Food & Drink

Published: June 21, 2022 | Updated: June 21, 2022

You’re the wine that I want: Maria’s tastings prove to be a real corker in English Wine Week

Maria Day, Director and Chief Wine Enthusiast, Dorset Local Wine School.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Raise your glass – to Maria Day.

As Director – and self-confessed Chief Wine Enthusiast – of Dorset Local Wine School she’s doing her bit to break down the snobbery often associated with wine.

Her tastings, held in venues across the area, have been described as ‘fab, friendly and informative’.

One attendee likened them to sitting in a friend’s living room and having a catch-up.

Music to the ears of Maria, 52, of Southbourne.

She said: “That’s exactly what I’m trying to achieve.

“The aim is not to be intimidating.

“Instead, I want it to be a perfect way of spending an evening, enjoying, relaxing and tasting wines.

“It’s not a test.

“I’m not there to tell you what you should like or not like.

“It’s so you can make comparisons and think about what you’re drinking.

“Mindful drinking is what I would call it.”

Maria, who has a daughter aged 12, developed her taste for wine while working in Hong Kong, organising corporate events.

Returning to the UK, and specifically Southbourne, she became one of a network of 24 independently-owned wine schools in May 2021.

Why Southbourne?

Maria said: “It’s got that vibrant type of high street that everybody talks about and a real sense of community.

“I was familiar with The Larder House and also familiar with Gordon Fong who lives locally and is a great advocate for the area.

“I talked to him for many months.

“He was always out in the bars and the restaurants and to me the area ticked a lot of boxes.”

Now on the verge of completing her WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level 4 Diploma, Maria said her tastings attracted all types of people.

She said: “The ideal number for a tasting is ten to 12 people.

“I try and do one a week with a bit of a theme and a particular country, or countries.

“Some of the people may have never really drunk wine or, perhaps, been gifted one of our gift vouchers, others just want to find out more about it.

“Some may drink the same wine all the time but want to come out of their comfort zone a bit.

“I try to be as accommodating as I can.

“The wines tasted can be sourced from Waitrose, or they could be from Aldi, but I try to support other local businesses, such as The Jolly Vintner Too and Haywood Wines, as much as possible.

“We try up to six wines in a tasting over the course of a couple of hours.

“I do a presentation, we talk a little about what the influences are – for example in the case of Spain or Portugal we might talk about the Atlantic and the winds coming in especially around the north of Spain.

“We look at the kind of grapes that are growing in that particular region because often we think about the wine in the glass but don’t always think about where it comes from.

“I have all ages from young people through to more mature people who regularly drink wine.

“I had one couple who said they have a holiday home in Portugal and want to know more about Portuguese wine.

“It’s a safe and relaxed environment where, if you want, you can ask the sort of questions you don’t really understand.”

This week – June 18 to 26 – is English Wine Week.

Maria, ably supported by Gordon Fong, is doing her bit to highlight the amazing quality of wines produced in the county by hosting Dorset Fizz Week.

Six days of tastings of Dorset’s finest with friends, together and online, began on Monday with live Instagram sessions at 6.30pm until Friday with a later one planned for Saturday.

Dorset wines featured include English Oak, D’Urberville, Little Waddon, Furleigh Estate, Langham, Bride Valley, Melbury Vale and Breezy Ridge.

Maria said: “We have some amazing vineyards and producers in the county.

“This is a great way to showcase them.

“I genuinely love what I do.

“If I had a piece of advice I would say think about spending a bit more on a wine and perhaps consider quality over quantity.

“But it’s very subjective.

“It’s really giving people the tools to choose a wine and think outside their comfort zone.”