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The Evening Class;Wine appreciation;Mind and Body

The first rule of Kenneth Harry Putt's wine appreciation course is - no spitting. It might not fit with the stereotypical image but no one seems to mind. "We don't use spitoons," he says. "They always used to come back bone dry."

So, with seven generous glassfuls - two white and five red - lined up in front of them, the 20 people in Harry's class (everybody calls him Harry) start their wine appreciation in earnest.

Harry - a bow-tied bon viveur - encourages his students to comment on the colour, bouquet and taste of this week's selection of French regional and Rhone wines.

Prunes and liquorice, honey and vanilla, even petrol and apricots are all invoked as the class attempt to describe the Bacchanalian delights before them. "First impressions are always best," advises Harry, who, with the rest, likes to confirm them with another swirl (to release the bouquet) and a slurp (to aerate the wine).

"Wine is so versatile, you can find one to suit every pocket and every occasion," says Harry, who pokes fun at the snobbery sometimes associated with wine-tasting by running a competition for the most outrageous description. "One woman said a wine reminded her of a New York taxi driver's aftershave."

Time for a refill. Harry has brought some cheese scones, ham and brie, and the gathering of professional thirtysomethings is pretty soon living up to its alternative billing as "Harry's wine and supper singles club".

Lisa, a researcher for the British Medical Association, is happily flouting company policy ("officially I'm a 14-units-a-week girl") while her friend Rachel, who works a 12-hour day in the City, is trying to make the most of her evenings. "I go out drinking anyway, so I thought I'd learn how to do it with some style," she laughs.

Harvey McGavin The Wine and Food Academy runs evening classes at a variety of venues in south-west London. This course, at St Francis Xavier sixth-form college in Balham, costs pound;60 a term, plus about pound;12 a week. Tel: 0181 675 6172

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