The voice of experience

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Of course there are natural born wine tasters, people with the nose of a bloodhound and the memory of an elephant, figuratively speaking, and the energy or passion to put those assets to the service of wine. What sets apart the rest of us in the wine business, however, from a public bewildered, amused or otherwise provoked by our inexhaustible appetite for differentiation between one wine and the next, is simply that we get to taste a lot more wines than most people. Every idiom has its idiot, and ours is wine. It's what we do, so of course we have a wider experience of it than people who don't spend all day buying and selling wine for a living. If you're going to make a success of that buying and selling, then it helps greatly to be able to tell good from bad, in order to make the right choices at the purchasing end, and in order to keep the customer satisfied and loyal. A good way to do this is to try a lot of wine, and in the trade there are numerous opportunities to do so at home as well as abroad. Hardly a week goes by, even in Ireland, without a trade tasting of wines from a particular country, region or supplier being held somewhere. Usually not Cork, it must be said. But there are public tastings too. It takes a fair degree of commitment to the grape and deepish pockets to teach yourself about wine in a structured way all on your ownio, but joining a crowd to compare and contrast a given selection of wines usually balances education and entertainment without breaking the bank. And, once you've enjoyed a tasting, you have some ideas about what to investigate next time you buy a bottle of wine. Chances are you may try something new. Yippee, says your friendly local wine merchant if you sensibly enlist her help. All her (or his, yeah, yeah) diligent bloodhounding and elephanting will be of genuine use and service to you. And if you don't like the recommendation, go back and say so and try again. This is what customer service is about. If you go off in a huff because I didn't get it right first time, and stick for ever more to the anodyne mega-brand you were buying for the thirty years before I persuaded you to do otherwise, that is a pity, grade 1. Anyway, to tastings. If you're remotely interested in the life-enhancing prospects of a little wine knowledge, seek out something like the event that Curious Wines put on in Cork recently. A thoroughly entertaining night was had by all present, and we all learned something new while enjoying the opportunity to compare about a dozen wines under the expert guidance of importer Joyce Austin. When those present share their enthusiasm with the technologee, the ripples keep on going. I recommend you try a wine tasting soon. Between you and me, there are even rustlings in the Bubble Brothers camp. Here are some points of view from the night: Live video Blog post from a first-time taster "wine tastings are fun" Blog post from a convert "Spit or Swallow