Book Review

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker [Book Review]

Cork Dork front

The short note on the UK & Ireland cover of Bianca Bosker’s book “Cork Dork” already gives you most of the information you need to know before starting to read the book:

A wine-fueled journey into the art of sommeliers and the science of taste

You don’t need a deep interest in wine to appreciate this book, but it does help – especially when you catch yourself agreeing ruefully with some of the seemingly outlandish observations contained within.  Bianca Bosker has us laughing at situations which are wine-related, but are more importantly reflections of the absurdities which we all see in everyday life.

In many ways, Cork Dork strikes me as a platonic three way love affair between the author, her mentor Morgan, and wine – with wine playing VERY hard to get.  There’s also a very interesting excursion into the origins of the flavour / aroma wheel and the way it totally changed the way wines are professionally reviewed and assessed – something I have been subconsciously rebelling against in my own reviews.

Personally speaking, there are two ideas mentioned in the book which really spoke to me:

Morgan has always blazed through his passions like a forest fire, consuming everything in his path.  “My brain has a tendency to want to organize small differentiating units into systems,” he told me.  “Part of it is my desire to know a thing in its entirety, or as close to it as you can.”

[First came trading cards, then video games, then rock bands.]  And now, wine.  At last, Morgan had found a topic with an infinite number of expansion packs.

I feel something of a kindred spirit to Morgan – I was interested in cars as a kid, which was eclipsed by music; that co-existed with wine for a while, but with a family of my own something had to lose out, and it was never going to be wine.  I’m a cork Dork too!

I was curious to know how they judged if someone had been moved – really, truly moved – by a bottle, while trying to remember how I’d acted when I tasted the wines they’d opened that evening.  How could they tell that someone had not really appreciated a wine?

“Because,” said Morgan, all hopped-up on Chablis, “it doesn’t look like they’ve been harpooned in the fucking chest when they fucking drank the fucking thing.”

Yes, wine is just a drink, but it can be SUCH a drink.  For those who have never had such a moment with wine, it could also be thought of as akin to Anton Ego’s ratatouille flashback in the film of the same name:

Anton Ego Flashback.gif


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Tasting Events

Judge Dread?


Yesterday I had my first experience judging wines in a competition – hurrah!

But not ordinary wines, no.  These were a small number of wines entered into the (Irish) National Homebrew Club’s third annual competition, so home made wines.  I had expected they would be kit wines, perhaps with an odd tweak here and there, but no…

They were fruit wines!  The so-called “country wine” category…but nothing ventured, nothing gained!  There is vitis vinifera grape wine made in Ireland, though it’s produced in very small quantities and isn’t the finest you might have tried – though it’s definitely drinkable – see here.  The competition had but three entrants in the wines category compared to hundreds of beers of all types.

It was a very interesting experience, and on reflection I’ve jotted down a few thoughts. Please excuse me if they are bleedin’ obvious!

1) Judging isn’t the same as tasting

When you’re tasting, especially if it’s just for your own interest, you can pick and choose which wines you taste and which of those you bother writing tasting notes for.  If you’re judging you have to taste, consider and write up every wine properly.

2) Judging and tasting are easier with reference points

In the big wine competitions wines are usually tasted in flights of a similar type and / or origin, so wines can be compared to their peers.  I’ve never tasted a dandelion wine before…should I expect to taste parsnips?  Particularly with a very small number of entrants to the wines part of this competition, there was no agreed standard of quality to judge against.

3) Amateur-made drinks are not the same as commercial products.

Here I mean amateur in the best sense of the word – they are lovers of what they do, though unpaid.  Do you judge them by what is available on the shelf in your local wine merchants?  Or do you compare them to the less successful producers who don’t even make it that far?

It’s a difficult one to answer.  Guidance was offered by the head judge and organiser, in that scores shouldn’t be too generous – people need to know what to work on.  But then again, we didn’t want to scare off potential entrants.

And…when a wine is obviously faulty, it’s FAULTY!

Here are the results:

Silver Medal Winner


Bronze Medal Winner

Rose Hip
Rose Hip

See the full list of medal winners in each category here!