The Scene: Picture an old black and white detective movie along with jazz filling the air, creating an atmosphere of intrigue and mystery.

Beware those who work in a tasting room, that group of students may not be as unstudied as they seem. Keep a look out for the students who analyse the tasting sheets and bring pens to tastings. Note that they might not be on WhatsApp but actually typing out notes on the wine or even on your presentation skills. Take caution, the students who practise correct wine tasting etiquette; they may have a secret. They may be wine students.

Wine students are received in two ways:  Tasting room assistants assume they know everything and thus give no information, or they bombard the students with technological information that baffles their companions.

Thus the mission was simple: blend in as a student without being identified as a wine student.

An attire of a smart-casual, no perfume or scent applied, a black pen discretely tucked into the coat pocket along with a neatly folded piece of blank paper. A reservation made for a group larger than three people, a driver drops the group off at the tasting room. The manager sees them, expecting the worst:  Students are here.  Sending over a tasting room assistant, the manager retreats, unsuspecting to the spy in their midst.

The tasting room assistant, trying to be upbeat, cannot hide disdain as students are notorious for ‘tasting’ a lot of wines and not buying anything. Leading them down the standard tasting route, the tasting room assistant tries hard to entertain the group, talking the usual small talk as the spy swirls the first wine in the glass. The legs drip down and re-merge with the pool of wine at the bottom of the glass. Sniffing it, the spy tries to stifle a grin, knowing that even though the tasting room assistant assured the group it was one of the farm’s best – it was the most standard, bottom of the range wine that the farm had to offer.  The spy lets the assistant off the hook for that one, after all one can’t be blamed for trying to make a sale.

The second wine is bought out, a pale pink rose’. Typical cotton candy and strawberry and cream on the nose, nothing special but none the less the spy continues to record the aroma analysis. The group seems to enjoy it, empty glasses spread over the table except for one. The spy will not finish their glass but rather throws it in the spittoon.  The spy looks around and decides to take photographic evidence, hurrying the group to take selfies in-front of an easy to recognise farm logo. Searching, the spy notices that the cellar is visible through glass windows in the tasting room, again the click of a photo being taken of the cellar. The spy is stealing with their eyes.

The group sits down once again, awaiting the wooded white wine. The tasting assistant comes over and spins a web about the wood making it buttery and how they used different types of oak to enhance mouthfeel, never once mentioning malolactic fermentation or the bacteria added to induce it. The spy smiles a knowing smile. Some of the group loves the wine; others dislike it, irrespective all the glasses stand empty after the wine has been ‘tasted’, all except one. Once again the spy pours the wine out into the spittoon after analysis.

Onto the red wine, the tasting room assistant pours out the last dregs of the bottle into the spy’s glass. The spy sniffs the wine: wet dog and very musty. Beckoning to the assistant that the wine is corked, the spy worries that their cover is blown. The tasting room assistant raises their eyebrow, sniffing the glass themselves; they apologize and retrieve a new bottle of wine. After the new round is poured the tasting room assistant retreats and observes how the spy analyses the wine. Suddenly it clicked; this student is no ordinary student:  this student is a wine student.

Trying to redeem the tasting; the tasting room assistant brings out a premium red blend.  Not making a fuss, the prestige is played off as a gift from the assistant. The spy knows their cover is blown, analysing the last wine knowing it would be superior to its predecessors; the spy sits back and enjoys the last glass. A full page of notes on the wine made and a record of the fame, date and assistants name was neatly folded back and placed in the spy’s pocket.

Never confirming whether or not the spy enjoyed the tasting experience, never confirming whether or not the spy enjoyed the wine, the group left with only the payed bill and a tip remaining. The spy walked ahead of the group, comparing and contemplating their experience to others experiences before, the mission was successful.

So beware those folks of whom work in a tasting room, there may be a spy in your midst.