We know that we think Yorkshire folk are the best at everything, but we can now claim a world champion in our midst. Step forward Karen Hardwick, who has just been crowned the Wine Educator of the Year by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Karen, who runs the Wine Academy in York was the only individual through to the shortlist which contained big training and PR teams – and received her award from Master of Wine Jancis Robinson. In previous years the award has gone to outfits in the US and Australia.
Before she had her children, Karen worked her way up in the drinks industry and ended up working for Californian wine supremo Robert Mondavi, representing him all over the world. Doing a fund-raising wine tasting for her children’s playgroup launched her independent career as a wine trainer. It’s expanded to working with the trade, running public tastings and being involved in the York Food & Drink Festival (where Jill can confirm how enjoyable her tastings are).
Pupils of hers have gone on to become winemakers, work in top restaurants and in the retail sector. One waitress from Meltons Too in York joined Asda’s wine team after Karen’s training and is now one of the 10 most influential women in the wine trade.
The wine landscape in Yorkshire has incredible breadth, according to Karen, with great independent merchants and restaurants with good lists. Anywhere which offers good champagne by the glass goes to the top of the class, and the lists at the Pipe and Glass, South Dalton, J Bakers in York, the Durham Ox in Crayke and Harvey Nicks in Leeds get Karen’s best ratings for the choice of wine without having to buy a bottle.
She’s passionate about wine but never poncey. You can join her for monthly tastings at Harvey Nichols, Leeds, Meltons Too in York and Chapters in Stokesley which are good fun and affordable. See her website for listings www.thewineacademy.co.uk