Tag Archives: wine

Learn all about wine in a day with WSET

Glasses in a row

In our blog this week we’d like to give you an insight into what the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 Award in Wines course is all about. Then you can decide whether it’s the right level for you.

What is WSET?

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) was founded in 1969 to provide high quality education and training in wines and spirits. Since then, WSET has grown into the foremost international body in the field of wines and spirits education, with a suite of sought-after qualifications.

The morning of the course

glassesinarow - 580 x 288You’ll be asked to arrive at The Vineyard at 9.30am for registration and refreshments before the course begins at 10am. The morning session covers what wine is, the different wine styles, an you get to learn about sweetness, body and other factors such as oak, tannin and acidity.


Tasting wines and grape varieties

While tasting many different wines you’ll then move onto learning all about how climate affects the grapes’ acidity and sweetness amongst others things and then you’ll move onto the principal grape varieties. There will be activities through the morning to test your knowledge and help you learn all the important facts you’ll need for the exam. Other topics covered include how wine is made, how to taste wine like a professional.

A lovely lunch at The Vineyard’s restaurant

This is always a good time to break for lunch where you’ll enjoy a three course lunch withVineyard-69 matching wines in The Vineyard’s elegant restaurant. James Hocking, the WSET tutor, will talk you through the wines and why they match so well with each course so you can get a more practical understanding of food and wine matching. Take a look at our current lunch menu

Storage and service of wine

After a leisurely lunch it’s back to the classroom! The storage and service of wine is covered, which looks into the service temperature of different styles of wine, which glasses to use for which wines, preparing glasses and opening a bottle of wine, and social responsibility when drinking, amongst other things.

Food and wine pairing and the systematic approach to tasting

Next, you’ll be given a little plate with different foods to try with different wines and James will go through what happens to wine when you eat something sweet and when you eat a food that’s bitter. This will also depend on the style of wine. This part is very interesting and interactive and helps you understand the relationship between food and wine and the skill required to get food and wine pairing right. It does take practice, so don’t expect to get it right first time! Through the course you will be following the systematic approach to tasting, which allows you to identify and describe wines in six easy steps; colour, condition, sweetness, body, flavour characteristics and other which often includes tannin and acidity.

The exam

The course ends with a 30 multiple choice questionnaire that will test your knowledge of everything you’ve learned throughout the day. You will hear in about three weeks or so as to whether you have passed and we’ll send you out your certificate and lapel pin.

Please click here to discover more about our WSET Level 1 Award in Wines course. If you think you may know many of the topics above, you can move straight to our WSET Level 2 course.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our WSET courses in the near future.

James Hocking
WSET Tutor

Wine Festival Weekend Round Up

We had an amazing start to the Wine Festival on Friday 18th October with an opening Wine Festival Dinner. Created by Daniel Galmiche, each of the five courses were matched with fantastic wine suppliers’ choices and their introductions caused plenty of discussion around our table.

Greek Viognier versus South African Chenin Blanc with the parsley root velouté certainly surprised most people with the outcome on my table! My personal favourite though, I have to say was the Habla del Silencio red wine, selected by Georges Barbier to go with the Veal main course. Although it was up against stiff competition against Ma Danseuse from the Peter Michael Winery, I found it a delightful combination that was unexpectedly good for such a good value wine. A lesser known area that certainly was punching well above its weight!

Marmite choice of the evening had to be the Leonor 12 year old Palo Cortado sherry with the cheese; a wonderfully nutty style of sherry by Gonzalez Byass with it dividing the audience into loving or hating it!

The Nyetimber wines showed extremely well at all showings and received rave reviews and comments, both at the dinner where we showed the Classic Cuvée and an older vintage of the Blanc de Blancs. While at Saturday’s masterclass, the rosé 2009 won over the audience hands down against Schramsberg and Taittinger rosés, much to everyone’s surprise.

I particularly enjoyed doing the Call My Bluff masterclass with Daniel O’Keefe (Hallgarten-Druitt) and James Hocking (The Vineyard Cellars) as it was a chance to lie, cheat and befuddle our way to victory in a bit of fun, as we each described a wine while guests had to taste and see who was telling the truth. Great fun!

Of all the events that I have been involved with this year, this certainly was the most fun and entertaining, and a definite date for the diary for next year, as there was just so much going on, so many great wines to try and I don’t believe anyone left without trying something new or learning a little more about wine in general.

A huge thanks has to go out to our suppliers and supporters though, as without their assistance and effort over the weekend, this would not be such an unmissable occasion.

Keep a look out on our website for details of next year’s Wine Festival Weekend dates. We still have a number of events still to come this year including wine dinners, wine schools, ladies’ lunches and our Christmas gift fair.


Alan Holmes

Restaurant and Wine Director

Top 5 Chilled Red Wines


Top 5 Chilled Red Wines by Yohann Jousselin, Head Sommelier

I believe that chilling some types of red wines can help the wine to perform better in all of its elements. As a result of cooling a light red wine, the fruit’s aromas often rise in intensity and the alcohol feels slightly milder.

Below is a selection of wines from our restaurant wine list that I would definitely suggest to cool down beforehand in order to enjoy them in their full capacity – especially if the weather stays this warm for another few days…

1. Chinon, Desbourdes, L’Arpentry, Loire Valley, France, 2007 (£37)
Made from Cabernet Franc, this wine shows an intense panel of stony fruits as well as a hint of black pepper.

2. Weingut Dr Heger, Q Sonett, Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir), Baden, Germany, 2008 (£62)
A very light, fresh and delicate wine with lovely notes of red berries.

3. Moric, Blaufrankisch, Burgenland, Austria, 2010 (£44)
Made from a local grape variety, this wine offers some ripe summer fruits aromas.

4. Fleurie, Domaine de la Madone, Beaujolais, France, 2010 (£34)
A very good example of Gamay from the southern part of Burgundy , this wine shows a very juicy palate and some soft tannin.

5. Ma Maison, Pinot Noir, Martinborough, New Zealand, 2010 (£39)
From a cooler climate area of New Zealand, this Pinot Noir is aromatic and fresh with notes of red fruits.

I hope you get time to enjoy some of these wines, but if you prefer to be served in ’Taste’, our new informal dining space, come and see us at The Vineyard!

- By Yohann Jousselin MS

James Hocking: A Chevalier of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne

On Monday 9th July, I was invited to London to be “inducted” into a rather special “club”. This being the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne. Whilst those of you who know me will be wondering why I’m doing something non-Californian (!), our connections with Champagne at The Vineyard are immense, encompassing Champagne Taittinger, Champagne Gremillet, and a raft of others.

The role of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne is to promote the wines of Champagne, their unique features, their ways of consumption and everything which contributes to their reputation and their image as the most prestigious symbol of success and celebration. Its mission is to contribute to the dissemination of essential information concerning the wines of Champagne by creating and motivating a network of staunch supporters (professional restaurateurs, sommeliers, connoisseurs and personalities from the world of politics, media, stage and screen), most notably through Champagne-led events throughout the world.

Around 1650 young aristocrats at the court of Louis the XIVth, amongst whom were Mortemart, Ollonne, Brousse and the satirist Saint-Evremont, founded an elegant academy dedicated to good wines. They were all famous wine connoisseurs and were particularly fond of the champagne wines from the three “coteaux” (hillsides) Ay, Avenay and Hautvillers. Hence the name given to this association “Ordre des Coteaux”. It disappeared shortly before the revolution.

In 1956 a group of “champenois” led by Roger Gaucher and Francois Tatittinger in particular, who did the historical research, decided to revive the original “Ordre des Coteaux”.

At the dinner, which followed the intronisation ceremony, jeroboams and magnums of Champagnes Deutz, Drappierand Taittinger were served to accompany the food. I felt proud to have been asked to join the Ordre (in the rank of Chevalier), and am looking forward to assisting further with the promotion of what must be the world’s ultimate celebration wine…

First picture –  James Hocking, Director of Wine at The Vineyard Group and Justin Llewelyn – UK, Ireland & Channel islands Ambassador, Champagne Taittinger and Consul General, Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.

Californian sparkling wine offer and free delivery: Enjoy 10% off one of our new arrivals – Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc 08, until 31st August 2012 and take advantage of free delivery when you spend over £150. Please quote ‘blanc08‘ at checkout. Visit The Vineyard Cellars website now.

James Hocking

Director of Wine
The Vineyard Cellars
The Vineyard

My trip to Sonoma, California

Has it made the hard work worth it? Is the question I am asked the most when people heard what I won Employee of the Year. To anyone within the company who has the chance to try for the trip – Yes, it is worth every single minute of it!

I was truly honored and delighted to have won the trip to California and once it had sunk in and I had stopped bursting into tears I had already decided that I was going as soon as possible and was going to make it the holiday of a lifetime.

I look my partner of 8 years Steve and booked as soon as I could for October 2011. Having some family also in California that I hadn’t seen in 11 years just a 90 minute drive from Sonoma meant I was going be able to factor them into the trip too.

One of the best parts of the 2 weeks we had was going to visit the Peter Michael Winery. Even having worked for the company for 4 years I just had no idea how amazing the place was. Vast steep mountain slopes of regimentally straight vines stretched for miles around the gated entrance. Seeing the Vineyard poppy on everything was brilliant and really was a reminder of how closely linked we were despite the geography. The Michaels kindly consented for Steve and I to stay in the Cabin, a building with bridge access over a stream to the entrance, hot tub and whatcan only be described as luxury accommodation.

During our stay we had the chance to have a tour of the winery and tasting of the wine. Cote de mere is a large platform on the top of the mountain fully equipped for 5* entertaining used for fund raising for the Peter Michael foundation every year. The view is staggering stretching across the whole of Knights Valley and each of the different wines can be seen. Tasting Sir Peters wines was a once in a lifetime chance. It was a fantastic experience and meeting the other guests brought it home to us how much of a wonderful and rare opportunity it was sitting around that table, drinking those wines and in that location.

The local sights were an excuse for a little more tourist behavior and we took the opportunity to go to the local petrified wood, eat in Calistoga and visit the Geyser. The staff at Sugarloaf Ranch could not have been any more hospitable and I would do anything to go back again for longer.

Following the trip to the Ranch we spent a couple more days with family in San Jose and even had the chance to visit a ranch where Steve fitted right in with the lads drinking bud and shooting very scary looking Guns for the afternoon. We hired a car and drove to visit San Francisco then down the coastal road route 101 with a final stop in at Universal Studios to celebrate Steve’s 30th.

All in all a truly amazing two week trip that could not have been made possible without the Employee of the Year status. I cannot thank the company or the Michaels enough and will continue trying to win to have the excuse to go back!

Beth Willis
Senior Events Co-ordinator
Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa

Imbibe Sommelier Wine Awards

At the start of the year there are many wine tastings, award ceremonies and new bottles to try. In fact, one could visit a different tasting every day of the working week from January to April…

But, Square Meal Magazine, more specifically Imbibe (the on-trade offshoot) probably organises the best wine competition of the year. Why? Well, the wines entered are those that you will see on a restaurant list near you, plus they are judged by fellow sommeliers, restaurant wine buyers and people who really try to understand the “winebehind the label”. That’s where I come in…

The Imbibe Magazine Sommelier Wine Awards kicked off today in the heart of London, and yours truly was there to start the process. Initially, many hundreds of bottles from around the globe are submitted, then whittled down to a select few. Today started with such heady topics as “Rosé fizz over £14.00”, South Africa Chardonnay, and Chianti.

To give a very brief overview of the wine judge, we are little concerned with personal likes and dislikes. Our thought process is a very commercial one; is it good value? Can we sell it? Where does it fit in our wine list? What became immediately apparent today is that the overall standard of wine in restaurants today is pretty good…

So, highs and lows today. Well, tasting a Rioja for £4.50 that was stunning seemed pretty good, likewise the sub 20-quid Rosé Champagne that we all wanted to take home. Low point had to be Italy, specifically Chianti . However, tomorrow’s another day…

Part two to follow!

James Hocking
Director of Wine
The Vineyard Group
The Vineyard at Stockcross

Diamond Creek

Founded in 1968, Diamond Creek is California’s first exclusively Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyard. Visionary pioneer, Al Brounstein defied modern conventions and planted Bordeaux varietals on secluded Diamond Mountain, Napa Valley. The three vineyards produce a small amount of long-lived wines that are elegant with great depth and richness, honoured and cherished by connoisseurs the world over. And just last weekend, The Vineyard Cellars launched the 2008 vintage release at The Decanter Fine Wine Encounter in London.

As an entrepreneur in the fifties, Al Brounstein became a successful pharmaceuticals wholesaler in Southern California. By the mid-sixties, he was ready for a new career and looked to the Napa Valley and a 70-acre parcel of land on Diamond Mountain to satisfy his fascination with wine. In 1966, before he was even able to purchase the land, he smuggled vine cuttings in from two premier cru properties in Bordeaux,personally flying them up from Tijuana, Mexico to a nursery in St. Helena.

He acquired the land in 1967 and began planting it in 1968, identifying three vineyard blocks by the differences in soil structure and exposition, and naming them for their geological forms Red Rock Terrace (seven acres with reddish-brown soil facing north), Gravelly Meadow (five relatively flat acres with a gravelly, sandy soil) and Volcanic Hill (eight acres of white volcanic ash on the hillside facing south).

Brounstein has an historical record of these three vineyards from the 1972 vintage forward, as well as of the three-quarter acre Lake Vineyard, which he bottled separately in certain vintages. He was decades ahead of the current trend toward micro-wineries and cult cabernets in Napa. The wines have a certain “austerity” about them and definitely appeal to the classic European wine drinker.

The UK allocation of these great bottles is just two cases per vineyard site. Diamond Creek has exhibited wine at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter for many years now, and The Vineyard Cellars has been the exclusive UK distributor for the past seven. We are happy to report that the 2008 vintage lives up to the consistent excellence of the estate and look forward to opening a bottle or two at The Vineyard at Stockcross soon!

James Hocking
Director of Wine
The Vineyard Cellars

Yohann’s Top 5 Autumn Wine Recommendations

Coate & Seely, Sparkling Rose, Brut, England, NV £55.00

Based in Hampshire, this wine is made by one of the rising English estates, the wine is light, fresh with some lovely red fruit aromas.

Cote du Jura, Les Varrons, Domaine Labet, France, 2004 £35.00

Made by one of the best producers of the Jura, this chardonnay shows an intense palate of ripe white fruits with a touch of nuts and almonds.

Peter Michael Winery, La Carriere, Chardonnay, Knight Valley, California, 2007 £135.00

The most mineral style of Chardonnay from Sir Peter Michael collection and from one of the best vintages ever made.

Littorai, Pinot Noir, Sonoma, California, 2009 £62.00

Littorai is often regarded as burgundy style producers from Sonoma, this wine is one of the best examples of a balance Pinot Noir from California.

Priorat, Coster de Vinyes Velles, Mas Doix, Spain, 2000 £115.00

This tiny appellation has become more interesting over the last 10 years, Mas Doix is one of the very first producers from Priorat and is still one of the best examples of it.

Why not visit The Vineyard at Stockcross and try one of these wines?

Yohann Jousselin MS
Uk Sommelier of the Year 2011
Head Sommelier

Riedel Wine Glasses

We only use Riedel wine glasses at The Vineyard, probably because over the past fifty years, this has become the only real choice for the wine enthusiast, wine expert, or indeed anybody wanting to really enjoy wine in a well-made piece of stemware that really brings out the best in the grape. That’s why I was quite honoured to be part of a team to create a new glass to celebrate the Bacchus grape, grown extensively (and exceptionally well) in England. Our location for this workshop was Camel Valley Vineyards in Cornwall, home of some of England’s best wines and multi-award winners. Camel Valley was founded just over twenty years agoand the feature wine of the tasting was their single vineyard Darnibole Bacchus wine.

The workshop was chaired by Georg Riedel and started with fourteen different glass shapes that had been considered by the Riedel factory. Our teams then whittled the glasses down to seven, followed by three, then down to the final one. The selection was made by pouring the same wine into each stem and assessing colour, aroma, and palate. The best glass expressed Bacchus perfectly – a citrus-fruit, high acid wine with lovely soft notes of peach and other stone fruit. Apart from anything else, this tasting proved that English wine has “come of age” and really competes on an international platform.

And the winning glass? Well, it’s rather unromantic prototype reference is 6416/33 and has a deep, narrow bowl to capture all those aromatics. It’ll be available later this year as “English Bacchus” and you’ll be able to enjoy a nicely chilled glass in our restaurant!

James Hocking
Director of Wine
The Vineyard Group