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Blackrock Castle Wine Club suggestions box

It does seem as though the wine club at Blackrock Castle is a success. We're pleased, the people at the Castle are pleased, and the members are pleased too. It took a fair bit of bothering people after the vigorously sociable February event to get any constructive criticism out of those present - mostly there was unequivocal enthusiasm for how things are turning out.

While you can't please all the people all the time, we do hope to get fairly close - given the nature of a wine tasting, it shouldn't be too difficult to provide a friendly evening. But we are still settling in to a new routine and there are possible improvements we just hadn't thought of, which a few tasters, when pressed, didn't mind sharing with me. I'll do my best to remember all I can.

SCHISM
One of the more radical suggestions was that club meetings be held on two nights in the month so as to (i) make room for everyone, (ii) facilitate crowd and noise control by dividing the membership into two groups, and (iii) give interested parties who can't attend on Thursdays a look in.

EARS
The Castle Bar & Trattoria is not ideal for addressing a group. The ac-ou-stics are all wrong, and I'm not convinced that amplification is the answer, since there's nothing to be done about the shape and construction of the room. Common sense may prove a more reliable means of getting the message across. I roared and bellowed my way through the Languedoc with as much vocal energy as I could manage (rumour has it one or two people mistook the sound for a crashing boar), but it wasn't always easy to make myself heard even so. I don't for a minute think reverential silence would do much to improve the atmosphere of the meetings, and I'm past taking offence at not being listened to, but it was suggested that we should, as a group, and with future guest speakers in mind, strike a more useful balance between speaking and listening.

The way forward is probably more about rhythm than volume. If we establish a 'listen now' and a 'talk amongst yourselves' phase in the introduction of each wine, we're not cramping the social side, and everyone who wants to hear what's being said - we do try to pass on useful bits and pieces, after all - can do so.

BRAIN
It's great to be involved in such a popular, sociable gathering. Some people would like more wine education, some less. There are very focused and correspondingly costly courses available elsewhere that offer a comprehensive over-view of wine in the world - our wine club is not meant to be as formal as that, and many members seem relieved not to find themselves in a study environment. We hope to maintain an equilibrium agreeable to everyone. If you feel the balance is not quite right, tell us. We'll keep tweaking as we go.

EYES
It's hard enough to remember and distinguish wines you've only encountered once, even when wine is your job - so in future we'll try to show clearly the bottles and their labels as we discuss each wine. It mightn't be beyond us to think about adding thumbnail pictures to the tasting sheets we give out.

MOUTH
Full marks to the Castle Bar & Trattoria for offering an early meal for club members. By all accounts this was great eating, good value and very convenient for those rushing from work. Once again there'll be something delicious and a glass of wine for €20 just before the March tasting (from 6.15 - 7pm). Book your table now - mention that you're a wine club member, naturally - on 021 435 7911.

Some people felt that there should be more food on the tables to accompany the wines. The Languedoc reds we were sampling in February were mostly food wines, but we're hoping to evaluate the wines on their own merits each month, in the way we do professionally: the inside approach is perhaps one of the benefits of a club run by wine merchants. And, of course, more food equals more expense. We'll bear it in mind.

We feel we're supplying a generous tasting portion of each wine: certainly more than enough for bare analysis.  Opinions to the contrary were, nonetheless, tactfully voiced.  I repeat, keep talking to us and to other members.  We'll try to meet reasonable demands, in a loosely democratic way.

We'll suggest food matches as we go along, without making too much of a fetish of it. By all means shout out if you'd like more emphasis on that side of things.

There was a shortage of water jugs - or insufficient refilling of the ones that there were.  That's something we'll put right next time, and keep an eye on.

POINTS MEAN PRIZES
You'd like some sort of competition or draw each month. That's a good idea. Noted.

THURSDAY
We look forward to seeing you on Thursday 25th to try out some white wines in tall bottles from a few different places.  There are a few seats left, but given past form, if you'd like to join us you should buy your ticket now.

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