Learn to taste wine – the sociable way

Get your wine club started with our wine editor's help!

by: Cathy Marston | 11 Jan 2016

There’s no real need for anyone to learn to taste wine but if you want to, then the best way to do it is with some friends. Follow these posts over the next few weeks to help you organise a group of pals and expand your vinous horizons.

1. The practicalities
First – find your friends! Which shouldn’t be too hard if you’re a sociable, drinking type of person. But try and find some people who like different things from you – if you and your friends all agree that Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc is the only wine you want to drink for the rest of your lives, then it’s going to be a pretty boring wine tasting group! Try and find a few people with different tastes – sure you might hate some of their choices but you never know – you might just find something even better than your current fave.

2. Agree on a budget
If you think a good bottle of wine can be had for R30 and your friend thinks anything under R200 is undrinkable, you’re going to have problems. My advice would be to look for wines that come in around the R65 – R120 mark. Yes, you can get good drinking wine for much less than that but you will tend to find that at that price, the wines are going to be quite simple and aren’t really going to have a lot for you to talk about. Be prepared to take it in turns to spend at the top of the budget and even break it when the occasion warrants it.

3. Get some glasses
When you’re starting out, the best ones to use are the ISO tasting glasses which you get free at wine festivals. A lot of people have a couple lying around their house so try and muster at least 2 per person if possible. The ideal number would probably be 4 each if you can and if you can’t find ISOs then any wine glass which is narrower at the top than the bottom will do.

4. Find a spittoon or two
Yes, I know I said this was sociable and you can definitely drink the wine afterwards and take Goodfellas or Uber  home – but if you want to taste wine and really think about similarities and differences, you need to be fairly sober.

Spitting makes it possible for you to try more wine (which has to be a good thing – right?) and also allows you to write notes to remember what you thought about it. If you have a spittoon, that’s great but otherwise, a large opaque container will do. My first ever spittoon was a mayo jar wrapped in duct tape so I couldn’t see all the yucky spit inside – no need to spend a fortune.

Right – you’ve got all the things you need. Look out for the next post where I’ll discuss buying some wine!

Follow Cathy Marston on Twitter @CathyMarston.

- Cathy Marston


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