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Worldly Wine Tasting in Our Tiny Scottish Town

I never would have thought my first wine tasting would be a school-organised event in a Scottish church, but that was my reality on Thursday 14 March. The Foreign Affairs Society organised a Wines of the World event, offering six different wines to sample for just £12. Unlike high-end wine tastings in the South of France or Tuscany, attendees did not spit or pour out any wine. In fact, the society left all the bottles on the table so we could finish them. Of course, it must also be acknowledged that most students attended this tasting with slightly different intentions than becoming sommeliers.

The Foreign Affairs Society partnered with St Andrews Wine Company to guide us in our pursuits of becoming wine connoisseurs. We tasted white wine first because red wine overpowers the taste buds and masks the aromas of the wine. Contrary to my previous belief, sniffing wine is not just a pretentious thing my dad does before drinking; it is supposed to carry the aroma to our palette. We were shown how to properly sniff and swish the wine, either holding the glass or using the table. This motion separates the aromas in the wine, enhancing the smell and flavour. The wine representative also explained that the bigger the teardrops of the wine run down the glass, the higher the alcohol percentage. 

The first wine we tasted was a New Zealand pure Sauvignon Blanc paired with a detailed explanation from the St Andrews Wine Company representative about the wine's origins and history. For those first few minutes, I had already accidentally tasted the wine before completing the process of swishing and smelling. We were told it was supposed to smell fruity, but my table agreed that the Sauvignon Blanc tasted much better than it smelled. The second wine was a 1655 South African white wine, and, when we again were asked what people smelled, one participant spoke out that it “tastes like I have an empty stomach and I took a drag of a Marlboro red.” No one had a better description of a wine the entire night. After the three New World white wines, the wine representative started talking less, and the tables’ conversations began flowing. My personal favourites were the reds, specifically the 2015 Bordeaux. It was described as spicy and leafy and was the oldest wine we tasted that night. All the wines are available for purchase from St Andrews Wine Company, and Foreign Affairs Society members received 10 per cent off for the following week.

I walked away from this experience convinced I was a proficient wine snob. For how much wine was available, the £12 seemed like an extremely reasonable price. The Foreign Affairs Society has around 300 paying members and does significantly more than wine tastings such as hosting speakers and career events. Fellow attendees were surprised to learn that I am not an IR student, yet despite our academic difference I still felt welcomed and had an enjoyable evening. You could easily attend this wine tasting alone, with friends, or as a creative date night. The wine no doubt helped the sociability at the table. After the church closed, participants continued their night at the pub signalling the overwhelming success of Wines of the World.

Photo: Ilaria Freccia

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