I suppose you could say the first proper wine tastings I went to were at university at the wine society there. My Dad might like to point out the various wine tastings he held at home for his friends over the years where I might get a sip of wine if I was lucky, but I’m not sure that really counts. The uni wine tastings were great – we’d get a lecturer or someone from Oddbins along to talk to us about a few wines and we’d enjoy learning about the wines whilst drinking our way through them (not sure we’d heard of spittoons in those days). We even had someone from Wine Australia come to take us through some aussie wines a few times.
Well, don’t things just come full circle – for there I was last week as that person from Wine Australia doing wine tastings for various university wine societies. And it struck me that not only do things come full circle, they also don’t change. There was still the slightly geeky boys in the corner frantically taking notes (though these days it seems pen and paper has been discarded in favour of iPads), the postdoc types who think they know rather more than everyone else about wine and aren’t afraid to show it, and the gaggle of girls who are interested in the wines but halfway through the tasting get waylaid by such conversations as ‘5 year plans’ and ‘where will we be when we’re 30’ and generally setting the world to rights. Well, I’m not afraid to say I was one of those girls at my uni wine tastings and never in a million years would it have crossed my mind that by the time I was (nearly) 30 I’d be working in the wine industry, studying for my MW and hosting those same tastings.
University wine societies are great. I made some fantastic friends through mine and we still see each other and enjoy a bottle or two of wine – and although the conversation has moved on somewhat, we do still like to discuss where we’ll be in 10 years time. But beyond that, it was these tastings that really instilled a love of wine in me – and shaped my career in the wine industry since then. It was heart-warming to see so much interest and enthusiasm from the students I talked to last week. With questions ranging from food matches, alcohol levels and soil types to debates on screwcaps vs cork and the potential effects of minimum unit pricing, there was clearly a huge willingness to learn about the whole subject of wine, as well as enjoying tasting the wines. As for the wines themselves, well we showed quite a range over the tastings at the five universities I visited including all of the main grape varieties and the main regions and surprisingly the top wine overall was voted to be a Riesling from Great Southern in Western Australia – Ad Hoc by Larry Cherubino. Surprising, as Riesling tends to be a grape variety that we in the wine trade love – but the general public don’t seem to have quite caught onto.
And that probably nicely sums up why I would encourage everyone with even the slightest interest in wine to join a wine society – at university or otherwise – and go along to wine tastings. Or even just to invite some likeminded friends over, open a few bottles and chat about the wines. For that is the best way to learn, to discover new wines and see for yourself what you like to drink. And that’s really what it’s all about. Setting the world to rights at the same time with a few friends is just a happy consequence.