From the March issue of GQ: A wine tasting. As home activities go, you might consider this only slightly more exciting than hosting a stamp collecting meet. There are however various notable advantages. For one thing, both genders can participate equally – it’s a relatively safe bet that the girls are going to be more enthusiastic about an evening featuring six top examples of Sauvignon Blanc than watching the big match on your flat screen.
For another thing, there’s no better way to learn about wine than to actually drink the stuff. You may find the subject intimidating right now but you’ll be amazed how quickly you learn if you apply yourself. The road to wine knowledge is littered with many empty bottles, as the saying goes.
Lastly, if you weren’t already aware, wine is mildly alcoholic and helps to get the party started!
The best way to proceed is to round up some like-minded souls and form a wine club with meetings ideally happening once a month. The size of the group is entirely up to you but six to eight members (three or four couples) works wells as it allows for a lively debate; anymore and chaos is all too likely to ensue.
Where to start? If you and your crew are new to wine, it can be difficult to pick up the subtleties of a line-up consisting of all Chardonnay or all Cabernet Sauvingon. Early on, therefore, it’s more useful to tackle a line-up of different varieties, which will allow you to imprint the characteristics of each on your mind.
As you become more experienced, you can start to compare a line-up of six of the same variety or type of blend which will allow you to make some quality judgements. Ultimately, you can explore more complex issues such as doing a vertical tasting of one particular wine to track vintage changes.
Beginners shouldn’t hope to taste more than six wines per tasting as palate fatigue (when your tasting faculties become dulled) quickly sets in and prevents constructive analysis. “Blind” tasting (labels concealed) is also advisable as it is widely accepted that when tasters, novice and professional alike, operate “sighted”, branding issues come into play affecting the ultimate assessment of the wine. During the more formal part of the tasting, it’s advisable if not essential to spit – simply to prolong the evening.
Add food into the equation and the tasting takes on a whole extra dimension. Whatever the wine theme, match food accordingly and see how your perceptions of both what’s in your glass and on your plate changes. Coq au Vin with six different expressions of Pinot Noir, for instance, and nobody’s going home having had a boring evening.