Cheltenham is a charming town, chocked full of beautifully elegant Georgian town houses. I’d never visited before, so it was nice to spend half an hour wandering around before I reported to the Town Hall for my tasting/talk on the science of wine for the Science Festival.
The event was a sell-out, with the primary draw not being the speaker but the fact that there were six wines to drink. The wines themselves were well chosen by the local Majestic branch: a New Zealand Sauvignon, Marques de Murrieta’s Rioja Blanco, a McLaren Vale Viognier, Hochar 2001 (Musar’s second wine), Yering Station Shiraz Viognier and a Regnie (Beaujolais).
I was using a powerpoint presentation, and I started off with a brief introduction: wine science can be used to make commodity wines more cheaply and consistently, or it can be used to understand what makes fine wines interesting, with a view to putting this information to use to help winegrowers produce more interesting wines. Then I pulled up a slide of tasters busy at work, with the heading ‘tasting break’. That this should occur so early on elicited a spontaneous burst of applause from the thirsty crowd.
This pattern was repeated. A few slides, some wine science, and then another tasting break. After getting a glass of wine down their gullets, the audience warmed up fast. There were questions; even some heckling. It was all rather good fun, and I was quickly relaxed. Before we knew it the wine was all drunk, I was on the 89th (and final) slide, and it was time to go home, or at least to the Hotel Kandinsky, where I was staying. I hope I get invited back—next time I’d like to spend a bit more time at the festival, which looks very good fun. It’s also important in that it helps counter the strong ‘antiscience’ sentiment that exists in our society.