Inside the surreal world of the Edinburgh wine society

Pass the merlot, Cressida.


Famous for our rah-putation Edinburgh University plays host to many a distinguished society. Among these is the Edinburgh University Wine Society, where according to their EUSA page, you can “enjoy good wine in a relaxed environment”. We sampled seven bottles from across the globe, and were taught how to appreciate their subtle notes by experts from Majestic Wine.

On entering I gravitated towards the first pair of red trousers in sight. Noah, Julian, Liza, Sam, Tim and Harry warmly welcomed me into their clique.
Liza, a Chancellors Court-er, told me “The wine society is what gets me through my Monday. You don’t understand. I begin with 10am theology!”

Our first wine was Spanish, a Caixas Godello. I tentatively approached my glass, not wanting to commit some unspeakable faux pas so early on. At first I swirled and smelled the wine, pretending to know what I was looking for. Sam (who promised me he knows a Mungo) explained, “The more veins in the wine, the colder the climate it was grown in, and that’s what I look for.”

Searching for veins

It was difficult to transport ourselves to the north-west of Spain whilst rubbing shoulders with plastic potted plants in Potterow, but we gave it our best shot. Over memories of torpedoed VKs and faint blurred lines we enjoyed notes of ‘tropical fruits’ and ‘vanilla’. It was surprising how real the tasting experience became when a few adjectives were being thrown around. I actually began to taste the wine differently. After every glass had been poured an employee from Majestic would explain the wine briefly, and give us a chance to swirl, smell, and gulp simultaneously like the cult of Ocado orderers we were.

Numero dos

I enjoyed the first two we tasted. They were similar to my usual choice of “anything with a cork under £10”. Julian (a likeable Etonian who later told me his ‘groove’ is the Renaissance) shared Sam’s opinion: “When you try to cram so many flavours into a cheap wine it ends up tasting like shoe”.

After I had quaffed down my fifth sample of wine I was beginning to use words like quaffed. Thankfully a plate of crackers and breadsticks landed on our table, but to the great disappointment of Julian, no Stilton.


No big cheese here

This intermission gave me an opportunity to get to know my compatriots. Tim had just come back from his gap year in West Africa. He assured me the best ‘ugali’, a traditional West African cornmeal dish, I’ll find this side of Mongolia is amongst the Chimanimani Mountains in Zimbabwe. I took his word for it.

When asked what percentage of her membership she thought were Chancellor’s Court expats, Heidi, the president of the society replied: “we actually attract a big American crowd as this is their first chance to try something like this”. Punters had filled the Potterow dome, many already having bought membership online, and I was promised that last week the queue was more than 200 strong.


Back at the table, after we had discussed our favourite hymns (Jerusalem was a firm winner) our final red wine had arrived. As everything we sampled was under £10 a bottle I wasn’t afraid to circle it on my ‘Wine 101’ tasting card. We agreed on chugging the dessert wine so we could rush off to ‘Teh-viot’ for some well-deserved nachos after.

Membership for the club is £12, but this includes a £5 reduction in weekly tasting sessions (£7 for members and £12 for non members) and a substantial discount to their famous Christmas ball, previously held in the Caledonian hotel.

For £7 you can start of your Why Not pre-drinks in style, make new friends, and master a skill which makes you immeasurably more sophisticated and more fun at dinner parties.

Thank you to the committee of the Edinburgh University Wine society for having me, and to Noah, Julian, Liza, Sam, Tim and Harry for being such good company.

One of these people is 22nd in line to the throne