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The first rule of wine club is. . .

I’m planning on starting a  wine club so that I can drink wine I wouldn’t normally be able to afford. This club, will be in the words of Dr Frasier Crane, ‘just about wine and clear constitutional procedures for enjoying it.’ Without clear guidelines, a wine tasting can turn into a free for all or even a drunken brawl. I have seen it happen. Here are my ten golden rules of wine tasting:

1 – Talk about wine. Don’t invite people to your tasting if they aren’t interested in talking about wine. I’m not expecting discussion about the relative merits of limestone and clay for ripening Pinot Noir but I do want some level of engagement with the task in hand. If I wanted to gossip about other people’s marriages then I would join a book group.

2 – Get the level right. Don’t invite people who do want to talk about soil types unless you too want to talk dirt.

3 – Don’t mention Robert Parker. There is nothing duller than constantly measuring one’s opinions against a noted authority whether you agree with him or not.  There should be a box in which offenders have to £5 for every mention of his Bobness.

4 – No perfume. I went to a tasting recently put on by venerable Hull wine merchant, the House Of Townend, where a couple of ladies stood by the white burgundies spraying each other with Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker. My wife, having no experience of Yorkshire women, thought that they were prostitutes.

5 – No sobriety. This is one of the many topics on which Michael Broadbent and I disagree. He says ‘it is nothing short of ridiculous to drink one’s way through a tasting’ whereas I think a degree of intoxication is vital for English people to shake off their self-consciousness and talk freely about wine. There is, however, a fine line between Bacchic inspiration and being a drunken twat.

6 – Lots of food. This is vital to avoid point 5 getting out of hand. Bread, cheese, cold meats, sausages, a little game pie, pate, perhaps some salt cod croquets,  nothing too fancy.

7 – No scoring. By all means have a favourite at the end of the evening but don’t try and give your opinion a specious scientific gloss by attaching a number to it

8 – No smoking. I do love an occasional cigarette but not during wine club.

9 – No drugs. They numb your palette and lead to you making outrageous pronouncements such as ‘Rioja is for babies.’

10 – Wines will not be drunk blind. There should be no competitive element in the evening. The basis of the club is to try wonderful wines not to impress with one’s ability to recognise a Tuscan cabernet with one sniff.

Now all I have to do is find five people willing to follow these rules. It might be difficult.  Hopefully I will report back on the first meeting very shortly.

By Henry

I worked in the wine trade and publishing before becoming a freelance writer and broadcaster. My work has appeared in the Spectator, the Guardian, the Oldie and Food & Wine magazine. I now works as features editor on the Master of Malt blog. Ihave been on BBC Radio 4, Radio 5 and Monocle Radio, and a judge for the BBC Radio 4’s Food & Farming Awards and for the Fortnum & Mason food and drink awards 2018. My book Empire of Booze: British History through the Bottom of a Glass won Fortnum & Mason debut drink book 2017. My second, The Home Bar, was published in October 2018.

11 replies on “The first rule of wine club is. . .”

Does suffering congenital anosmia prevent me from joining? As you’re tasting neither ‘blind’ nor sober, I can just drunkenly parrot whatever the label says. And perfume wouldn’t bother me either. Actually, the more I think about it, having no real sense of taste or smell makes me a perfect addition to your wine club.

What a very good idea – a wine tasting evening, with delicious sounding nibbles… I don’t smoke, have never done drugs, find most perfumes revolting, have a very picky palate, have no idea who Robert Parker is, love Dr Frasier Crane, and have literally no idea how to buy wine properly – hopefully I tick some of the boxes…

Thank you. You elided that a group of six is the perfect number. Everyone gets a little less than a glass so their tasting can be a little more studied and yet relaxed than if they had but a slurp.

Hi Henry,

Could you please help me with a doubt and providing me with information? Is there a law or regulation related to Wine Tastings as homes to which I could refer?

Thanks for letting me know!

In England we have no rules or regulations about wine tastings at home. I hope that in America you don’t either or the War of Independence will have been in vain.

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