Hotel Du Vin in Poole and their recently launched Ecole du Vin
I stayed at a Hotel du Vin for the first time a few weeks ago. When we were shown to our room, I was a bit surprised to see upon entering a claw-footed bathtub at the foot of the bed. A bit taken aback, I asked the porter, um, does this room have a proper bathroom as well? Actually, all the superior rooms and above at all the Hotel du Vins have bathtubs in the actual bedrooms as well as full, separate bathrooms with monsoon showers. The Dom Perignon suite even has two bathtubs side by side so you and your loved one can bath together -but not together. Giordana (my Italian flatmate who came along with me for the weekend) and I both thought that was bit peculiar, why would you take a bath NEXT to your partner but, hey, this is England and we ARE foreigners. OR, maybe the second bath tub is there to be filled with ice and bottles of Dom? The bath anyway, was wasted on us as we were there to review the new Ecole du Vin that the hotel sommelier Ronan Sayburn, Master Sommelier, was relaunching at the Poole hotel. We did however, manage to put the tub to use (pictured).
Speaking with Ronan during drinks the first evening, I asked him how he was going to go about conducting a wine school for groups of varied guests some of which would probably be quite knowledgeable about wine while others would not have a clue, other than “knowing what I like”. Ronan said that was part of the challenge for him, as well as part of the fun of the entire wine school concept: to come up with a fun wine weekend that wouldn’t bore the casual wine drinkers or the wine anoraks among the guests but be enjoyable and educational for everyone.
That weekend the theme was the wines of Bordeaux. The wine weekends start off with a wine dinner on Friday nite and included another wine dinner on Saturday night as well as B&B and the wine school (or lecture) on the Saturday morning. Dinner on Friday was an informal affair, starting with drinks in the Crow’s Nest lounge before moving onto the Port room for dinner. The hotel has a nautical theme to it, seeing as it’s situated very close to the quayside of Poole. Although we all had assigned places at the table, everyone was exceedingly friendly and we were all laughing and talking like old friends by the time the first course of clam and saffron linguine rolled out. Ronan stopped and gave us a brief explanation of each wine served as each course came out but the evening was really about enjoying the food and wine. Ronan has expertly matched several Bordeaux to our meal and I found the 2005 Ch. Batailley, 5eme cru classe, Pauillac, great with the breast of duck and spiced cherries.
I somehow managed to oversleep the next morning, I shouldn’t have had that third glass of Sauternes, but made it down just in time to slurp down a hot coffee and settle into class. What followed were 3 very interesting hours covering the basics of Bordeaux. Ronan was funny and informative without overloading us with information. My favourite part of the morning was when he brought out wine glasses filled with various fruits, wood and earth for us to smell. It’s a great way to convey what one should be looking for in a glass of wine. I wasn’t the only one who thought that, Giordana, who is a non-wino, was really digging the earth in a glass and found it a great way to actually find the aromas in the wine as it was passed around. One of the reasons I chose the Bordeaux weekend was because I’m not that familiar with the region so the wine school was very useful to me. Ronan observed that wine is like art in way, he was hoping to show how great Bordeaux is and to appreciate it for what it is, the difference being that once you drink a wine, it fades away. It would be as if you bought a painting and as the years passed by, it would slowly disappear from the canvas.
After school, it was such a lovely afternoon, we went down to the quay and hung around until dinner. Saturday’s dinner were the big guns with some very nice vintages served, including an ’03 Ch. Belgrave, ’05 Ch. Gruad Larose and an ’05 Ch. Beau Soleil. This being Saturday night, we pretty much drank all the wines and then some, moving on to the terrace for after dinner cigars and (some people) whiskey. I was happy to finish off the Ch. Beau Soleil with my Montecristo.
We both thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and from a non-wine persons point of view, Giordana thought it was great. She discovered there’s more then just Italian wine out there and although she’s still loyal to her Italian wines, I think she might be convinced to drink a Bordeaux or two. As for me, I found the whole concept great from start to finish, the school not being too technical and the aim, I think, of entertaining and educating at the same time being successfully integrated. For more information on the Hotel du Vin’s Ecole du Vin, visit their website. Cost is £299 per person all inclusive.