When I am conducting a tasting event I get to see the diversity of human beings and it is very revealing. You engage the audience when you have to, and then disappear when you aren't needed, but, like Dennis Thatcher behind Maggie, you are always there... observing.
As I looked around the room, it is amazing what you see. I notice the (suspected) Lesbian couple who are trying to not let their friends know they are an item and holding hands under the table whilst they talk to other people. The handsome sleazy guy who is pretending he knows more about wines than he does, in the vain attempt to chat up the girl that has reluctantly had to sit next to him.
There are those people who are here for a chat with their friends, they stand out as they actually don't drink much due to the fact that they are too busy chatting and then end up downing half a glass in one go when it is time to move on to the next wine. The polar opposite are those here for a cheap evening of booze, who drink far too quickly and then spend the ten minutes between each of my stints on the floor eyeing up the full glasses of those chatting.
There is the guy in his mid twenties , here with his parents. Obviously an only or youngest child, his parents have forced him to come along in case the is a young girl he who may catch his eye. Sadly, as always, there isn't. We have the "mutton dressed as lamb" lady and her leather jacketed, balding husband. Both have realised that they had better start socialising with people their own age but reluctant to join the blue rinse crowd yet, so they think wine tastings are a way to meet people without taking up bowls or joining a knitting group.
Then the is the Colonel. A retired military type who is the only person to ask questions, coming so quickly you can only imagine how hard an interrogator he was in a past life. You suspect that he not only knows more about wine than you do, but knows each of the producers you are talking about personally and probably slept with most of their wives when going around Europe during the war. Still, at the end of the evening, he is the first to thank you and say how much he enjoyed himself showing that manners and politeness isn't dead, just getting older.
There are the older ladies, all north of eighty, who confess to you that they don't normally drink and then accidentally mention that they managed to polish off half a bottle of brandy the other evening, and you have the younger girls who are using the tasting as a way to become lubricated by drink before they hit the town later. There is the guy in a jumper and tie that doesn't know anyone and doesnt say a word all night but can't take his eyes off the chunkier girl in ill-fitting heels. Sadly, for jumper guy, she can't stop staring at handsome sleazy guy.
Genuinely-cool-arty-mid-forties-guy is the life and soul of the party at one of the tables, in his thick rimmed spectacles and designer blazer, paired with tatty jeans and flip-flops, despite it being November. He controls the conversation, stories bounding forth about his time cycling in Peru. On the same table is the 'I will not get dressed up for anything as I'm too important and cool ' scruffy looking type who is grumpy that arty guy is stealing his thunder.
Tech guy and tech girl are tweeting the event from opposite sides of the room, with their spelling getting worse as the evening moves on and the wine gets more depleted, and there is the trio of girls who arrived together, talk to nobody but each other and leave together - why they are here escapes me as they don't look to be enjoying themselves.
Tastings offer the chance for so many diverse people to come together and share in an experience that, to a greater or lesser extent, they all enjoy. We hear so much from politicians about alcohol being a dangerous thing, causing the breakdown of society, but when used in moderation and sensibly, wine, beer and spirits does exactly the opposite, and results in people mingling with others that they would never speak to.
Wine is a very positively powerful thing.