The Cambridge University Wine Society

Seasons and fluctuations are part of winemaking, and so too are fluctuations in the preferences and habits of wine drinkers. While research shows young people are drinking significantly less wine, the industry is starting to see heartening signs of real interest in the nuances and special characters of different wines. There is more discernment and more thoughtfulness about wine than ever before, and it may be that paying attention to this desire for knowledge is an important part of how wine is marketed and sold.

The Dry River flight.

We are fortunate to have distributors who are keenly interested in not only our wine but in the people who buy it. In the United Kingdom, our distributor David Harvey (Raeburn Fine Wines) took some Dry River wines along to an event for the Cambridge University Wine Society. Our wines were about to join a prestigious list of wineries who have presented in the past:

Chateau Gazin, Pomerol
Diamond Creek, Napa
Louis Roederer, Champagne
Roxanich, Istria
Chateau Palmer, Margaux
Chateau Margaux
Royal Tokaji Wine Co.
Domaine du Closel, Savennieres
Roger Sabon, CNDP
Nyetimber, UK
Felsina, Chianti
Chateau de Fieuzal, Graves
Chateau Changyu, China
Kumeu River, New Zealand
Tertre Rotebouef, St. Emilion
Sassicaia, Bolgheri
Domaine des Tourelles, Lebanon
Alain Graillot, North Rhone
Eyrie Vineyards, Oregon
Chateau Guiruad, Sauternes
Bodega Garzon, Uruguay

Hosted by St. John’s College, the tastings were held in the Wordsworth Room, a 450-year-old room where William Wordsworth lived when he was an undergraduate in the 1780s.  He described these rooms in his autobiographical poem, The Prelude:

I was the Dreamer, they the Dream; I roamed
Delighted through the motley spectacle;
Gowns grave or gaudy, Doctors, Students, Streets,
Lamps, Gateways, Flocks of Churches, Courts and Towers:
Strange transformation for a mountain youth,
A northern Villager.

The Cambridge University Wine Society, held in the Wordsworth Room. Photography by Victoria Phan.

Wine societies and tasting groups are nothing new; in fact, the Cambridge University Wine Society was formed in 1792 and is thought to be the oldest university wine group in the world. But it is fascinating for us, in a town with a population of less than 10% of the number of students enrolled at Cambridge University, to see how our wines fare when they meet the curious palates of some of the world’s best and brightest young minds.

Photography by Victoria Phan.

“The group was a mixture of University Alumni who still participate, the committee, [and] young undergrads taking their first steps in wine,” says David. “The crowd were quite shy, at least until the experienced lot warmed up a bit.”

To get over the shyness, and encourage the newest members to take part in robust wine discussions, the 50 or so people present were asked to pair off and vote for their favourites. Many of the bottles chosen were relatively young wines, which ask for an appreciation of the potential and an understanding of structure – important steps in developing a palate.

Seasoned wine tasting veterans. Photography by Victoria Phan.

“The wines were benchmark young recent Dry River: massive attack, heaps of bright fruit, [with] lovely length,” says David.

“The committee said that it’s the first time that this group all decided that they wanted to buy some of the wines for themselves.”

That’s heartening news, not just for Dry River and David, but for the wine industry as a whole. After all, wine is so loved because of its longevity, variations and unpredictability; it’s a drink that offers intrigue and discussion.

All photography courtesy of Victoria Phan.