Christmas tastings + Suck It And See

Cork Skeptics wine event at Blackrock Castle Observatory

Cork Skeptics wine event

[Update - Friday, December 16, 2011]

THE event below is now of course in the past tense. It’s rare for any more food and wine events to take place this close to Christmas, but if I hear of any I’ll stick details up here.

I will post links to a heap of original sources and/or opinion related to the issues I mentioned during my winey talk at Cork Skeptics’ December meeting. The idea was to highlight how we keep on putting barriers between us and what our perceptions actually tell us about the wine nestling in the bottom of our glasses.

I had intended to post these links on Wednesday and said so here. Unfortunately, one of life’s little wrinkles diverted my attention, and that was followed by a computer crash. And so I’m posting that material much later than intended. I apologise for the delay.

My column in tomorrow’s Irish Examiner Weekend (quite aptly linking in to the broad theme of skepticism) is looking at wine made using organically-grown grapes. Some of my conclusions may surprise you. And I’ll also be looking at another good bottle of beer to leave out for Santy.

As for the Skeptics event itself, a hearty thank you to everyone who endured my peripatetic conversational style. It’s why I generally stick to writing, and why the links I’ll be posting speak louder and better than I can. ♦

[The following was posted on December 6, 2011]

WE’RE coming up to the last few wine events of the year. As ever I’d suggest you check out my hints and tips for making the most of a wine tasting. The line-up of events includes a rare outing for me on Saturday with something completely different.

December 10 – Suck It And See, Blackrock Castle, Cork

PART of an international movement promoting critical thinking, Cork Skeptics live here (corkskeptics.org) and also at the splendid Blackrock Castle Observatory (bco.ie). Each of its meetings turns the focus on topics where sceptical evidence-based thinking has been *cough* absent or challenged — ranging from alternative medicine to moving statues, pyramid schemes, scams, GM Foods and UFOs.

A quick word about language: Skeptic is an alternative spelling of sceptic. More importantly, you may hear the words skeptic and cynic used interchangeably. Big mistake. They’re so different you could say they’re opposites. A cynic has all the answers, whereas a skeptic just keeps asking questions.

Poster by Alan Barrett

Anyway, this week Cork Skeptics kick off the festive season by turning their attention to wine, and have kindly asked me along to help. In a wide-ranging illustrated talk, I’ll be presenting a heap of evidence that our prejudices distort out perception of quality and value, and suggesting how we wine fans can suck it and see and learn to trust our own tastebuds.
The whole thing is meant to be provocative and fun and, reflecting the suck-it-and-see philosophy I try to promote in my column.

I was tempted to get the Cork Skeptics to advertise it as a stand-up comedy gig. I don’t presume that I’m funny – but much of the material certainly is hilarious in that cringey you-couldn’t-make-this-crap-up way.

Along the way I’ll explode some of the popular myths about wine. And while on the subject of memes and factoids, we will take a critical look at the media, with some eye-watering examples of both PR-driven non-stories, and misleading reporting regarding wine (and indeed all alcohol) and health. Even worse than misapprehending the science behind wine, I ask whether some media are deliberately misleading their readers on this topic? Come along, take a look at the examples I’ll be presenting and see what you think. I’ll also highlight an empirical study which I suggest makes nonsense of every wine health story.

It takes place at 8pm on Saturday, December 10. Admission is free, it’s open to anyone over 18, and see corkskeptics.org for more details. And you get your money back if not utterly delighted. ♦

2 Responses

  1. Good on ya sir, sounds like a nice bit of brain food along with good craic. All the best with it.

  2. Great stuff, Blake. I won’t be able to make it myself but if you get talking about myths surrounding suplhites be sure to tell the nice people about a recent customer of ours who claimed that sulphites give her not headaches and hangovers … but nightmares.

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