Wine tasting is a group activity, largely. No matter how reserved and introverted one may be, most of the time you will be tasting wine as a part of a group of people sharing a desire to experience vinous pleasure and/or gain indescribable amounts of knowledge about things winey. Those of us who partake in such collective tastings, albeit at your suburban wine-club, a media-tasting arranged by the winery’s public relations department or a presentation by an international visitor from European wine royalty, will know that tasting in groups can have its pit-falls. Yes, these be the one or three individuals sharing the tasting-table who knowingly or unknowingly succeed in making the occasion an experience best forgotten.
The following five types are best avoided:
- The Scented One: Most people who know anything about wine are aware of the rule stating that you do not attend a tasting of any kind smelling like a Parisian call-girl who has squirted each one of Galeries Lafayette’s perfume samples on her body in an attempt to mask the sweaty residual of her lunch-time activities. Yet, in this day and age one still arrives at a wine event where you have to negotiate three flights of delicate white and red wines while your contact-lenses keep falling out due to the cloud of perfumed scent wafting from the other side of the room. Ladies are most to blame due to the inner arousal created by the displaying of a new perfume, although a male wine writer who has just received an advance payment allowing him to buy the latest Aramis Cologne, he also makes for off-putting aromas.
- The Wise Guy – or Girl: The Wise One is unable to sniff and taste any wine without offering an unsolicited comment or appraisal to those at his or her tasting-table. “Hmm…bit of acidification going on here,” they will whisper before asking you if you “also think the lees-contact shows a bit of a heavy-hand during the batonage?” You yourself are well honoured to be residing in this thin, rare air of superior knowledge created by the Wise One. But these intrusive murmurings disturb your modest attempts to concentrate in the same way a lazy black fly breaks your attention by landing on your lower lip. Of course, the Wise One will never openly convey his or her uncannily astute observations about the wine to the winemaker or the host leading the tastings, preferring to drop those pearls of wisdom where the workings of the brilliant mind cannot be questioned.
- The Snorter: The opinion that the wine’s aroma is its most important, defining attribute is taken a few sniffs too far by those wine-tasters wishing to smell their wine with the loud and excited eagerness of a menopausal Dachshund who has for the first time in six years caught the scent of a bitch on heat. On my initial encountering of a Snorter I thought that the specific Shiraz the group was tasting had induced birth-contractions, despite the fact that the lady-taster in question was born around the time Abraham Izak Perold discovered Pinotage. Huge streams of wine-filled air were being inhaled from the glass, each long, rhythmic nasal pull followed by a startled, thoughtful gasp reminiscent of vintage German porn films. These desperate sounds, on the edge of physical distress and unbridled ecstasy, haunted me for weeks and whenever I encounter them at a wine-tasting, the nights that follow are deeply distressing.
- The Slosh: Closely related to the Snorter, the Slosh involves the noise made when the wine is swirled around the mouth with showy exuberance. The making of this noise is especially popular among wine-tasters beginning to take wine seriously, knowing that those in their presence will be made aware of the Slosh’s improving wine knowledge once they hear the sounds emanating from mouths busy with the business of tasting. First-up is the noisy slurp the wine-taster makes, simultaneously sucking in air and wine from the glass and in the process making a sound not dissimilar to one of those embarrassing and unexpected wet farts a visitor to a Sub-Saharan country encounters after his or her first visit to the local kebab take-away. The moist, vibrating sound of the intake is followed by expressive and thoughtful swishing of the wine between the gums, tongue, cheeks and throat of the analytical taster who is certain that, by exposing each square millimetre of oral flesh to the wine, he or she will be given insights into its origins and profile that mere non-gargling mortals are unable to detect. It is noisy and off-putting, like trying to craft a limerick while Motorhead is played at full volume.
- The Moaner: Once a wine-taster has reached the very extreme height of self-importance, it becomes a Moaner. You cannot help but be intrigued by the Moaner, but like the sighting of your first quadruple amputee, it is best not to stare for too long. For the Moaner, so driven by the entitlement brought on by his or her wine expertise, has lost all inhibition and self-control, wishing to make a complete arse by finding fault with most aspects of the tasting being conducted. It will detect VA and oxidation with each sniff, the red wines will all have too much oaking, while the whites are unbalanced due to excessive alcohol. Moving on, the Moaner will declare the tasting venue too cold and the wines’ temperature not precise enough to be exposed to his or her superior palate. The biscuits among the tasting glasses are deemed not neutrally flavoured enough, while the Moaner is sure the water-glass smells like chlorine. And then lunch is still to be served – Jesus wept. The only time the Moaner shuts-up, is when it receives the complimentary sample containing free bottles of wine. To be followed by an e-mail to the host of the tasting bemoaning the use of plastic in the sample-package wrapping and the unsustainable weight of the bottles. But by then, you are long gone. And unlike Arnold, you won’t be back.
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