Picture this: Fifteen students are sitting in a dimly lit wine cellar, sampling bottles of wine and slices of cheese, having servers pour them glass after glass of wine while they explain the robust flavor in each one.
If this image sounds more like something you would find at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom than at the College of William and Mary, it’s because that’s exactly where the idea came from.
While studying in Oxford last semester, Omar Farid ’10 joined one of the three wine societies there.
“I had joined Bacchus, which is the Oxford University Wine Society, which held wine tasting events every week and I thought it would be a fantastic idea to start a similar organization on campus here in the United States,” he said. Thus, The College of William and Mary Wine Society was born.
However, this is not the College’s first attempt at starting a wine society. According to Farid there have been previous attempts that have not lasted.
Farid, president of the wine society, believes that many students want to learn more about wine and drinking it. “My goal is to get people who want to learn about wine, who love wine, who love learning about wine, together and talk,” he said.
The organization is open to students and faculty; however, members must be 21 years or older. There is a membership fee of $35 for undergraduates and $45 for faculty per semester. The fee allows members to attend all events at a discounted rate and to attend the society’s dinner at the end of the semester.
For example, this last event was $15 for members and $25 for guests.
The society plans events, which are often open to both members and guests, in accordance with their mission statement: “The College of William and Mary Wine Society was created in 2009 to help promote the appreciation and enjoyment of wine on campus. This will take place through wine tastings led by experts in the field along with other special events especially catered to aid in learning about wine and how to taste it properly.”
To properly taste wine, you must check for three things: look, smell and taste. First, look at the color of the wine — it is recommended to swirl the glass a little from the rim of the glass to the middle to see color changes. While continuing to swirl the glass, smell the wine to get a good sense of the aromas mixed in. Start by wafting the wine and then later dipping your nose closer to the wine to get the full bouquet. Next, taste the wine. Start with a small sip and allow it to sit and roll around on your tongue — pay attention to sweetness, aridity, sour flavor or bitterness.
“It’s mostly about drinking wine and learning about wine,” Ty Muirragui ’10, the Wine Society’s treasurer, said. “It’s not about getting drunk.”
According to Farid, the tastings have been attended by a mix of members and guests — all with varying degrees of knowledge about wine.
“My experience was definitely an enjoyable one. Everyone was very friendly and congenial,” guest Vida Ess ’10, said. “The organization definitely made me realize that wine tasting is accessible, even for college students.”
At this point in the semester, the society has hosted three events: one that the organization put on itself, one in coordination with the Williamsburg Winery, and one most recently at the Cheese Shop.
This last event featured wines from France and was an introduction to some of the most famous winemaking regions, including Côrtes du Rhône and Bordeaux.
Farid believes that Williamsburg offers a good location for an organization like the society.
“The Cheese Shop and other venues in Williamsburg have great wine and we are glad they are willing to work with us,” he said.
Tomorrow, the Wine Society is ecouraging members and those who wish to learn more about wine to see author Miles Lambert at the College Bookstore. He is the author of “Desert Island Wine” and “Greek Salad: a Dionysian Travelogue” and will be signing copies of his books from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. These books focus on wine and wine history.
For more information about The College of William and Mary Wine Society, visit: Wmwinesociety.wordpress.com.