East Sussex http://jillygoolden.com
After sipping her way through an average 150 wines a week while on her travels conducting lectures, visiting vineyards and attending seminars, you’d forgive Jilly Goolden a weekend off. Instead she spends several of them a month welcoming a crowd of budding oenophiles into the dining room of her family home, found tucked among the leafy fringes of Ashdown Forest. And it’s here that I’ve come to try to educate my palate.
Surrounded by views out onto the garden, and warmed to just the right temperature by the quietly crackling fireplace, the class begins. Jilly is a charismatic lecturer, firing facts into the audience, fizzing with energy on her subject. After the introduction, which hits on the proper way to taste and evaluate a wine, we’re invited to turn our attention to the six glasses that have been placed in front of us: three white and three red. While today’s class is an exploration of world wines, mixing terroirs and varieties of the familiar with those of the more obscure, she also hosts classes that focus on a single variety, or on the history of a particular region. The first wine we try is a 2012 Pecorino Terre di Chieti, a little-known white wine from the Abruzzo region of Italy. Taking its name from the sheep which are said to be quite partial to the leaves of this particular vine, it is a robust, hay- coloured tipple carrying herbal notes. As we sip, Jilly tells us about the grape, the producer, how the wine’s made, and where to buy it.
Next up is a quaffable South African chenin blanc, then a crisp and citrussy grüner veltliner, and three reds, the most unusual being an Armenian areni noir, a variety which has been grown for 6,100 years. After the first flight, there is a well-earned tea break before we get back to business with a lightly smoked Hunter Valley semillon that has us all puckering in a unison of appreciation. Four more wines follow, including a chardonnay that sits just the right side of butterball, saved by an undercurrent of citrus. And, as all good teachers keep their students on their toes, the last wine is a mystery, measured out into a tinted glass. Despite my apprehension, I’m not as off the mark as I expect – what I register as an oaky Chilean red turns out to be a deeply plummy Rioja Gran Reserva. £125. AA.