Going to a wine tasting can be an intimidating even for an experienced wine bore like me. There’s all those wines lined up, you have to take a sniff, a little sip, spit – don’t get me started on spitting, a subject that deserves a whole post of its own – and then you have to scribble something. Many’s the time when I’ll be sandwiched between noted wine writers such as Victoria Moore or Robert Parker, and I’ll literally not be able to think of anything to write. It just tastes like Bordeaux; ‘typically claret!’ I’ll write, hoping that Jancis Robinson isn’t looking over my shoulder. It’s even more awkward when the producer is there and wants to tell you about the soil in which the grapes were grown. ‘ Can you taste the schist?’ ‘mmmmm, yes!’
I remember my first wine tasting. It was the Oddbins wine fair in Edinburgh in 2000. I didn’t spit in those days and was later found sliding slowly down the stairs muttering, ‘I’m so drunk, I’m so drunk.’ (Not so drunk, however that I can’t still recall a Bonnezeaux from Chateau de Fesles.) Perhaps part of the reason I got so drunk was because I felt so awkward asking for the wine and then trying to pull a suitably wine-tasty expression when tasting it. Everyone around me seemed to know exactly what they were doing.
One way to make tasting a little more youth-friendly is to embrace the boozy side of wine rather than acting as if we’re judging Pomeranians at Crufts. We drink alcohol when we’re celebrating, why not combine wine with festivity? It’s pretty radical stuff but it seems to be catching on. Whilst I was in California recently, a local wine merchant, Domaine LA, was offering Morgons on Superbowl Sunday, a day more usually associated with hot dogs and Budweiser. Now for World Malbec Day on the 17th April there’s an event in Dalston (I just resisted the urge to use the epithet fashionable before Dalston) called Cambalanche which combines wine tasting with other noted Argentine exports such as music, food and, er, graffiti.
It sounds fun. Instead of having to talk about fermentation temperatures or worrying about your spitting technique, you can munch on an empanada and strut around dramatically to Astor Piazzollo. I tried to persuade my dear old Dad to come but he’s boycotting Argentina because of their continued claim on the Falkland Islands. Instead he’s going to celebrate World Malbec Day by staying at home with a bottle of Cahors and some reheated cassoulet. Actually that sounds quite fun as well. What to do?