Wine club – more than just swill!

By Shannon Burrows
Owner, Argyle Wines Listowel
Founder/Owner On The Couch wine-tasting parties

May 31, 2019

If you have ever wanted to start a wine club, rest assured, it’s easier than you think.
Two of my closest women and I started our wine club more than three years ago. We have met on a monthly basis, with the rare exception, ever since.
The first goal should be to have fun with each other and the wines you try. It’s also a bonus if you learn something. Everything else is up to you!
Your club may or may not have a name; We call ourselves the Gorgeous Grapes Wine Club. You can have a format or schedule, or none at all.
Our club works a little like this: We three members take turns hosting each month. The hostess plans the meals and accompanying wine. We cover old and new business, and take minutes (that’s my job, since I seem to like writing things down), taste our wine according to the WSET tasting grid and record our findings, both prior to eating and then again with the cuisine.
As a result, we have tasted an awesome variety of wines, all styles and price points, both commercial and craft wines, from vineyards around the globe.
We all love to cook, and can pass hours in the blink of an eye obsessively researching wine and food pairings. Results vary, but are delicious and enlightening more often than not. Regardless of the success level of our pairings, these evenings are fulfilling and satisfying for both our palates and our insides.
Beyond the tastiness of at all, this is also a time to indulge in good company. These are women I love and admire and whose opinions I respect. We talk about so much more than wine. We share successes and frustrations, express joys and offer support in times of discouragement. I truly believe we all need more time spent with the special people in our lives in order to be better and happier versions of ourselves.
But honestly, if your potential club members care more about enjoying a second glass than they do about wine education – awesome. The more power to you.
If you feel wine club is something you’d like to try, here are a few fun and easy ways to get started:

1. If you don’t enjoy cooking, try a wine and book club. This is a super simple way to get going – everyone reads a book, then discusses it over a glass or two of wine. To keep it even easier, have each member take a turn selecting the wine for that month’s meeting. If you’re into themes, try choosing a wine from the country where the book takes place, a wine from the author’s native country, or perhaps even a location or wine mentioned in your book. If wine is nowhere to be found in your reading, what the heck, just pick something and run with it!

2. Try comparing wine varieties. This could be as easy as comparing a California Cabernet Sauvignon with a Bordeaux from France (Cabernet Sauvignon is a major grape variety in Bordeaux). Because of geographical, climatic and stylistic differences, the same grape can taste mind-blowingly different. The same could be done with different wines from different regions within the same country –  say, two or more Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand (some of which are love-of-my-life favourites – just saying), ice wines from the Niagara Region; Pinot Noirs from Burgundy, or Shiraz from Australia. Plenty of countries grow the same grape, but with totally different results. Your options are endless. Contrast and compare the differences. Is one more fruit-forward, while another offers greater minerality? Is oak influence (woody, toasty, smokey, vanilla, spicey, etc.) obvious in one, while more reserved in another? Can you feel the warmth of alcohol content (often felt on the back of your throat as a warming sensation of happiness, generally speaking) while the other is lower alcohol? Do the tannins of one grip and coat your tongue and gums (think black tea), while another flows smoothly? Share your thoughts and listen to those of your pals. 

3. Try a simple cheese board. Include a soft, semi-soft and hard cheese, and three different wines (white wine is often easier to pair with cheese when you’re starting out, but by all means, play around!). Bad pairings are often just as educational as successful ones. Your mouth will tell you what works together and what doesn’t. 

4. Everyone brings their favourite. This will ensure a decent variety, and each guest can discuss what he or she loves about a particular wine. This is a great way to try wines you wouldn’t normally drink.

5. If you do like to cook, plan a simple menu and choose two wines to match. For instance, a two-course meal of a starter salad and then a main – both with a wine – isn’t too demanding and easy enough to research.

6. If you and your guests like to cook, have everyone bring a contribution (appetizer, sides, main, dessert) with a wine of their choosing to pair. This is ultimate fun, because no one can predict what you’re going to be trying. Interesting surprises abound.

A few words to the wise: You’d do well to book your future wine club meetings in advance. This help ensures commitment and consistency. Also, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, and remember fun is the name of the game. No one says you have to take minutes, keep tasting notes or stick to the agenda. Enjoy yourself and see where the night, and your tastebuds, take you.
If you do start your own wine club, please tell me about it! I’d love to hear your feedback.

Weekly Wine Review

May was my turn to host GG club. It was too nice out to serve a heavy, cool-weather dish, but not quite nice enough to serve warm-weather fare. I selected one of our household favourites: Curry. This choice was partly inspired by the first of the LE18 limited edition Winexpert Symphony Gewürztraminers coming out of production.
You’ll frequently find Gewurztraminer from Germany (go figure) in an off-dry (hint of sweetness, but not too much) style. This wine is awesome with the traditional holiday fare of ham, but also is dynamite with slightly spicy foods. The bit of sweetness in the wine balances the food’s spice. Since I love Chinese, Asian and Indian fare, my wine cellar is never without a Gewürztraminer or a Gewürz blend.
One of the things I love most about this wine is it has a certain spice aroma and flavour itself – not hot, not off-putting, not weird in any way – it’s just a specific characteristic of the Gewürztraminer grape. It’s a lovely, distinguishing note that sets it apart.
The good news is, its uniqueness is super, super appealing, particularly in this blend. The Symphony grape is a delight; pleasant, refreshing, crowd-pleasing and a marvellous counterpart to the Gewürztraminer. It’s a beautiful blend. I myself will absolutely be making more for my own cellar. If you’ve ever been interested in Gewürztraminer, this would be an awesome one to try; the Symphony blend slightly mitigates the Gewürztraminer spice, but the Gewürztraminer characteristics are still very much present. 

alcohol champagne close up close up view

Photo by George Becker on

Thanks for joining me for a Second Glass.
See you next week!

Argyle Wines Listowel is located at 155 Argyle Ave. in Listowel. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. After hours available by appointment. Follow Argyle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and contact us at 519-418-6000 or Proudly named 2018 Food & Drink Business of the Year by the North Perth Chamber of Commerce Business Achievement Awards.