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One Saturday night drinking wine

What happens when you spend a Saturday night with a couple of dozen people who drink wine – some of whom know a little about wine, some of whom know more than that, and some of whom don’t know much at all? You learn something about consumers and what they think of wine and the wine business, and it’s something that all of us who care about wine should pay attention to.

My Saturday night adventure and those lessons are after the jump:A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to my old pal Amy Kerrins, who hosted the event and bought several cheap wine books for her guests. Amy’s idea was to bring together some of her friends and let them drink the same wines and see what they learned — who liked what, who didn’t like what, and so forth. She wanted me to offer advice and pointers where necessary, but I thought it would be more fun if we let everyone drink the 12 wines (mostly reds, and ranging in price from $8 to $50) without any wine wisdom from me.

In other words, let everyone decide what they liked all by themselves. Which, of course, is cheap wine book lesson No. 1. I did, after everyone tasted the wines, visit with them, several at a time, and answer questions.

At the end of the evening, a variety of things were clear:

• If you give Americans a no-pressure situation in which to taste wine, they will — even if they say they don’t like red wine or wine in general or because wine is too complicated or whatever. Watching this, I was convinced once again that the main reason more of us don’t drink wine is because we’re scared to do so.

• One of the great victories of the evening came when Hassan Seif, who professed not to like much wine other than merlot, turned to me and said, “This is fun. I’ve never been able to drink wine this way. I’ve even found some wine I want to buy.”

• Amy, tasting the white Gascon I had brought, said, “I don’t like this.” I almost hugged her. Amy drinks a lot of pinot grigio, and felt confident enough in her palate to tell me the Gascon had more fruit and citrus than she liked. Which is the point, isn’t it? On th other hand, her nephew, an army drill instructor, loved it.

• No one used winespeak. Instead, they used adjectives like smooth and fruity, and talked to each other about whether they liked the wines in a refreshing, uncomplicated way.

• They asked intelligent questions about what we tasted — why one wine cost more than another, how much of a difference price made in quality, why I liked wines that they didn’t, and, of course, availability. Best yet, they listened to my explanations in a way that many “experienced” wine drinkers, who already know everything, often don’t.

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