way… with Melanie’s guidance, a taste of four wines shows us how we can apply the technique and reach an assessment. We certainly need her to hold our hand for the moment, but we’ve taken our first steps and will be back for more next week… 

Our on-line Wine Shop goes live!

Our on-line wine shop is now live - please take a look at www.winesbychix.com.

We have put a lot of effort into passionately describing our wines, offering tasting videos, aroma wheels, and much much more.  If you live locally we will deliver your wine for free, or you can come and collect it and enjoy a glass of champagne on us.


New Artist Luke Adam Hawker is in the house!!

Last year we really enjoyed showcasing Martin Grover's artwork here at The Wine Parlour.  So for 2016, we are very pleased to have a new artist, Luke Adam Hawker, exhibiting his work with us.

Luke is a practising Artist, Designer, Illustrator.  He studied Interior Architecture and Design at Nottingham Trent University, this architectural background is evident within his work. Drawing on location in pen and ink, Luke's main focus is London's architecturally rich urban environment and our interaction with it.

Please do take a look at his work next time you are with us.  You can buy his work at The Wine Parlour, or by visiting his web-site http://www.lukeadamhawker.com/

Small Business Saturday - THIS SATURDAY!!!

£10 off a case of wine - Saturday only - 12pm - 7pm here at The Wine Parlour

Small Business Saturday UK is a grass-roots campaign which exists to support, promote and inspire small businesses, on the first Saturday in December, and beyond.  We are proud to be a small business here in Brixton and be part of Small Business Saturday.  Small businesses make a real difference to your local area.  Show your support by shopping with your local small businesses on Saturday.

Come into The Wine Parlour and get £10 off a case wine during the day!

Our favourite Tweet of the Month so far!!

We love it when customers share their experiences of The Wine Parlour on social media.  Here is a great photo from chef, Walter Ishizuka.  If you are enjoying a special moment with us, whether it is in a Wine Tasting, Sherry Tasting, WSET Level 2 Course, or just a glass of something special at the barrel, please share it with us!

Sherry Tasting At The Wine Parlour

Lovely Sherry Tasting evening in The Wine Parlour on Thursday evening.

Sherry really is a fascinating subject and people love rediscovering it during our Sherry Tastings.  We take you right the way through the full range of Sherry's from dry to sweet including Fino en Rama, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, and Pedro Ximenez.  We explain the key differences between the two different types of Sherry  - Fino & Oloroso.  One of the things we love about Sherry is it's history and part of the evening is spent sharing the wonderful story of sherry with people.  Visit the wine courses page to find out more about this tasting.

Our WSET Level 2 Courses continue

Our WSET Level 2 courses here in Brixton, South London are already half way through the syllabus!

Students have been busy learning about Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as other important aspects of the WSET Level 2 course such as wine with food, and the factors affecting wine style, quality and price!

Our approach to delivering WSET Courses is different to many other schools.  We work in small groups rather than larger classes, we encourage discussion rather than just listening, and we work across different teaching methods, from the text book, to presentations, to films and videos, to work shop style discussions.  We believe this creates a more relaxed atmospher which allows people to learn more and enjoy their WSET courses at the same time! 

If you would like to talk about doing one of our WSET courses next year, please pop in and speak to us.  Our WSET Level 2 Courses in London can also be booked on line by clicking here

Sherry Wine Flight - £5.00

Through out September of flight of the month is Sherry!

Taste, drink and discover your way through three stunning Sherries from Jerez, the home of Sherry in Spain.  

Sherry1           Manzanilla, light and dry

Profile :           Dry and slightly nutty

Pair with :       Almonds, olives and seafood

Sherry 2          Amontillado, medium body and dry

Profile :           Hazelnuts and slightly salty

Pair with :       White meat, oily fish and mature cheese

Sherry 3          Pedro Ximenez, intense and sweet

Profile :           Dates, figs

Our Sherry Wine Flight makes the perfect introduction to our Sherry Tasting Course here in London.  Speak to one of our team, or click on the link for more information. 

The WSET Level 2 in South London - Class of 2015

Our latest Wine & Spirit Educational Trust (WSET) Level 2 course began on Tuesday.  The atmosphere was fantastic with people making new friends whilst learning about wine with our WSET course tutor, Melanie.

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing the experiences of our course participants and also adding some wine hints, tips, and important information to help people want to do the WSET Level 2 qualification.

Good luck to everyone in the group - we know you are going to have A LOT of fun!

Congratulations to our first WSET Level 2 Distinction Award Student!

As you may have already read, we have recently completed our first Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 course here in The Wine Parlour, in South London. 

We are delighted to say that one of students received the highest award - a Distinction.  Congratulations Mateusz!!

We have WSET Level 2 and Level 3 courses running right here Brixton, so if you would like to learn more about wine, please take a look and find out more information by clicking here

The Wine List Uncovered - Join our wine tasting course on Saturday 19th at 2pm!

On Saturday 19th September we are holding our first "The Wine List Uncovered" wine tasting here in the Tasting Room at The Wine Parlour.

We are often asked about pairing wines with food, or which wine to try next if you have something you already enjoy.  We have developed this wine course / wine tasting to give people more confidence the next time they visit a restaurant and peruse the wine list.

Chix explains "Finding a new wine or enjoying something different which has been inspired by an old favourite are great ways to explore wine.  Our customers often say that in a restaurant however, they feel slightly nervous about taking the plunge and trying something new.  We have developed this wine tasting to specifically address these concerns.  The course will show people how to have a discussion with the wine waiter or sommelier, and how to recognise something that will be exciting to you on the wine menu."  

For more information or to make a booking click here!