Tutored tastings: Wine, whisky, cheese and chocolate

There’s a bit of a paradox to Britain’s foodie revolution: the more exciting produce we’re exposed to, the more aware we are of the gaps in our knowledge. Cheese or wine lovers we may be, but few of us can claim to be cheese or wine experts.

Thankfully some people can, and they’re willing to share their knowledge. Here’s a selection of local classes that’ll help you train up your taste buds…

Cheese at Neal’s Yard

You’ll have to jump on the train for this one, but it’s only a short run from Charing Cross to London Bridge – and at the other end lies the Borough Market warehouse of legendary cheesemongers Neal’s Yard Dairies, who have been plying the city with amazing cheese since the 1970s. Their two-hour cheese lessons are serious business, ranging from the basics of home production to themed tasting sessions – as autumn approaches, they’re running a series of Winter Warmer classes that will focus on muscular, seasonal cheeses paired with porters, old ales and barley wines.

  • Address: 6 Park Street, SE1 9AB

Whisky at Milroys of Soho

Milroy’s was founded in the mid-60s, and its little shop on Greek street is crammed to the rafters with whiskies from around the world – some 700 varieties, according to the website. Its experts run both scheduled and private tutored tastings in the on-site cellar, including a beginner’s session (“How to Taste Whisky”), one for the experts (“Fine and Rare Whiskies”), a lesson on pairing whisky and cheese and an in-depth look at Bourbon. There are also occasional visits from producers, so if you’re a fan of a particular distillery it pays to keep an eye on the Milroys events page.

  • Address: 3 Greek Street, W1D 4NX

Wine at Vinopolis

Since opening in 1999 this huge wine attraction has become one of the South Bank’s big draws, pulling in tourists and Londoners alike. It isn’t the most intimate wine tasting you’ll find in the city, but it’s incredibly comprehensive and scales well – prices start at £27 for a self-guided tour, which includes a 15-minute introduction to tasting and seven tokens (good for three to four glasses, depending on what you’re drinking). With multiple tasting and education zones, more than 100 wines to try and interactive panels to help you choose the right one, that’s enough to keep you busy. For something deeper, you can book a tour with one of the expert guides from £60.

      • Address: 1 Bank End, SE1 9BU

Chocolate at Hotel Chocolat

Cocoa fiends love the Hotel Chocolat brand – the only one in Britain to own its own plantation, the Rabot Estate in St Lucia – and its Covent Garden location offers two-hour courses that turn a favourite treat into something much more. You’ll learn how to get the best flavour out of choc, how nuances of the production process affect the taste, and what to look out for when sampling different varieties. If you’re more interested in production, the 90 minute ‘Bean to Bar’ class will show you how to make your own bar – and naturally, you get to take it home to enjoy later.

    • Address: 4 Monmouth Street, WC2H 9HB

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