Ten Rules for a Successful Wine Tasting Club

Planning on hosting or attending or a wine tasting? For goodness’ sake don’t even think about it without first reading Henry’s golden rules…

I have for some time been 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 put £5 for every mention of his Bobness.

4 – No perfume. I once went to a tasting 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.

Henry Jeffreys also blogs at World of Booze.
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About Author Profile: Henry Jeffreys

Henry Jeffreys was born in Harrow, Middlesex. He worked in the wine trade for two years and then moved into publishing with stints at Hodder & Stoughton, Bloomsbury and Granta. Under the name Henry Castiglione, he reviewed books for the Telegraph andthefirstpost.co.uk. Under the name Blake Pudding he was a founder member of the London Review of Breakfasts website as well as a contributor to the Breakfast Bible (Bloomsbury, 2013). Since 2010 he has been writing mainly about drink under his own name. He is wine columnist for the Lady magazine, contributes to the Guardian and was shortlisted for the Fortnum & Mason drink writer of the year 2013 for his work in the Spectator. He is writing a history of Britain told through alcoholic drinks called Empire of Booze. He blogs at Henry’s World of Booze.

6 thoughts on “Ten Rules for a Successful Wine Tasting Club

  1. Worm
    January 17, 2012 at 08:45

    I also would like to add 11. That the wine merchant hosting the evening should not aggressively try to pressure you into buying all their sub standard booze

  2. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    January 17, 2012 at 13:55

    12…broadsheet wine clubs, The Times and some bloke called Johnston, a better selection can be made by running blindfold around Tesco’s, sweeping the stuff into a trolley.
    13…please, please, bring back Oddbins, the way they used to be in the eighties,, not as a relaunched busted flush with pretensions.

    • Worm
      January 17, 2012 at 14:31

      I know a bloke who works as a buyer for a well known mail order wine company/ broadsheet wine club – he has some interesting stories

  3. Gaw
    January 17, 2012 at 18:39

    Where do we put our names down? I’m sure I could confine my brawling, drug-taking and wearing of perfume to other nights.

    • Gaw
      January 18, 2012 at 18:38

      Need to get our act together on that front. I haven’t brawled whilst stoned and fragrant for too long.

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