As one of the central features of St Andrews, the Town Hall is a focal point for community meetings, concerts, and ceilidhs. Yet, on this occasion, the room was not home to a set of local officials or exuberant dance partners. As I walked into the well-lit space I found myself surrounded instead by over two hundred types of wine, beer, gin, and a whole manner of other concoctions.
Welcome to the Luvians Wine Fair.
Stepping across the polished wood of the hall, my first surprise was the sheer amount of occupants sniffing and sipping as they swelled through the room. ‘Surely there can’t be this many wine enthusiasts in St Andrews?’ I wondered. And I was correct, because the Luvians Wine Fair is not where you go to decide if a Malbec’s depth is more akin to balsa wood or Russian pine. Here, there are plenty of women and men, like myself, whose wine experience is little more than “I’ll have the red one, please.”
And yet, this was by no means a clash of culture, as the skilled stall managers were able to educate even the most clueless of wine tasters. As one attendee was keen to say: “This is so much less intimidating than the other tasting events I’ve been to in the past.”
Asking one of the experts, I was interested to find that the presence of inexperienced wine drinkers doesn’t detract from the unique nature of the selection. Particularly interesting was some delicious wine made using the Bacchus grape; this enthralled the wine veterans as they swilled their glasses with effortless grace. The fair is an event for all creeds, it would seem.
Although, naturally, just because Luvians is all inclusive doesn’t necessarily ensure a lack of drama. During my time at the fair, I heard some fairly interesting debates about the drinks in question. This included a couple arguing over whether a Chablis tasted like “strawberries and flowers” or “battery acid” and, my personal favourite, a man saying: “I’ve finally found something that tastes like barnyard floor… and I don’t like barnyard floor.”
Despite some of the more dramatic characters, the room largely consisted of nodding heads and smiles as, for the meagre price of £15, occupants were able to drink bottles that usually cost up to sixty. Combined with a 10% discount on all purchases, this event is fantastic news for the University wine tasting society, for whom such a selection is a dream come true.
Three hours later and I’m trading wooden floors for stone cobbles as I walk out onto the street. I leave behind me an opportunity for the whole town to experience an unprecedented range of different drinks, an opportunity that luckily seems to have been wholeheartedly taken by students and locals alike. Who says alcohol has to cause anti-social behaviour?