"We were rather puzzled to see that the first part of the ritual involved Michael's tie, an ornamental polka-dot creation made of thick silk. He very carefully tucked the end into the waistband of his trousers, and buttoned his jacket, advising us to do the same.
"Next, he picked up his glass; not as we would have done, with a nonchalant grab, but delicately, holding the base of the glass between the thumb and the first two fingers. We stood in a line in front of him, ties tucked in, glasses cocked but as yet unfilled, waiting for further instructions.
"Swirling, said Michael. You must learn to swirl, to let the air in and allow the wine to breathe. We imitated as best we could the small circular movements of his hand, swirling make-believe wine in our empty glasses and beginning to feel faintly ridiculous. It was to get worse before it got better.
"We held our empty glasses up to the candlelight, to appreciate the imaginary subtleties of colour in our imaginary wine. We applied noses to our empty glasses, breathing in the imaginary bouquet. We took an imaginary mouthful and had an imaginary spit, thankful that our ties were out of the way of any imaginary drops. By this time we were ready for a large Scotch, but it was not to be.
"As Michael finally poured the first of the wines to be tasted, he moved on to part two of wine appreciation for beginners, which was more like an anatomy lesson. Wine had a nose, we were told. Wine had body, wine had legs. Wine had a robe, a bouquet, a personality, an essence. And it was not enough, according to Michael, merely to go through the motions of tasting; one must also know how to describe what one has just tasted. So, as we dutifully sipped and spat, Michael provided a running commentary on the wines under review."