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Something Different: Wine Society

Tired of the 601? Been to every ball? Looking for something different? The Saint brings you the highlights from St Andrews’ weirdest and most wonderful events.

During RAG week, some friends invited me to join them for a wine-tasting event at the Union. Sponsored by St Andrews Wine Co., I learned the basics of wine types and tasting, and came out fascinated by the lessons I had learned and with a new appreciation for the artistry of wine making and tasting.

Wine holds a prominent place in history, first showing up in around 6000 BCE and holding such cultural significance in ancient Greek and Roman times, that it earned its own Olympian god, Dionysus (or Bacchus to the Romans). As one of the most popular and prominent alcoholic drinks throughout history, there is a lot of cultural, historical, and social knowledge to be collected from it.

This experience introduced me to St Andrews’ very own Wine Society. Although only established in 2019, it has become a staple for the budding enologists on campus. President Caroline Kelley explained that it was “created with the intention of education and exposing students to wine, with the desire of wine being more than something to get drunk on, but to actually appreciate”.

For the price of £11 a year, any enthusiastic student can join the society and gain the opportunity to socialise with like-minded people, as well as receive discounted tickets to general events, and access to members-only events. With a minimum of three events per semester, the membership fee is undoubtedly worth it.

However, if you are new to wine and anxious about committing to another society, Wine Soc frequently hosts events that are open to all students, not just members. This gives everyone the opportunity to learn about wine and experience the group's social benefits without the commitment of purchasing a membership.

Unlike other wine-oriented groups on campus, Wine Soc really emphasises education about and developing an appreciation of the different aspects of wine. Some recent events have been lessons on and tastings of Old World vs New World whites, sparkling wine, Italian reds, natural wines, and an introduction to French reds. At the events, the group leaders walk through each wine and then have everyone discuss and chat about what they are learning and experiencing.

First-year Wine Soc member Sofie Van Natta has found the society’s events to be both welcoming and informative. “Wine Soc is so fun”, she explained, “you learn a little, you drink a little, and it’s just generally a great place to hang out and make new friends”. The free alcohol and winemaking lessons make conversation easy, meaning a Wine Soc tasting event could be perfect for a first date or a girl's night out.

If wine tasting isn’t enough to satisfy your intellectual curiosity, Wine Soc also has a tasting team that meets weekly to blind taste various wines, oftentimes having guests lead the tasting. These sessions are in preparation for tasting competitions run by Pol Roger, where team members compete against Edinburgh University.

Wine tasting is an art form that will benefit you for the rest of your life, whether trying to impress someone at a fancy dinner or just trying to find a little artistry on a night out. No matter how little or how much you know about wine, Wine Soc is an excellent way to learn more and meet new people. Be warned, however, once you foray into the world of artisanal wine, there’ll be no going back to a £4 bottle from Tesco.

Illustration: Sarah Knight

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