If you want to integrate into a new area why not join a wine tasting group?
But let’s start with a cautionary tale ...
'Welcome to our wine tasting group'
At one stage we rented a house in one of the smart rowing towns that sit astride the Thames and, soon after moving in, we decided to join the local wine tasting group.
We found two published numbers – a landline and a mobile. I tried the landline several times over a few days but no one answered. So quite naturally I decided to call the mobile and got a very snippy reply: ‘Why are you calling me on my mobile?’ I explained that I had tried the landline without success, and the response was ‘well surely you would realise that if I wasn’t answering my landline it meant I didn’t want to be bothered answering calls!’ Right! Eventually the woman calmed down and passed details of the next scheduled meeting. We had explained that we were keen to join a wine tasking group.
The group was meeting in a church hall in the centre of town and we turned up about 20 minutes before the scheduled start time as per instructions.
As we entered the room we noticed that perhaps 12 couples were sitting around the long central table. The woman-in-charge made no effort to speak to us other than say: ‘Find yourself somewhere to sit’. She made no effort to make us welcome or introduce us to the other members of the group.
We eventually found ourselves two places opposite the man who was obviously the guest speaker – he was setting up his bottles in pairs, one would be passed in each direction and they would end up with us.
No one spoke to us so just before the session was due to start we introduced ourselves to the people either side and one of them asked: ‘Where are your glasses?’
It was only then we noticed that each person in the room had brought along their own set of 8 glasses for the evening. Our thoughtful host had failed to mention we had to bring our own wine glasses! Anyway one of folks sitting next to us very kindly offered to loan us each one of their glasses for the evening.
The speaker was good – he knew his stuff. The evening was dedicated to the wines of the expensive Burgundy region, culminating in a superb example of Gevrey Chambertin. We had enjoyed the chat and the actual wine tasting, but we had as much fun observing the group dynamics.
The room had its share of wine snobs who periodically would say things like: ‘Oh yes, the last time we were down visiting the Joseph Drouin cellers we simply had to buy a case of Grand Crus.’ Then someone else would up that and say they had bought two cases of Premier Crus!
As the bottles of wine were being passed around the table, two women at different places had to be nudged awake every time the wine was passed around. One actually had her head in her hand face down on the table. Can’t imagine what lasting memory they had of the evening.
The speaker would introduce each wine, then pass the bottles around and they would end up with us, which meant we had a fairly generous portion of each of the tasting wines. The final wine was a superb Gevrey Chambertin, which was well outside the price range we would normally buy.
After the guest speaker concluded his chat the woman-in-charge thanked him, then, to our amazement, everyone whipped out their kitchen rolls, wiped their glasses and put them into special little carrying cases that held eight glasses, before departed.
No one lingered for a chat about the wines, or even drank a little more of the wine still in the bottle. Whoosh! They were gone into the misty night.
To our surprise the woman-in-charge of the wine group rang us a few weeks later and asked if we were going to join the group. She seemed quite put out that we declined! We had wanted to join a wine tasting group but just not that one.
How it should be done
When we moved to Hartley Wintney we found to our delight that we could join two wine tasting groups – one in our village and one in Hook, a few miles down the road. The way we were welcomed into the two groups was diametrically opposed to our earlier experience.
On arrival people passed round an attendance sheet so the Secretary knew who was there. Although minutes of the evening were recorded the whole atmosphere was relaxed, and engaging. Yes, there were wine buffs but they didn't feel the need to brag about their experiences or their buying ability. At most meetings we had a guest speaker from a local wine shop who was hoping for some sales after the formal part of the evening had concluded. And people stayed and chatted about the wines, their lives, and the latest village gossip.
So we continued going to both groups throughout the time we lived in the village and found it a source of pleasure and learning. There is so much snobbery associated with wine and yet blind tastings often prove that the best tasting wines aren't always the most expensive. Learn what you like and stick with it.
Do you want to join a wine tasting group? Just look in your local directory, library, or go online and you will quickly find a local group.
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