City Lit Blog

Wine tasting tips

Story added 7th Jul 2017

Wine tasting courses at City Lit

Interested in learning more about wine tasting? We've got some great tips from two City Lit tutors, Valerie Cowan and Pippa Hayward, on how you can really start to appreciate different wines...

Mindful wine - learning how to taste

Fortunately the road to understanding wine starts right with the taste buds you already have – just waiting to be kicked into life with that first sip! 

City Lit wine courses guide you through learning how to decode each wine so you can understand why certain grape varieties taste as they do – and what is about those varieties that you love – or loathe.

A sip of wine really is the tip of the proverbial iceberg – reflecting not just the grape – or blend of grapes – from which it’s made, but also the climate and environment where it was grown and the hand of the wine maker in the cellar where it was transformed from grape juice into wine.

So the benefits of studying wine are immense – touching on many other subject areas you may have considered boring before:  geography, geology, science, food, history, culture, economics. Understanding the context in which wine is made and drunk makes sense of a topic many students find daunting. 

Learning to taste is a technique everyone can acquire – our classes will help you develop a good understanding of how to use different areas of your tongue and mouth to identify the important parts that make up wine.

Once you know how to taste wine becomes as fascinating as it’s pleasurable – absorbing your attention as you savour every sip.

Wine is one of life’s most entrancing pleasures and there’s so much fun in discovering it.

Pippa Hayward teaches many City Lit wine courses - she loves sharing her passion for wine in an informal and light-hearted way.

Food and wine matching

One of the great delights in life is eating! However, to enhance the pleasure of dining, a well chosen glass of perfectly matched wine is required.

Red with meat and white with fish was once the guideline but the variety and diversity of wines today has made it much more adventurous and exciting.

It’s all about balance - the tastier the food, the more flavoursome the wine needs to be. Many wines evolved to go with the local food, so it’s no accident that Chianti goes with spaghetti bolognese and Sancerre with goat’s cheese.

Spicy foods call for spicy wines such as Alsace Riesling and Gewurztraminer or new world Shiraz. Lightly flavoured creamy dishes work well with Chenin Blanc, Semillon or unoaked Chardonnay like Chablis. Fish and chips and other fried foods benefit from the zesty citrus of Sauvignon Blanc, which cuts through the fatty textures.

Other excellent combinations are lamb and Merlot, duck and Viognier, ham and Beaujolais or smoked salmon with slightly oaked Chardonnay.

Desserts can be made utterly fabulous with a sweet Muscat. Chilled Moscatel de Valencia with warm mince pies is simply fabulous together.

Half the fun of food and wine matching is to experiment and our wine courses can help you understand the characteristics of different wines and grape varieties and why they complement specific foods.

A wonderful world of wine awaits you!

Valerie Cowan, wine tutor, runs the City Lit Wine Club. Her relaxed and informal style is a great way to learn more about wine. Valerie spent several years working in Marks & Spencer's wine department, has a Diploma from WSET and has taught wine appreciation for over 20 years.

Wine tasting courses at City Lit

Browse all our latest wine tasting courses.