Drinking wine is an enjoyable pastime, but it is very easy to get stuck in a rut and just drink the same wines all the time. A great way to avoid this is to set up a wine club. Whether you are absolute beginners or seasoned pros, a wine club can add to your knowledge, broaden your drinking habits and improve your palate. Here are some tips on how to set up your club.
1. Find some like-minded friends who are at a similar level to you. It will make things much easier if you all have the same ideas about what you want to achieve from your club. If some of you know nothing and want to just drink the wine and have a good time, you’re not going to get on well with people who are interested in all the technical breakdown and analysis.
2. Agree on practicalities beforehand. Wine tasting can be an expensive business, especially if you decide to combine it with food. Make sure you decide on how much you’re prepared to pay for the wines, how you are going to share this out amongst yourselves, where you’re going to meet, how much food you’re going to provide etc etc. It will make it all easier in the long run.
3. Try and get a matching set of glasses. The best ones to use are the Universal Tasting Glasses which are the ones given away at wine festivals and events. If you’re lucky, you’ll all have enough from previous events, but otherwise you can buy them from Consol Glass – www.consol.co.za. If you can’t get hold of tasting glasses, any plain wine glasses will be fine – if you can get them narrower at the lip than the bulb of the glass, so much the better.
4. Research your wines. If you buy the wines from independent retailers such as Wine Concepts (www.wineconcepts.co.za) or Norman Goodfellows (www.ngf.co.za) then they should be able to give you lots of information and tips about their wines. Alternatively, look at the winery’s website or on information sites such as www.wine.co.za. And, of course, the beauty of being in SA is that you can always phone the winery and ask any questions you may have – you’ll be surprised how willing most winemakers are to chat to enthusiasts!
5. Take notes. Even if they are only scribbles, make sure you record the name of the wine, the vintage, how much you paid for it and your impressions on the way it looks, smells and tastes. Gradually, over time, you will build up a valuable reference tool for yourself.
6. Step out of your comfort zones. The whole point of being in a club is to try something new, so even if you are sure that you hate those chocolate/coffee Pinotages, you should still try them every time. And when it comes to food matches – the world is your oyster!
7. Remember – whatever you taste is right. Wine tasting is a very personal thing and there are no rights and wrongs about it, so never be afraid to say what you think about a wine. There will probably be as many opinions as there are members of your club and that is just how it should be.
After your club is established, you can start planning events such as visits to wineries or wine festivals, food and wine matching dinners and inviting guest speakers to come to your events. And, of course, entering competitions such as the Blaauwklippen Blending competition, SA’s third oldest competition and the only one involving amateurs. All the wine clubs who enter (75 of them this year) are sent bottles of wine which they then have to blend to make a soft, fruity, easy-drinking wine.
The winners receive a trophy and will also see their ‘recipe’ bottled in magnums and sold under the Blaauwklippen Barouche label. This year’s winners – the Wine Engineers from the Eastern Cape – have been entering the competition for 10 years and this is their first success. For more information, www.blaauwklippen.co.za