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Wine, spirits and sake tasting classes and online wine courses at Manchester’s favourite wine school

A selection of  spirits, sake and wine tasting events, online wine courses and gifts for the drinks connoisseurs in your life.

Pursue your WSET Wines, Spirits and Sake education with our classroom, online and study-at-home options. We’ve also created online versions of our popular Sake Sommelier Association courses.

You can follow us on our social channels or simply fill in the form and we’ll get back to you.

Upcoming Events & Featured Products

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Meet the Maker: Beer Tasting Manchester

Castlefield Hotel

A guided tasting of six amazing beers from local craft producers. Hear their story, their brewing philosophy and find out what they’re working on next

From: £45.00

July 15, 2022

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WSET Level 1 Sake | Manchester

Castlefield Hotel

This course is great if you’re new to Sake: whether for your career or just interested.

From: £195.00

September 27, 2022

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Saturday 3 Course Lunch with Wine Tasting – Malmaison, Manchester

5/5

Malmaison, Manchester

Get wined & dined on this special afternoon. Learn how to expertly pair food with wine. 10 wines plus a delicious 3 course Malmaison lunch, tea & coffee.

From: £95.00

June 25, 2022

IMPROVE YOUR KNOWLEDGE, FURTHER YOUR CAREER

WSET courses in wine, spirits and sake

Wine Scholar Guild course provider

Sake Sommelier Association training

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IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WSET SUCCESS WITH OUR EXCLUSIVE STUDY GUIDES

Northern Wine School

The Northern Wine School was set up to offer wine tastings in Manchester. These soon spread to Liverpool. Before long, we were offering in person and online courses in wine tasting, all fully accredited by the WSET and Wine Scholar Guild. We firmly believe that more knowledge means more love – what’s not to love about wine, spirits and sake?

 

Thousands of people have enjoyed our spirits, sake and wine tasting events. We’ve trained hundreds more to earn qualifications and lots of knowledge. This makes us really happy.

 

Keep in touch. We’ll update you on new tasting classes, events, gift ideas and training. Cheers to that!

Newsletter

A selection of  spirits, sake and wine tasting events, online wine courses and gifts for the drinks connoisseurs in your life.

Pursue your WSET Wines, Spirits and Sake education with our classroom, online and study-at-home options. We’ve also created online versions of our popular Sake Sommelier Association courses.

Gift Ideas

You won’t be stuck for ideas here! 

Choose from wine tasting classes and events, aroma training kits, courses, and accessories. Any of these will make a wine, spirits or sake lover’s day. If you’re feeling spoilt for choice, a gift voucher will allow them to take their pick.

Tasting Events

Our 5-star gin, whisky and wine tasting classes and events are open to all levels of knowledge. All events are hosted by friendly and knowledgeable experts who will learn lots from. Take your pick from wine and cheese events, wine and steak, gin and afternoon tea, and whisky with dinner. Simply bring yourself, and a sense of fun and adventure – we’ll bring the rest! 

Wine, Spirits & Sake Courses, Manchester

Northern Wine School is certified by WSET, to teach courses on Sake, Wine, Spirits, and more. Whether you’d like to further explore an interest or advance your career, our qualifications are a great way to learn more about everything from flavours and aromas to food pairings. We provide spirits, sake and wine courses online and in person. 

Informal private events, and bespoke business training 

Our bespoke tasting experiences are great for a night out with friends and family, or a work social with colleagues. We will tailor each event to suit your group.

We are proud to have trained staff teams at Tanners Wine Merchants, Reserve Wines, and Gaucho and others. Our WSET qualifications will improve your team’s knowledge and enthusiasm for what they do, improving your customers’ experience.

 

 

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PRIVATE TASTING EVENTS

We’ll bring the drinks, the glasses, and the activities. You bring the people!

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TRAIN YOUR TEAM

Bespoke training for individuals and team: get educated, and earn a qualification.

Latest articles

The world is rapidly evolving around us, and wine is no exception to that. There are new varieties, grapes and processes being created constantly, bringing new wines to the market. Here we’ve listed our top 3 wines to look out for in 2022.

Croatian Wines

Croatia recently joined the European Union, and with that came access to and assistance with, the development of their wine regions and promotion of their wines. Like many eastern European countries, Croatia has some fascinating native grape varieties. Though often hard to pronounce, grapes like Žlahtina & Plavac Mali produce top quality, characterful wines capable of ageing. Also, did you know that genetic profiling placed Zinfandel’s ancestor not just to Primitivo in Italy, but even further back in history to Croatia’s Crljenak Kaštelanski and Plavac Mali?

As Croatian wines begin to emerge on the export market, look out for them being stocked in your local merchant at very attractive prices compared to their more well known European counterparts in a whole range of styles- white, red, rose, sparkling, sweet and dry.

New categories and styles in Rioja

In a bid to both protect the proud heritage and quality of the Rioja name, whilst embracing new trends and tastes in wine, the Rioja designation recently authorised a revolutionary raft of new grape varieties, single vineyard designations and a brand new category of sparkling Rioja wines. Though the launch of these were typically modest of the Riojanos, post pandemic they are very keen to promote these exciting new wines.

Look out for exceptional fresh whites from Garnacha Blanca, Maturana Blanca & Tempranillo Blanco as well as age worthy reds and interesting rose from Maturana Tinta, Mazuelo & Graciano. Many producers are also forcing a rethink of the abilities of Garnacha Tinta with superb old vine single vineyard bottlings. Though currently only a small number of sparkling wines are labelled under the new Rioja designation (many parts of Rioja are also entitled to use the term Cava), this will no doubt be a growing category. Many of the aged categories exceed even Champagne’s strict minimums!

Sherry Shake-up

It’s no secret that fortified wines are not en-vogue now with many wine consumers. In an effort to expand the potential of the Sherry region and avert a catastrophic decline in sales, the most radical reforms for the past 50 years were brought in. These included a wider use of grape varieties, some not seen for centuries, and the practice of ‘fortifying’ (adding neutral alcohol to the wine to increase %abv) no longer being required if the natural sugar ripeness in the grapes allows for an alcohol level of 15%abv or above. There are more changes being discussed, including dropping minimum ageing requirements. We may start to see lighter styles and table wines appear once again from the region.

Sake is a fermented rice-based alcoholic drink. Traditionally associated with Japan, where it originated from, it is now made all around the world. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a ‘rice wine,’ type of beer, or distilled- it is not a spirit either. Because of the unique brewing process, and the special strains of yeast used in its production, it has naturally higher levels of alcohol than most wines or beers. However, typically it is between 13-20%abv which puts it in line with the strength of most wines.

Just like wine, there are special varieties of rice used in Sake’s production each with its own qualities that shape the character of different Sake. There are also many different styles, each with its own aromas and flavours. While Sake is much higher in savoury, ‘umami’ flavours than wine or beer, you can also find crisp, light & fruity examples as well as sparkling Sake and aged examples with similarities to Sherry or Port.

How is it made?

Special varieties of rice are harvested, the grains are then polished washed and partially steamed ready to be fermented. Sake rice is different to regular table rice. It has an outer layer of proteins & fats, with the core (known as the Shinpaku) containing carbohydrates. The more the grains are polished, the more proteins and lipids are removed from the rice, and generally the lighter & fruitier the style of Sake.

The bran and the endosperm are removed from all rice grains, no matter the grade of Sake. This means that the natural enzymes that would convert the starch to sugars are also removed. Simply cooking the rice would not break enough of the carbohydrates down for yeast to use, so another organism is also used in brewing- Koji. Koji is a mould, which is deliberately introduced to a proportion of the steamed rice. The koji grows and as it feeds on the carbohydrates in the rice, it creates simpler sugars as a bi-product. Once the rice has a healthy population of Koji mould, it is mixed back with the rest of the steamed rice, water & yeast. Fermentation begins and lasts several weeks to a month, with the koji and yeast coexisting with one another throughout.

As well as creating simpler sugars that yeast can consume, the Koji mould also creates additional peptides and amino acids, which flavour the Sake and give it a more savoury, ‘umami’ rich character which is not found in beer or wine. This makes the aroma and flavour profile of Sake unique, with characters like toasted cereals, dairy, fruit & mushroom/meaty flavours.

Once fermentation is complete, it is then often diluted to the desired final strength using spring or filtered water and bottled. Most of it is released ready to drink and enjoy, but a very small number of special Sakes may also be aged before release (look for ‘Koshu’ on the label).

Styles

It is very difficult to generalise about Sake, the best way to experience and try it is to drink it yourself and ask the brewer, or knowledgeable suppliers. There are however some broad categories that Sake falls into that may indicate styles/expected flavours (but not always!)

Polishing grade:

Futsu-shu (‘ordinary’) Sake. This is not an official labelling term, and you very rarely see it on the bottle. However, you often find it discussed or Sake sold under this designation. This covers most Sake produced, with no requirements for polishing of the rice grains or specific production methods used. However this can range all the way from mass produced, cheaper styles through to the small batch, experimental Sake of some prestigious brewers based on the Tojis’ (head brewers) innovative philosophy. In general, price here is the best guide to potential quality, but there are many fantastic value for money options available for £10-£20. Typically they are more savoury, and enjoyable served at room or warm temperatures, but not always!

Honjozo

The rice used has been polished to a minimum of 70% of the rice grain remaining. Typically, these are a mix of grains (toasted rice/rice pudding), lactic (yoghurt/cream) and savoury, umami characters (mushroom/meaty). They may even have some light fruity aromas too but are often still quite full-bodied.

Gingo/Daiginjo

The most polished grades of Sake. 60% and 50% of the rice remaining respectively. These are typically the lightest, most delicate and fruity styles with pungent aromas of melon, lychee, apple, and peach. They may also have some fresh, green aromas like grass/asparagus too. This is usually the most common style for export markets, as they are especially popular with white wine drinkers and great with fried foods and fresh seafood.

Other production terms:

Junmai

This means ‘pure rice.’ Normally at the end of the brewing process, a small amount of neutral alcohol known as ‘Jozo’ is added to help extract additional flavours, stabilise the Sake and provide texture/mouthfeel. Junmai style sakes indicate that this has not been added, and in theory is more ‘natural.’ The differences in flavour and quality are often very hard to detect though. Again, this is popular with Sakes made for exports to western markets.

Koshu

This is a term for ‘aged’ Sake. The exact length of time and how the Sake is aged is loosely defined, however. The most popular style is spending some time in cellars maturing in large wooden barrels where the Sake begins to oxidise and develop ‘rancio’ flavours like toasted nuts, coffee, caramel, toffee, dried fruits & more savoury/gamey traits. There are all sorts of weird and wonderful examples though, including some aged in new oak barrels that are used for whisky. Whether this should be done is another matter entirely though!

Namazake (‘Nama’)

Like many other beverages, Sake is normally pasteurised before or after bottling before release for sale. This is quite a gentle process, which helps stabilise it by killing unwanted spoilage organisms, but also deactivating the natural enzymes in the Sake that would continue to react and change its character after bottling, often in not a desirable way. Nama is produced in small volumes but has a big following with Sake fans. It is not pasteurised, in theory not ‘damaging’ the delicate aromas and flavours. However, this is the most fragile of all Sake and needs to be drunk ideally ASAP after bottling and handled/stored with great care. This makes it quite a risk when being shipped to far corners of the globe. It can spoil very easily if not kept at low temperatures and out of direct light.

The flavours of the Sake will also change quickly, even if care is taken transporting and storing it. Nutty/savoury characters begin to develop, and eventually, it will taste quite unpleasant to most people with ‘soil/mould’ like aromas. However, it is worth seeking out. Just make sure its journey to you has been a favourable one first!

Want to create a Christmas lunch that is guaranteed to impress? It’s all in the wine! We’ve put together the perfect list of wines to pair with every meal throughout Christmas Day to keep your guests amazed.

Canapes

Many of these are rich, indulgent pastry-based affairs. A good fizz is perfect for these, as the acidity cuts through this and cleanses the palate. Sparkling wines are also a great way to get any party started. Here are a few ideas to suit every budget:

Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Blanc de Noirs Champagne NV. 12%abv, £21.

A rich, aged ‘multi vintage’ sparkling wine made from red grapes Pinot Noir and Meunier. Only time and the ‘Traditional Method’ of making sparkling wine rewards you with these unique flavours. Aromas and flavours of bruised orchard and red berry fruits with a pastry/brioche richness. This wine has soft, creamy bubbles and mouth-watering acidity.

Bouvet Ladubay Brut, Saumur NV. 12.5%abv. Majestic Wine, £13.99

Crémant is the name for sparkling wines made in the ‘traditional method.’  They are made from local grapes and can offer excellent value for money The Loire is the biggest producer of these, and the town of Saumur specialises in it. This classy example has notes of apple, pear, white flowers with a soft, creamy mousse.

ThinK Organic Vegan Prosecco. 11%abv, £12.60

Made from Glera, a distinctive aromatic grape variety. This comes from the higher quality, hillside vineyards of the Treviso region in northeast Italy. A soft, creamy mousse with delicate aromas of stonefruit, white flowers & pear.

 

The main event

There’s usually a lot of flavours going on here, and not everyone wants the same roast centrepiece so we’ve done our best to select some good all-rounders that can keep up with the flavour party!

Turkey with cranberry sauce & all the trimmings:

Louis Latour ‘Grand Ardèche’ Chardonnay. 13.5%abv. Majestic Wine, £13.99

From an under the radar mountainous area in between the northern and southern Rhone wine regions, this is a Burgundy beater at a fantastic price. Rich, buttery & creamy with toasted oak and ripe orchard and stone fruit flavours.

Specially Selected Fleurie. 13%abv. Aldi, £7.99

From one of the Beaujolais ‘Cru’ village vineyards. This delightful light, fresh red wine has juicy red berry character and hints of spice that make a great contrast to cranberry sauce and stuffing.

Roast beef:

Yalumba ‘Cigar’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5%abv. Majestic Wine, £25.99.

The ‘Terra Rossa’ red soils of the Coonawarra in South Australia gives this wine a distinctive, enticing nose of blackcurrant and menthol. Delicious flavours of red and black fruits. The silky smooth tannins and crisp acidity of Cabernet Sauvignon will make the beef melt in your mouth.

Denbies Redlands Pinot Noir. 12%abv. Waitrose, £12.99.

A juicy English Pinot Noir from the sunny slopes of Surrey. Perfumed fresh, crunchy red berry character, with a hint of sweet spice.

Multi bird roasts/Goose:

Yalumba The Y Series Viognier. 13.5%abv. ASDA, £8.

This rich textured white from Australia has flavours of stone fruits, white flowers and ripe citrus. Accompanies strong flavoured meats well, with a fresh minerally finish.

Faldeos Nevados Torrontés. 13%abv. Wine Society, £8.50.

An aromatic specialty of Argentina. This is one of the few wines that smells like grapes! Ripe orange & grapefruit, peach and candied fruits with a fresh, zingy finish.

 

To finish

Mince pies, Christmas pudding and cheese:

Campbells Rutherglen Muscat. 17.5%abv. Waitrose, £12.99.

A unique sweet, fortified wine made in Victoria province in Australia from White Muscat grapes. The wines are aged in barrels of various sizes in extremes of outback temperatures, giving oxidised aromas and flavours of raisins, coffee, toffee, walnut, candied peel and fruit cake.

Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port. 20% abv. Amazon, £35.

Made by taking the fortified red wine and ageing it for prolonged periods in large, old oak barrels. The wine slowly oxidises, creating baked fruit and spice aromas. The longer it is left, the more intense it becomes. Flavours of raisins, dried figs and prune, walnut, coffee and dark chocolate.

We’re really into wine, into spirits & into sake. We love all of them. Luckily.

Liverpool Road

Manchester

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