If I Had a Wine Club…

Posted on January 25, 2012


A Tasting Table of 6 Zinfandels by Kaki Shields

I try to buy wines that I think will fill out my tasting experience, but it is difficult to be very methodical about it. I sometimes wish that I were part of a group that I could share wine experiences with on a regular basis. When we have friends over for dinner, on occasion I try to have a theme or vein that runs through the wines, but without the original intent of focusing on and discussing wines, it is difficult to impose this purpose on one’s guests. Also, without enough folks to taste through five or more bottles, it can get pretty expensive. If I could find enough people who are interested in tasting wines together, I have a few ideas on how I would like to conduct the gatherings.

There is a wine professional who has an idea of where people who want to hone their palates for wine tasting should start. Terry Thiese has a portfolio of wine selections from Germany, Austria, and the Champagne region of France that he hand selects and imports, but he is also a fabulous wine writer. Last spring I read, and thoroughly enjoyed, his book Reading Between the Wines. The first chapter of the book is called and devoted to “Befriending Your Palate.” One of the suggestions that he makes in the chapter in response to the “sheer cacophony of wines” is to dwell or only drink one type of wine for at least three months. Actually he said two types, one red and one white. He recommended trying as many different expressions of the wine, from farflung regions and countries, and make as many notes of your impressions as possible. I think what he suggests makes sense, but I also know that I would not happily drink only two varietals for three months. I do, however, believe that a single varietal would be good to have as a focus for a tasting club gathering.

For an initial tasting I think it would be good to choose one varietal and have each participant bring a bottle or, depending on the size of the group and cost of the wine, have two members share the cost of contributing a bottle to the tasting. The selections can either be assigned a region or country or a surprise element can be present based random offerings. Once the group has had a chance to taste together more, a single varietal tasting might be conducted within the confines of a single region or appellation and see how this type of tasting differs. The experience could even be brought to another level by tasting through the same wine by the same maker from different years, also known as a vertical tasting. The opportunities and permutations are endless.

Any takers?


Posted in: Wine Club