Magazine article The Spectator

Eat, Drink and Play Bingo. Red or White?

Magazine article The Spectator

Eat, Drink and Play Bingo. Red or White?

Article excerpt

Bingo is a game that I have never really seen the point of -- despite recent advertising campaigns attempting to market it as the new raucous 'girls' night out' of choice. It was thus with trepidation that I climbed Home House's grand staircase and entered one of their private rooms along with 30 other guests for a game of wine bingo. I was swiftly handed a glass of something light and fizzy, thankfully, and all images of fat, single, middle-aged Gala-dwelling women and their legs-11 disappeared. It was only when I reached for what from a distance looked like a macadamia nut in a round basket, but was in fact a bingo ball, that I remembered that I was there to play a game, and that I probably needed glasses.

Wine bingo was devised by the London club's head sommelier Nicolas Pierron two years ago, and is now a bi-monthly sell-out event with a cult following. Some guests have even been known to bring spreadsheets and wine study-guides to maximise their chances of winning the many bottles of wine on offer. However, the grand prize, which on this occasion was a magnum of Château le Prieure, Pomerol 2002, could only be won by getting a 'full house' -- and that would be left reassuringly down to chance and who could shout 'Bingo!' the fastest.

Wine bingo regulars aside, many guests are just here for a fun evening trying wines that they would perhaps normally avoid, and to test their blind-tasting capabilities. The rules made more sense after a few glasses of wine. Each guest is given a bingo card; Nicolas then commences the game by calling out numbers which are struck off in the usual bingo fashion. All fairly straightforward so far.

Then he will call out the immortal words, 'This is for a wine tasting', at which point everyone braces themselves, and if you're lucky enough to have the next number called, you win a bottle of wine and, more importantly, the secret details and identity of the wine everyone else then has to taste blindly.

Nicolas then moves around the room asking the guests to name the wine's grape variety, vintage and country. The guest with the answers will confirm 'one answer correct', or 'two correct' until by process of elimination, or sometimes even skill, someone manages to get all three details correct. They will then win a bottle of wine and the game continues until six wines (three white, three red) have been tasted and identified. The game then carries on until someone finally shouts 'Bingo!' having got a full house and the magnum is awarded.

With the exception of the wine bingo regulars -- who could be identified by their infuriated cries of, 'Damn, I forgot my spreadsheet', and who had set about drawing tables and graphs on the back of their bingo cards before everyone else had even sat down -- everyone seemed a little confused. One gentleman enthusiastically waved his arm in the air, shouting 'Yes!' every time that he crossed off a number and looking mystified when nothing happened.

However, despite several false starts, we finally made it to our first blind tasting. The room buzzed with questions -- was the shape of the bottle a trick? Had it been decanted?

Alsace, 2006, the grape that I can't pronounce and don't like? Gewurt? I'm getting honey with undertones of petrol? -- until it was finally established that we were drinking a 2005 Domaine Ribeauvillé Muscat.

And the drinking continued as we navigated our way from Alsace to Marlborough, New Zealand, to a 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, all three elements correctly identified by our resident Kiwi, all the way to our final white wine. …

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