A Bristol-based wine specialist is pouring years of experience into the launch of an independent wine school, to cater for fans of the popular tipple.
Ruth Wiles, a former regional tasting manager at Majestic Wine, is opening Clifton Wine School, offering evening tastings, Saturday events, four and eight-week courses, private parties and corporate events for beginners and experts alike in Bristol, Bath and Cardiff.
The first tasting will take place on March 12 at the Radisson BLU Hotel in Bristol and tickets are now on sale at www.cliftonwineschool.com. All events are also available to buy as gift vouchers in time for Valentine’s Day, Mothering Sunday, Father’s Day, birthdays and other special occasions.
Ruth, who holds a Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) diploma and is also a qualified WSET Educator and Assessor, is the latest franchise owner within the successful and rapidly expanding www.localwineschool.com family – a UK-wide network of independent wine schools providing entertaining tastings and courses for people who want to learn more about wine.
Following a successful career in management at Majestic Wine branches in Nottingham, York, Swindon, Sheffield and Bristol, including three years of delivering WSET courses at Majestic’s head office, Ruth had been on the lookout for her next challenge. A friend spotted a franchise opportunity with localwineschool.com on Twitter by chance, and Ruth felt that the time was right to take the plunge and launch a wine school for the Bristol area, offering fun tastings and varied subject matter.
Ruth has visited vineyards in Margaret River, Clare Valley, Barossa, Marlborough, Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Champagne, Cognac and the Cape of South Africa, and has hosted and organised almost 100 wine tastings for customers and colleagues during her time at Majestic.
Ruth said: “I’m really looking forward to bringing more people into the wonderful world of wine and wine tasting. Few hobbies are as much fun as learning about wine. It’s a great pleasure to go out and open up this world that many people find confusing and complicated so that it can be enjoyed and understood by anyone with an interest.
“When I first read about localwineschool.com, the security of the structured franchise model really appealed to me. I could have the freedom and confidence to set up my own venture and be my own boss, knowing that support and advice would always be available within the localwineschool.com network. I’m also hoping to offer WSET courses in the near future.
“The local food and drink scene has so much to offer, and I’m thrilled that Clifton Wine School will now be a part of that. Wine lovers will have a dedicated, relaxed, informal place to meet – right on their doorstep, offering a range of tastings all year round – and they will know that they’re supporting a local company every time they book a ticket.
“I’ll be hosting a range of events – from cheese and wine tasting evenings to Saturday courses with lunch and champagne – and as time goes on I’d like to work with local businesses and microbreweries to hold beer and cider tastings too.”
Ruth, who is originally from Northamptonshire, has dived into Bristol life since moving to the area five years ago, and is a member of the committee that organises the annual Brisfest festival. In her spare time Ruth enjoys surfing, snowboarding, scuba diving, walking and cycling – having once rode 300 miles across France for charity.
The localwineschool.com network also has schools in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Hertfordshire, Cambridge, Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire. Chris Powell, the founder and owner, set up the first school in Newcastle in 2000.
Chris said: “Ruth has a wealth of experience in the wine world and we’re delighted to have her on board. We had been interested in opening a wine school in the Bristol area for some time, and Ruth’s passion, enthusiasm and teaching skills – as well as her in-depth knowledge of the customer base in Bristol – made her the ideal candidate to launch our newest franchise.”
Clifton Wine School’s events will be held at the Radisson BLU Hotel, Broad Quay, Bristol BS1 4BY. The first introductory evening course takes place on Wednesday, March 12 at 7pm.
Saturday wine courses with lunch will be held at Goldbrick House, 69 Park Street, West End, Bristol, BS1 5PB.
Ruth’s top 10 wine tips
1- Unless you’re an expert, always go to a shop where someone can give you good, sound advice.
2- Find the good value alternatives to high quality wines (e.g. look for a Reuilly instead of Sancerre) and great quality becomes much more affordable.
3- Learn the basics of food and wine matching. A little knowledge can go a long way towards a great dinner combination.
4- Make sure you store your wines well. That bottle of Champagne you’re saving for a special occasion will taste a lot better if stored in a cool, dark room.
5- Always pair Cabernet Sauvignon with Cheddar cheese!
6- Don’t be afraid to try something different. Don’t get stuck with the same brand or grape, as there’s a whole world of wine out there to be enjoyed.
7- Blagger guide: before tasting wine, swirl it around your glass and have a smell. Everyone will assume you are an expert.
8- Don’t be afraid of sweeter wines. They have a bad reputation but they aren’t all Liebfraumilch – there are some great wines out there. Try a Vouvray or a Mosel Riesling.
9- Never take your best bottle to a party – you might never get to taste it. Or even worse, your friend might pick it up and mix it with lemonade!
10- You don’t need a special occasion to drink a great wine. Special occasions are already great. Cheer up an otherwise normal day with something lovely and make the wine the special occasion!