OK, first, full disclosure. Mark from the Cambridgeshire Wine School offered me a free place on this evening (normally £22.50) in exchange for tweeting and blogging it. However, I took a friend and we shared the cost of her ticket, so effectively it was half price. She then pointed out that I owed her a tenner for a sponsored run she'd done, so we called it quits. And by the end of all this it rather felt like I paid twenty quid for it. Also, I don't write anything on my blog I don't actually mean. (And that is definitely FULL disclosure.)
I think there is always something quite inspiring about watching someone talk about something that they are both passionate and extremely knowledgeable about - and Mark was the perfect example of this. From the beginning, when he spoke about how drinking wine is like travelling the world and each wine is the product of everything that has happened to it, it was impossible not to get swept up in the enthusiasm. He also clearly knows a hell of a lot, and talks with ease and confidence. There was so much information that it was simply impossible to retain it all, but I did learn a lot. There were also plenty of interesting standalone nuggets to be squirrelled away. (Such as the fact that, when serving dessert wine with a pud, the wine needs to be sweeter than the pud. Or that an oaky Chardonnay goes well with anything smoked.)
The six wines we tasted were clearly chosen in order to give an overview of different wine-producing regions and different things you can look for in aroma and taste. And I really could taste the vanilla, cherries, marmalade and Christmas cake in the wines (though I do worry I'm just an impressionable sort who tastes what she's told!). In short, pretty much the ideal introduction to wine tasting - especially in that it left me really wanting to learn more about it. Not least to see if I can come up with some of those flavours for myself. They also do an 8 week World Tour for £95 (plus £10 on the night for wine) and I am very tempted indeed.