We often get asked for opinions about wine, or asked to review wine here on CheapEats, but unfortunately we know flip all about it. So it was fairly serendipitous when Donnybrook Fair got in touch to ask if someone from the blog would attend and review their Wine Club four week course for beginners. My wine knowledge, before this course, could be summed up thus: “I like wine! Wine is yum. Will we have some wine?”
I’ve always wanted to know more about wine, but saw a number of pitfalls with doing a course:
Things I Want Out of a Wine Course
- To broaden my tastes
- To get a better idea about nice wines to bring to a dinner party, rather than just throwing some money at it and hoping for the best
- Learning to pair wine with food in a reasonably informed manner
Things I Don’t Want Out of a Wine Course
- Turning into an insufferable wine ponce who says things like “I never touch New World wines!” and annoys everyone
- Becoming the kind of pest who insists on ordering really expensive bottles in restaurants, even though anyone with any sense knows that restaurants put ENORMOUS mark-ups on wine
- Becoming addicted to fancy wine and having this happen
Quite the dilemma. But despite my ponciness fears, I decided to go for it, intrepid hero that I am.
About the Course
The Donnybrook Fair Wine Club course is a four week evening course, priced at €195, running from 7pm to 9.30pm over four consecutive Thursdays. Each week followed the same format; we arrived and the resident wine expert Laura Peterson talked us through a different topic for about an hour. The first week was an overview of wine-making processes; week two was France; week three covered sparkling wines, Spain and Portugal; and the final week was Everywhere Else.
I often find evening courses can drag a bit after a long day’s work, but Laura was an engaging and interesting speaker, and the format allowed for questions so the first hour fairly zipped by each week. After the learning phase, we moved on to tasting wines, tasting six different varieties each week. Part of this process was educating our eyes, noses and palettes on what to look out for. We tasted some truly delicious wines. In a little unexpected treat, we were given the remainders of the opened bottles to take home each week. And of course as they were open, they really had to be drunk right away. Hic.
In the final week of the course, we were cooked a lovely six course meal by Donnybrook Fair’s Head Chef Niall Murphy and our tasting wines were paired perfectly with the food.
Did I Get What I Wanted and Avoid That Which I Did Not Want?
Absolutely! The course was accessible and interesting, and I learned loads. Wine is an extremely complex and subtle area of study and you could devote your life to it, but I feel genuinely much better informed than I did before doing the course. Laura was full of useful and interesting information. Check this post for a few of the handy tips that I picked up.
My horizons have definitely been broadened: I thought that I didn’t like Reisling or Chardonnay, as I’d had over-sweet and nasty versions of both, but I was introduced to some that I really like. (The key with Chardonnay is to go for an un-oaked variety, wine fact fans.)
The course was not in the least bit pompous and Laura focused on value throughout, so no fear that I’ll be insisting on €80 bottles of Burgundy when out for a pizza. And while my tastes have improved, I think I’ll manage not to pawn my child for money to buy Sancerre.
Is it Good Value?
€195 is not a small amount to invest in a course, but I think the Donnybrook Fair course represents very good value for money. For your €195, you get 10 hours of expert time, in a small group where you are free to ask pesky questions. You also get to taste very many delicious and high quality wines, and take home a half bottle of said high quality wine each week. And finally, the meal and wines on the last night were included in the price and were really gorgeous. A quick rundown of the fantastic food and the wines that came with them:
- Delicious charcuterie plates, with an Italian Chianti
- Cherry tomatoes marinaded in a basil sugar syrup with red onion and cucumber, with South African Sauvignon Blanc
- Pan fried scallop with pea puree and orange and vanilla sauce, with Austrian Grüner Veltliner
- Lamb tagine, with Australian Syrah
- Cheeseboard, with German Reisling
- Chocolate mousse with cherry sorbet, with Californian Black Muscat Dessert Wine
The short version: I really enjoyed it. I learned lots, the instructor was great, the company was convivial (including the very lovely fellow food bloggers Stitch and Bear, French Foodie in Dublin, The Dublin Diary and Cheeky Cooks) and the food was yum. And the wine – oh boy, oh boy, the wine. I would recommend it to beginners or anyone with a basic level of knowledge. Big thanks to the Donnybrook Fair Cookery School for having me take part.
Note: my place on this course was offered to us for free, compliments of Donnybrook Fair. As with all complimentary events or items, we reserved the right to review it honestly. CheapEats policy is to always disclose when any items are received for free.