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General Discussion about Wine Tasting groups


#1

I thought perhaps we could get the forum wisdom on running, formatting and keeping alive a wine group. So it would be a good place to collect thoughts and tips.

Our group is called Oddbods having come out of an old Oddbins group before that store went down the pan. We have no commercial connection now.

We hold monthly meetings in a back room of a pub/bar, the venue has changed several times over the 10 years it been running. We take turns to put on a tasting to a theme of our own choosing. Usually between around 12 wines and about 12-15 attending. Each wine being passed around and discussed, both privately then in the group.

When we have no leader we do a BYO theme, sometimes blind and in a guess the bottle theme. We have a Christmas party tasting and a summer BBQ.

The reason for my asking for tips is that it’s difficult to keep it running with numbers and interesting ideas. So how do you get new members and keep it fresh?


#2

I’m a paid up member of two groups, and a sometime member of a third plus have experience of others.

Fisrt thing is money, you don’t say how your group is funded, is there a membership fee, do people pay to attend tastings, do you pay for your location, what about insurance, who supplies the glasses and washes them, who prints tasting sheets, glasses, what when do you meet, day, evening, weekday, weekend etc,

First club I’m in has been going 30 years, charges annual subscription of £18, meets Saturday nights most months, charges £18 for members £20 for guest. Costs are rent for room, annual insurance, speaker fees and cost of wine and food (light buffet afterwards). Run by unpaid members committee. Non-profit manking, profits are used to subsidise an annual dinner-dance- meal with sparkling reception and wines with meal. Group has ISO glasses and committee member washes them

New members come via website, and as contacts of members.

Other group is sub-group of U3A. Limited to 10 as we meet at members houses. No fee, no cost per tasting. Each member takes it in turn to host tasting and buy wines. Any vacancies are advertised within the U3A

I know of another long running group that charges an annual fee and members can go to any/all tastings without further charge


#3

I have only ever belonged to one tasting group and that was the similar to your limited to ten one.
Ours was in north Essex some years back and we met once a month, we did meet originally every two weeks but drop outs made it a bit pointless but once a month worked well and you didn’t reach that stage were it became a chore to attend, lasted till well after I left the area.
I think the setting up is the hardest part finding like minded people is not easy within a ‘restricted’ area and people who travelled any distance were the first to decant hmmm.


#4

Yes, our 10 groups meets monthly, first Thursday of the month. Because it’s a U3A sub-group members are local.

On a few occassions too many people have indicated they can’t attend and we had postponed by a week or cancelled that month.


#5

Thank you, Peter some interesting points.

We charge just on the night. £20, this goes to wine and food, with the excess being for room hire and then to general funds. These funds pay the venue,buy glasses, napkins, pay some champagne for Christmas do etc. The pub wash and store the glasses for us. The tasting organiser prints tasting sheets, chooses the wines, provides cold meats and cheeses etc. They are reimbursed, from the fees.

I haven’t thought of insurance, what for?

How many do you get to the U3A group and what is the format? Do you eat?
When you say speaker costs, what type of speaker do you get and how does that fit in with the evening format?eg do they bring wines and speak around them or as a separate part of the evening?

I get the feeling our group is a little more haphazard. But I’m keen to glean any tips which might help.


#6

To protect the club against any claims made against it while running events - if someone has an accident and decide to sue for example.

As above, we set the limit on 10 members* as we meet in peoples homes around their table. So at most we have 10 people, often there are 8 or 9 because of holidays or illness.
At first we were tasting only with some palate cleaning biscuits but as time went on people started supplying nibbles. Some have printed the wine notes from TWS and where the notes mention a food match they’ve supplied a similar food.
Me, I now get some party-food nibbles from M&S.

Format - well the member that is hosting has chosen the wines, printed a sheet of them, sometimes also a map, and brings out the first wine, host says a bit about it, bottle goes around the table then we talk about the wine. At the end we vote on the favourite.

(* but theres over 1,000 members of the U3A group that we are a sub group of, and now 5 wine tasting groups - each is independent and sets their own rules & criteria.)

The speaker organiser has an annual budget. We’ve had MWs, experts in a particular fields, members of Association of Wine Educators, local wine shop owners/managers, representatives of winerys, people from National Wine Bodies, importers, Waitrose, Majestic … Some charge a lot others don’t so it needs to be balanced out over the year.

Speaker is given a budget for wine and they source and bring the wine. When people arrive they are given a welcome glass of the first wine. We sit at tables of sixteen. When the speaker indicates a bottle is placed on each table and we pour a measure using a measuring glass. The speaker talks about the wine. We have 8 wines plus the door wine. Usually there is a second pour of the door wine so the speaker can tell us about it.

At the end of the tasting platters are served salads, meats, cheese, breads etc

One tasting has no speaker, it’s our annual blind tasting where we have 4 whites and 4 reds and 2 sheets giving 5 white varieties/5 countries and 5 red varieties/5 countries. All you have to do is match the correct variety with the correct country…
There’s a winner for white and one for red and an overall winner who gets a trophy, a small battered cup found in a junk shop many years ago. We finish with battered fish and chips from a local chippy. The event is called The Battered Trophy.

At the start this wasn’t well supported because people didn’t like blind tastings but at the one this month we had around 75 people as members realise that they can just enjoy themselves, drink wine and chat to friends.


#7

Thank you Peter. That’s really interesting.

I think the main difference and advantage you have is size. The last email for our meeting went to 20 people, around 5 of those I haven’t seen for 6 months/meetings, or even in one case two years.

Also with such a small number there are some serious wine buffs and a few just there for the social. We take turns in putting on tastings but some who are regular never have. Not only is this more work for the few, but means tastings are a bit repetitive.


#8

To get round the problem of the folk who never volunteer to run a tasting, our group has an annual desert island wine event. Those who haven’t presented a tasting are asked to choose and speak about one wine that they love above all others (hardly a chore). We usually have eight wines at a tasting so that is eight presenters. If you want to control the types of wine presented you could give each person a brief.

In terms of mixing things up we have also had the occasional blind tasting in a Call my Bluff format where three people describe a wine and we have to guess who is telling the truth.

Our group is like yours in that there is no membership fee, and the fees cover venue and glass hire. Our group is based at a university and we have to pay our hire costs up front at the start of the academic year. So we have to build up enough reserves over the year to be in a position to do that. We meet once a month from Oct to June, with an end of year BBQ (held elsewhere) where the wines are subsidised by any excess financial reserves. The meetings are early evening starting at 6:30pm. Membership is a mix of staff, retired staff, spouses and partners, friends. We get about 40-45 people per tasting and people are walking, using public transport or cycling. So a quite local crowd.