by Karin Ling
Do you enjoy an evening of fine dining but shift around in your seat when the wine list arrives? Do you wish your wine knowledge extended beyond reds for meat and whites for fish? Deepening your understanding of wine in a relaxed social setting is the mission of the Tokyo-based French Wine Tasting Club.
For the past five years, the club has conducted monthly tastings, each focusing on a different wine production region. Participants learn from a sommelier, who speaks on the qualities of the region and the factors that contribute to the taste of its wines. Afterwards, participants sample four wines, guided by a questionnaire that encourages them to form their own impressions.
The most valuable skill you will take away from these monthly gatherings is an understanding of cepage, or grape variety, and how it defines the character of the wine. You will learn which grapes and tastes appeal to you and how to explore them further to deepen your personal enjoyment of wine.
Most of the attendees have little or no background in wines but simply a thirst for knowledge. An average of 20 students attend each tasting, with regular participants from Japan, America, Britain, Australia, China, and Korea. Though the talks are in English, handouts in French and Japanese translations are available on request.
To find out more about the club and to reserve, visit www.wineandcooking.info. Advance reservation is crucial because Philippe, the organizer, usually buys his wines directly from French importers for the scheduled tasting.