A CELEBRATED wine expert who has trained staff at prestigious London hotels including Claridge's and The Dorchester and a Champagne connoisseur who has dedicated her life to wines, Cécile Bergart is the sort of character who can hold a room - be it real or virtual.

Born in the Champagne region of France and given her first taste of the good stuff aged just four hours, she's the ideal candidate to teach everyone all about the world of wines as the proprietor of Hampshire Wine School.

" Don’t call social services," Cécile laughs. "This was not unusual in my family. It's in my blood, I was just born into it."

On Sundays, young and old gathered around the Bergart dinner table to taste and talk about good food and good wine.

Following in family footsteps into the wine industry, she came to the UK at the age of 18 to learn the language and broaden her wine horizons and has never looked back.

"In France, especially at the time, there wasn't any variety whatsoever and I didn't want to specialise in French wines. I wanted to try anything and everything. You are very lucky over here that wines from every single wine producing nation are available."

Having gained qualifications at the highest level, trained luxury hotel staff and sold her import firm championing small champagne growers’ wines, Cécile launched Hampshire Wine School in 2012.

Cécile, who lives in Eastleigh with her two children, runs fun, informative classes and tasting evenings on everything from food and wine pairing to an introduction to Champagne. Her enthusiasm is infectious and there's not a touch of stuffiness in sight.

Longer wine tasting courses are available as well as beer, port, gin, rum and whisky tastings at her Hampshire venues, hotels and upmarket pubs in Southampton and Winchester.

Many of Cécile's classes, including the Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Tasting tonight, have moved online this year.

"I like running around the room, talking to people, touching them on the shoulder, but this way I can still see you face to face, bring you together and have a laugh.

"If I've managed to make one person feel happy during lockdown, my job is done."

Gift vouchers, valid for three years and redeemable at wine schools across the UK, are available to purchase for Christmas.

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