Working wine to 5! We chat to the man behind Shropshire Wine School
How many of us have picked up a bottle of wine from a supermarket shelf purely because it’s on special offer?
Or pretended to know what we’re doing when a waiter presents us with an extensive wine list in a restaurant?
If you simply can’t tell a Bordeaux from a Shiraz then Gary Carter wants to point you in the right direction.
He’s launching Shropshire Wine School in the hope of educating wannabe connoisseurs about the world of wine.
His dream is to help people learn about wine in a relaxed environment without any of the snobbery that’s sometimes associated with wine tasting.
“Shropshire Wine School is not pretentious. I’ve been to wine tastings when it’s all men in waistcoats and jackets with leather elbow pads. That’s not what I want. Instead it will be down to earth and as entertaining as people want it to be. I’d like to share my knowledge and passion and help them navigate the sometimes confusing world of wine.
“I also want to encourage them to discover new wines because there so many and a lot can be found on our doorstep,” explains the father of three, who lives in Shrewsbury.
Gary says it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to comparing different bottles and discovering the types of wines best suited to your palate.
“Most people buy wine from a supermarket, which is absolutely fine, there is not problem with that.
“Most supermarket wine is New World wine so they might buy a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or a Shiraz from Australia.
“People buy based on the grape and the price. But if you step beyond that and want to learn more it can be quite confusing because the labelling for New World and European wine is different.
“With European wine, it’s all about the place where the wine is produced rather than the grape variety. The sheer number of different types can be confusing at first but a little knowledge can go a long way,” says the 55-year-old.
His passion for the drink was first inspired by visits to French vineyards.
Later he attended courses run by wine enthusiast Robin Butler.
“I’ve been interested in wine for many years. I started going on holidays in France 25 years ago and would visit vineyards mainly out of curiosity really.
“I’ve always been a bit of a geek and there’s so much to learn about wine. Every day is a school day. There’s always something new to learn. It’s a living and organic product.
“There’s a human story behind the product because you can visit vineyards that have been in the same family for generations,” says Gary.
“In restaurants, I have a habit of picking the wine before something to eat. I’ll look at the wine list first, pick my wine, and then pick food that goes with it.”
So, what does Gary like to pour into his own glass while relaxing at home?
“I’ve got a long list of favourites because it depends on my mood and what I’m eating. I do prefer red wines like Bordeaux and Rioja to white wine.
“My number one favourite is German riesling, because it’s unique and it’s also under-priced for what it is because it’s not as popular,” says Gary, who previously worked in marketing and sales.
When it comes to wine tasting it’s all about the ‘swirl, sniff and slurp’, he says. “You have to swirl it around the glass before smelling it and finally slurping it. The nose is a more sensitive organ than the mouth so what you can ‘taste’ of the wine is through the nose,” explains Gary.
He says his school, which will be based at the Lion Hotel, Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury, will be a fitting tribute to his late friend Robin who he says taught him so much.
“He was in the wine industry for 50 years. He was my mentor and friend. We had different palates – he tended to favour clarets – but I learnt a lot from him,” says Gary.
The school, which launches next month, will offer tastings at all levels from introductory evenings to eight-week courses, and Saturday wine experiences including Champagne and lunch.
Food and wine matching workshops as well as unique wine tasting experiences for corporate and private clients will also feature in the programme of classes.
“The school isn’t about selling, people will not be put under the pressure to buy anything at the end. It’s simply about educating people and pointing them in the right direction.
“All of our events are designed to be fun and informative with a focus on enjoying wine with like-minded people in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.”
Later in the year, Gary will also be providing bringing professional wine training by offering Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) courses.
Demand for these courses, the world’s leading wine qualification, is growing internationally as bars and restaurants recognise the need to offer professional training to their staff.
But they have also become popular with wine enthusiasts wishing to attain a professional wine qualification.
Wine school? We’ll drink to that!
The school, which is part of a UK-wide network of more than 25 independent wine schools established in 2000 in Newcastle upon Tyne, opens its doors on February 28. For more information go online to www.shropshirewineschool.com or call Gary on 01743 624021 or 07411 652651.