INTERVIEW: Victoria Aldwinckle – Kent Wine School

INTERVIEW: Victoria Aldwinckle - Kent Wine School

Can you briefly tell us what the concept of Kent Wine School is about?

It is really simple: it’s all about wine education. Great, delicious wine is not about spending more money – it’s about the provenance of the grapes, the climate it’s been grown in, how the wine has been made as well as the care and attention that’s gone into the process. Is it a mass-produced drink or a quality focused product that has a story behind it? We never promote wines or sell wines. We very simply provide great quality wine education at all levels so that our students are armed to make better wine buying choices, in supermarkets, restaurants and wine merchants.

You are a co-founder along with Jonny Gibson, how, when and why did you get involved?

I started working as a freelance wine tutor for Jonny’s company, Sussex Wine School, which at the time operated in Tunbridge Wells. We discovered we worked well together and had a similar approach and vision to wine education so, in 2018, we joined forces and launched Kent Wine School as a partnership.

What do you love most about the wonderful world of wine?

For me personally, it’s the variety in style that’s so interesting. Italy, for example, has over 350 native grape varieties – that’s not including the international names such as Merlot and Cabernet. From a wine explorer’s point of view, that gives you so much to learn about, discover and (most importantly) taste!

How often do you hold tastings at the Hotel du Vin and why did you choose this venue?

We hold our wine tastings several times a week on average, each one covering a different theme or topic. Hotel du Vin offers us a beautiful venue which has such synergy with our brand. Currently, the Hotel has also been superb at making our guests feel very safe, welcome and comfortable. It’s been such a good partnership and one we hope will continue for many years.

Do you have plans to host events anywhere else locally?

Yes! We’d love to find a second, and maybe even third, venue in Kent. Watch this space!

How many members do you have and what else do you offer apart from tastings?

We don’t have ‘members’ as such, just a lot of wine enthusiasts who really love attending our events! There is no membership fee. Our tastings range from one-off evenings, focusing on a specific country or topic such as a Spanish Wine & Tapas, our Saturday Introduction to Wine Day or Barolo & Barbaresco evenings. We offer longer courses of 4 or 8 week where we get time to offer more detail and focus on that particular topic. Finally, we offer a range of professional qualifications through the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and the Wine Scholar Guild. These are as much for beginners as they are for the seasoned pro!

Which countries are your favourite to take a wine flight in and why?

I’m torn on this! Can I choose two? The USA (particularly Oregon and Washington State) because I used to be a wine maker there. However, I have also lived, studied and travelled extensively in Spain so I have a deep passion for Spanish wines. If I had to choose, it would have to be Spain.

How popular are the food and wine pairing events?

They are the most popular ones by far! We cover a huge range of topics from Cheeses & Wine to Steak & Wine and even Chocolate & Wine. Plus, we offer a series that focuses in on individual countries – our Italian, Spanish or French Food & Wine Evenings nearly always sell out.

English wine is experiencing a boom time right now – do you specifically cover homegrown varities?

We always host an English Wine Tasting each year which shines the spotlight on the newest vineyards on the wine scene in the UK. We also run a series of tastings focusing on Sparkling Wines of the World – and of course England takes centre spot in that one as we’re producing outstanding sparkling wines right now.

Do you have any personal English wine favourite tipples?

I love bubbles so I’m happy with nearly all English Sparkling! However, an outstanding wine I had not long ago was by a winery in East Sussex called Fox & Fox. They produced a sparkling Pinot Meunier (one of the classic Champagne grapes) and it was stunning.

You also offer gin and rum tastings – can you tell us a little bit about these?

Gin is, unsurprisingly, hugely popular. We focus on six gins each evening starting with one typically made in Kent. Then we branch out to further afield in England, perhaps tasting one from the Isles of Scotland, before heading overseas to try gins from far flung shores such as New Zealand and Japan. Rum tastings are new to Kent Wine School for 2021 and we’re really looking forward to hosting these. Rum is a very technical drink and one that is fast becoming the ‘next big thing’. We’ll be looking at it’s amazing history (often involving piracy and revolts!) before tasting the myriad of styles from white rum to dark, rich, aged rums.

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