Last weekend, I treated my wife to a rose for Valentine’s Day. Nope, not the flower, but a bottle of rosé wine as part of a free course we decided to partake in.
While this lockdown has been extremely tough through a long, cold winter, and many parents are at the nadir of homeschooling, we decided to do some evening studying of our own with the aim of becoming better at picking wine.
You see, I’m no wine buff. I get suckered in by the label. I know vaguely what variety I like, the price I like and pluck it from the shelf with little thought. But you should probably never judge a wine by its fancy label.
Handy guide: The course comes with eight modules, each with a short video hosted by Sam Caporn and 10 pages of knowledge in each
The Aldiploma from the German supermarket chain’s website comes in eight parts with bitesize videos and 10-page factsheets with each.
It’s free to all, links to the wines mentioned in the tasting (with free home delivery) and crucially, no faffing about with signing-up. You can just follow the link and get going.
It is hosted by ‘Mistress of Wine’ Sam Caporn and aims to give people the basics when it comes the plonk minefield.
It made a nice change from another evening of browsing through endless streaming services trying to find something to watch and we broke it up over three nights – one night for white wine tasting, another for red and the last for rosé.
This week, Consumer Trends looks at how our wine buying habits have shifted in the last year and how popular a course like this has been in recent weeks, as people hunt down free fun.
Premium wines, rosé and organic trends
We went more premium last year Aldi says, with this being one of its fastest growing areas as it continues to attract a more affluent shopper. For example, it sold one bottle of champagne every three seconds in the run-up to Christmas.
It has also become more of a ‘destination’ to buy wine. Kantar figures show sales were up nearly a third in Aldi in the last 12 weeks, compared to the same period last year.
It says that rosé sales grew significantly and it expects this trend to continue in 2021.
One of its biggest successes last year was combining two big drinking trends – prosecco, and pink wines – to bring the UK’s first ever prosecco rosé to shelves. It sold one bottle every six seconds in the lead up to Christmas.
Lastly, it says the demand for organic and vegan options from ‘mindful drinkers’ continues to grow with its organic prosecco and pinot grigio proving extremely popular in the last 12 months.
Mistress of Wine: Sam is one of 408 people to currently hold the Master of Wine certificate
Meet your impressive wine teacher…
Sam Capron, who developed the course with Aldi, passed her Master of Wine qualification 10 years ago – and is one of only 408 currently in the world that have the certificate. This gives the course real legs.
She tells me it takes plenty of ‘resilience,’ to pass the MW qualification. She adds: ‘It’s a notoriously tricky course that takes in quite a wide range of topics from viticulture (in the vineyard) to vinification (winemaking), along with three blind wine tasting papers, all of which feature 12 wines.’
It’s a notoriously tricky course that takes in quite a wide range of topics from viticulture (in the vineyard) to vinification (winemaking), along with three blind wine tasting papers, all of which feature 12 wines.’
Now 47, she passed the final part of her course while pregnant with son Wilf, now 9. She has spent her entire life in the wine industry, which means she is a great teacher for this course.
It actually launched in 2019, but two new modules were added at the start of the month to capitilise on people being at home and wanting a free activity to do.
Tens of thousands of people have subsequently viewed the pages to do the course at home this month.
On taking her Master of Wine course, she says: ‘You can ostensibly pass within three years – and some people do – but it takes most people much longer.
‘I actually passed both the practical and theory papers at the first time of sitting them in 2005 (which is quite unusual) but got a little unstuck with the 10,000 word research paper which took me three attempts before I passed so I didn’t actually qualify until 2011.
‘But it was definitely worth the effort and at the awards reception I won the Madame Bollinger Medal for Excellence in Tasting. I had received the highest marks out of that year group for the blind tasting papers which was a total dream come true.
‘It opens more doors for you as it is highly regarded in the wine trade and it gave me the confidence to become a freelance wine expert on passing.
How did she get into it? She adds: ‘I was never one of those people who had a massive epiphany or tasted a specific vintage of a spectacular wine.
‘I have an identical twin sister and her friend asked me to take over the Manchester University Wine Society, which I did with two friends, which ultimately led to me going into the wine trade after university.
‘Years later while I was working at Wine Magazine I was tasting regularly with lots of MWs and gifted tasters like Charles Metcalfe and decided to take the plunge.’
What was taught in the course?
Evening in: You can split the course up like we did – or simply watch it all
Sam says: ‘The Aldiploma course is very much bespoke but inspired by certain basics and wine fundamentals that need to be covered off in any good wine course.
‘Together with Aldi we have put our own spin on the “need to knows” for wine enthusiasts to deliver the goal of opening up the world of wine to all.’
It takes you from how to speak the jargon to grape varieties, to a module about white and one about red, along with new world wines and how to pick ones to pair with food.
There are plenty of tricks and tips both in the video content and the PDF. I’ll make this all far too long if I reveal everything.
My wife disagrees that white wine should be removed from the fridge 20 minutes before serving, and red wine put in the fridge 20 minutes before serving for optimal temperature – but I get the merit.
One thing we did agree on though was from all the wines we tried, the rosé was exceptional.
The course actually made me think twice about simply discarding rosé wine as the ‘uneducated’ choice, mainly thanks to learning about the process some more.
The Coteaux Varois en Provence Rosé for £6.49 was fantastic, and more than a match to the popular celebrity backed ones that seem to be launching left right and centre at extraordinary prices.
Nine in 10 people admit to bluffing about their wine knowledge to impress family and friends while 70 per cent want to know more about their favourite drinks – this course could help take you from wine bluff to wine buff.
While it is frankly impossible to become a Master of Wine at home and to gain such an impressive qualification takes years and as Sam says, resilience, this course is a great introduction or refresher, and will make you appreciate the wine you are drinking, especially after a long day of resilient homeschooling. Chin chin.
Please drink responsibly: Drinkaware
Four wine questions I asked Sam
Does it make much different to taste/quality if a wine is marked as vegan and organic?
With organic wines, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are not used and grape growing adheres to basic organic principles but copper sulphate (AKA Bordeaux mixture) can be used in the vineyard instead.
Organic wines also have to use less sulphur – a wine preservative – which has advantages and disadvantages, but both for vegan and organic wines I would suggest that neither practice necessarily improves the taste or quality of the wine but is more a lifestyle choice.
Having said that, certainly with organic wines one would hope that spending more time in the vineyard would lead to better quality grapes and by default better quality wines but the two don’t necessarily correlate.
Is it truly possible to get a genuinely delicious bottle of wine for £5?
Absolutely. With modern winemaking wines should as a matter of course be fresh, clean and enjoyable. Sometimes, unfashionable grape varieties and regions offer good value too and wines that haven’t been aged in expensive oak.
I love the Castellore Italian Primitivo which is £4.99 and offers ripe, plush fruit – lots of blackberries and cherries and is smooth and really easy-to-drink. Other wines that I would highly recommend for £5 and under would be the Makaraka New Zealand Sauvignon, Maison Rouge Claret Bordeaux, Castellore Italian Verdicchio and the Portuguese Vinho Verde.
Practical things like using screwcaps and a slightly lighter glass weight can also make the wine a bit cheaper (and more environmentally friendly) without impacting on quality.
What is your favourite style of wine and why?
I love champagne for fizz, chardonnay for white wines and syrah for red wines – they are my current favourites and I think the reason I like them all is they offer me two different and slightly contrasting things;
A, comfort – I like fruit, balanced acidity and oak in my still wines. I’m not crazy on the angular or esoteric or anything too challenging or wacky but B, good ones offer interest, elegance, can transport you from your living room to another place in the world (much needed right now) and put a moment in time into your glass.
For champagne I love the biscuity notes you get, and it offers an affordable luxury at the end of the week. It’s a great treat and a bit of self-care.
Rosé has seen an explosion of sales in recent years, driven by some celebrity brand favourites. What’s your verdict on a style of wine that is much maligned?
Rosé is absolutely my ‘go to’ wine in the summer and when you want refreshment, I think by and large wine drinkers are happy to compromise on complexity for enjoyment, a sense of fun and joie de vivre.
I know many people also drink rose the whole year round and pink bubbles in particular are a great all-year round wine.
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