November 3, 2021
Kent Wine School co-founder Victoria Aldwinckle reveals why her goal is to educate people so that they can make the right shopping choices, whether in a supermarket or from specialist suppliers. She also tells us why they like having the Hotel du Vin in Tunbridge Wells as their main headquarters.
Can you briefly explain to us what the concept of the Kent Wine School is?
It’s very simple: it’s about wine education. Good, delicious wine is not about spending more money – it is about where the grapes come from, the climate in which it was grown, how the wine was made, and the care and care. attention to the process. Is it a mass produced drink or a quality driven product that has a story behind it? We never promote wines or sell wines. We very simply offer high quality wine education at all levels so that our students are armed to make better wine buying choices, in supermarkets, restaurants and wine shops.
You are co-founder with Jonny Gibson, how, when and why did you get involved?
I started working as a freelance wine teacher for Jonny’s company, Sussex Wine School, which at the time was operating in Tunbridge Wells. We found that we work well together and have a similar approach and vision to wine education. In 2018, we therefore joined forces and launched the Kent Wine School as a partnership.
What do you love most about the wonderful world of wine?
For me personally, it’s the variety of styles that is so interesting. Italy, for example, has over 350 indigenous grape varieties, not counting international names such as Merlot and Cabernet. From a wine explorer’s perspective, this gives you so much to learn, discover and (most importantly) to taste!
How often do you organize tastings at the Hôtel du Vin and why did you choose this place?
We hold our wine tastings several times a week on average, each covering a different theme or topic. The Hôtel du Vin offers us a magnificent place that has such a synergy with our brand. Currently the hotel has also been superb in making our guests feel very safe, welcome and comfortable. It has been such a great partnership and we hope it will continue for many years to come.
Do you plan to organize events elsewhere at the local level?
Yes! We would love to find a second, and maybe even a third, in Kent. Watch this place!
How many members do you have and what else do you offer besides the tastings?
We don’t have “members” as such, just a lot of wine lovers who really enjoy attending our events! There is no membership fee. Our tastings range from one-off evenings, focused on a specific country or topic, such as Spanish wine and tapas, our Saturday Wine Introductory Day or Barolo and Barbaresco evenings. We offer longer courses of 4 or 8 weeks where we have 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. They are aimed at both beginners and seasoned pros!
In which countries do you prefer to take a wine tour and why?
I’m torn about this! Can I choose two? The United States (especially Oregon and Washington State) because I was a winemaker there. However, I have also lived, studied and traveled a lot in Spain, so I have a deep passion for Spanish wines. If I had to choose it would be Spain.
How popular are food and wine pairing events?
These are by far the most popular! We cover a wide range of topics from cheese and wine to steak and wine and even chocolate and wine. In addition, we have a series that focuses on individual countries – our Italian, Spanish or French gastronomic evenings are almost always sold out.
English wine is booming right now – do you specifically cover local varieties?
Every year we always host an English Wine Tasting which highlights the newest wineries in the UK wine scene. We also have a series of tastings focused on sparkling wines from around the world – and of course England is central to this one as we currently produce exceptional sparkling wines.
Do you have any favorite drinks for English wine?
I love bubbles so I’m happy with almost any English sparkling wine! However, one exceptional wine I had not too long ago was from an East Sussex vineyard called Fox & Fox. They produced a sparkling Pinot Meunier (one of the classic Champagne grape varieties) and it was magnificent.
You also offer gin and rum tastings, can you tell us a little more?
Gin is, unsurprisingly, extremely popular. We focus on six gins each evening, starting with one typically made in Kent. Then we expanded further into England, perhaps tasting one of the islands of Scotland, before heading overseas to try gins from distant shores such as New Zealand and Japan. Rum tastings are new for Kent Wine School for 2021 and we really can’t wait to welcome them. Rum is a very technical drink that is quickly becoming the “next big thing”. We’ll take a look at its amazing history (often involving piracy and revolts!) Before sampling the myriad of styles, from white rum to dark, rich, and aged rums.