Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Put a Cork in It

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Put a Cork in It

Article excerpt

VICTORIA MOORE goes back to school

Turning up to my wine class a bit late this week, I could not help but feel irritable when I saw that all the seats -- my seats -- on the back row were taken. Our lecturer had warned us against this sort of reaction in the first session. "Week after week, people sit in the same place next to the same people," he said. "For goodness sake, move around a bit. This is meant to be a sociable occasion."

Of course, it isn't. No one speaks to anyone else unless they know them already, although there is one bloke who shouts out smart-alecky comments ("There must be either a lot or no vineyards in England, or you wouldn't be asking us how many we thought there were"), only about 5 per cent of which are funny. A motley and bedraggled collection of harassed people traipses every week into a neutrally decorated classroom to spend the first hour of the lesson earnestly taking notes and keeping one dogged eye on the wine bottles that are about to come our way. As soon as the first arrives, we go rapidly through the assessing ritual before covertly gulping it down. Only once this relaxing glassful has been drunk is the poor lecturer able to elicit any sort of response from his work-weary audience.

Most difficulties seem to arise from a misunderstanding of technical terms. This week, the class shouted hopefully but without conviction that the young Riesling we were tasting was "lemon" (as opposed to gold) coloured. The lecturer assented. "Yes, because remember, lemon does not, for our purposes, refer to the colour of a lemon's skin but to its squeezed juice." A look of pure relief and sudden understanding settled on most people's faces.

It was the same when we were briefed on that old chestnut -- corked wine. Contrary to common belief, wine with bits of cork floating in it is just wine with bits of cork floating in it. …

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