Thames Valley Local Wine School
They are a local, independent wine, beer and spirits education and events company that specialises in hosting tastings and events in Reading and the surrounding area.
A passionate wine expert is pouring his knowledge into an exciting new venture for local fans of the tipple later this month.
Alex Stevenson is the owner and head tutor of the newly relaunched Thames Valley Wine School, the biggest independent wine education company in the area, offering a dedicated calendar of in-person wine tastings and courses to those keen to learn more about wine.
The first event, an Introduction to Wine Tasting, will take place at The Corn Stores in Reading on Wednesday 24 August.
The event will include the tasting of three whites and three reds and customers will be able to learn about some of the key grape varieties, the main wine-making techniques and which countries are perfectly suited to wine production.
They’ll also discover how to pair wine with food, why some wines are so much more expensive than others, and what some common labelling terms mean. Tickets cost £30 per person.
Alex has spent the last 20 years working in the hospitality and drinks sector in roles such as buyer and beverage manager, and he also founded The DrinkSchool in London. He has a Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma and is also a WSET Certified Educator.
After living in London for most of his career, he decided to relocate to Reading and enjoy a more rural setting as he loves the outdoors and contacted Local Wine School to discuss opportunities to join the franchisee network.
He said: “I have always been impressed with the Local Wine School as they were a competitor of mine and so I approached them with regards to setting up a school in the area.
I’m delighted to be launching my first class in September and building the school, not only to offer wine classes and education but to also put on beer and spirit training as well.
“With Thames Valley Wine School I will be offering a fun, friendly, informal environment to help locals better understand their wine. No previous tasting experience is necessary, and my courses will allow people to discover some fantastic wines and improve their confidence when buying it in shops and restaurants.
We’ll be covering a brilliant variety of topics, from food and wine matching experiences to New World discoveries, and I’m really looking forward to getting started.”
Alex will hold a range of events from introductory evening sessions to eight-week courses aimed at both beginners and more experienced wine drinkers then start to bring in more speciality courses, WSET Classes
He will also stage food pairing events and themed and seasonal events.
Alex is also planning to expand out to Maidenhead, Windsor and Slough in subsequent months and all events can be seen on the website www.localwineschool.com/thames-valley/events/
Thames Valley Wine School is part of the rapidly expanding www.localwineschool.com family – a UK-wide network of 27 independent wine school franchisees, providing a wide range of wine events for beginners and enthusiasts alike.
Chris Powell, owner of the Local Wine School, said: “We are delighted to welcome Alex as the new franchisee for Thames Valley.
His experience and knowledge make him an ideal candidate to run wine classes and courses and we’re looking forward to watching the business grow”.
In his spare time, Alex enjoys cycling, travelling, climbing and cooking as well as sharing and tasting food and wine with friends.
For more updates you can follow the school on
Alex’s top 10 wine tips
- Always try different grape varieties and regions – bars and restaurants know what sells the most so these wines have a higher
mark up as it’s all about volume. Whereas the random bottle that sells a couple of bottles a month will be far better value for money than the popular ones that sell hundreds.
2. Decanting a wine will elevate it as it allows the wine to breathe – it doesn’t need to be for too long and you don’t need to buy a decanter that costs more than filling up your car – allowing wines to breathe opens them up and increases the enjoyment – whites can be decanted as well – there are decanters with ice chambers if you still want to keep them cool.
3. Temperature is important – we are all used to drinking wines that are served really cold as the colder something is the less you can
taste it – just by bringing the temperature up a couple of degrees you'll notice that the wine will develop a lot more flavour
4. Explore by variety or region – it’s a good way to get out of your Marlborough Sauvignon comfort zone and even if you stick to a single
grape variety whilst you explore, you’ll find other wines from regions that you might like even more.
5. Tasting is very different than drinking – the more you know the more you’ll enjoy.
6. Be careful where you store your wine – under the stairs or in the garage may be convenient, but they are not going to keep your wine at a consistent temperature which will cause flavour and development issues
7. Never be afraid to ask for advice – people who work in restaurants, wine bars and shops will have tried the wines and be knowledgeable about them, they will also have their own favourites that they will be thrilled to recommend.
8. Along the same vein, always be honest when asking for help – tell them the price point you have in mind, and they will find a wine that
fits what you are looking for – rather than trying to sell you a wine that costs too much.
9. I don’t spend money on fancy wine gadgets, I'd rather spend the money on nice wine - after all, it tastes the same regardless of what you use to open it. My only exception to this is glassware. Decent glassware will elevate the characters in wine.
10. Look past your past experiences, Chardonnay is not the devil and is not always buttery and oaked, Chablis is Chardonnay and is as
crisp and refreshing as other whites. The same goes for Riesling – this grape makes some of the finest wines in the world - they aren't only sweet.
The 8 x 2-hour online sessions run from 6.30 - 8.30 pm each week, over 8 weeks.
Monday 5th, 12th, 19th & 26th Sept, 3rd, 10th, 17th & 24th Oct
Deadline for registration is Tuesday 23rd August
If you can't make all sessions, they are recorded and can be watched back at a time convenient for you.
This beginner to intermediate level qualification course provides a structured exploration of the world of wine and is suitable for both wine industry professionals and wine enthusiasts. Individuals on this course will gain knowledge of the principal and regionally important grape varieties of the world and the styles of wine they produce. Through a combination of tasting and theory, candidates will explore the factors that impact style and quality and learn how to describe wines with confidence.
What the course covers:
- Wine tasting: You will learn how to taste and describe wines using the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting (SAT)
- Food and wine pairing: You will learn the principles of food and wine pairing
- Wine service and storage: You will learn the correct way to store and serve wine and how to recognise common faults found in wine
- Labelling: You will learn how to decode and understand wine labels
- Factors influencing the style of wine: You will explore how environmental factors, grape-growing, vineyard, and maturation options influence the style and quality of the wines made all over the world
- Grape varieties: You'll learn about the styles of wines produced by the key international red and white grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Syrah/Shiraz) as well as the styles of wines made with 22 regionally important grape varieties grown in 70 wine regions (GI's) around the world
- Sparkling and Fortified wines: You will be taught how grape varieties and winemaking processes influence the style of wines in these two key wine categories
The WSET Level 2 Award in Wines has full accreditation from OfQual as part of the UK Government’s Qualifications & Credits Framework as a Level 2 Vocational Qualification
No prior wine knowledge is required however the course builds upon the WSET Level 1 Award in Wines which may be more suitable for those completely new to wine. We recommend you read the course specification document before you sign up for the course. You can read this document by clicking here.
This is an online Zoom evening course, on a weekday evening.
- The Level 2 Award in Wines online course covers the same syllabus as the classroom course and is delivered in LIVE virtual lessons by one of our certified wine educators
- Candidates will receive a complete WSET Level 2 Award in Wines course study pack, comprising the course book (a comprehensive guide to the wines of the world 'Behind the Label'), a study guide (complete with maps, example questions, and forms for your own tasting notes), course specification and laminated 'Systematic Approach To Tasting' card
- The course includes 16 hours of online tuition (8 x 2-hour sessions) and we recommend a minimum of 12 hours of additional study
- Your tutor will taste 12 wines with you on the course (for details on how to order the wines for your course see below)
- You will receive access to practice multiple-choice revision questions specific to this course
- You will be sent details of how to join your LIVE sessions when you book
Please note a reliable broadband connection is essential for the completion of this online course as are basic computer skills.
- To obtain the WSET Level 2 Award in Wines Qualification, you will need to successfully pass the exam. The exam is made up of 50 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 1 hour. A mark of 55% is required to pass the exam.
- The exam may be taken at Birmingham Wine School in class. Dates to be agreed. We can offer an online exam for an additional £35.
The course fee of £330 includes:
- All WSET course materials are posted to you at no extra charge including; Looking Behind the Label course manual, Study Guide, specification, and SAT Tasting Card
- 8 x LIVE virtual, interactive sessions taught by a Local Wine School WSET Certified Tutor
- Exclusive access to practice multiple choice questions FREE OF CHARGE
- Internationally recognised WSET qualification, certificate, and pin for those who pass the exam
- The exam fee. The exam may be taken at Thames Valley Wine School in class. Dates to be agreed. We can offer an online exam for an additional £35 - Click here for more details.
It is recommended that 12 wines are tasted as part of this course, although this is optional and not essential to complete the course. Please note that the cost of wines is not included in the course fee above.
Our wine experts have specially selected wines for this course designed to demonstrate specific learning outcomes. We have negotiated a specially discounted price only available to our online students.
The case of 12 wines costs approx £132 including delivery to the mainland UK. Details of how to order your case of wines will be provided 10 days prior to your course starting.
Special Educational Needs:
Please make the school aware if you have a condition which may mean that you will qualify for additional help during the exam such as dyslexia.
Introduction to wine tasting, wine and cheese pairing, keep your gin up! and more...