At the final meeting of the year, members heard a highly entertaining talk by Prof. Alex Maltman on wine, whisky and beer and the role of geology.

To begin, we were introduced to the incredible claims made by those whose job it is to market wines. For example, “You can taste the tectonic plates”; “The wine's secret is the grey-blue Devonian slate”; “Our Shiraz grows on soils 500 million years old”. The use of terms like earthy and stony also reflect the geological role. Yet the role of geology is more related to factors of slope, aspect, inclination, air flow patterns and drainage.

Similarly with whisky. Here the role of water (particularly if they are crystal waters tumbling from granite) is lauded by the advertising companies. Yet again their claims bare little resemblance to reality.

With beer it is slightly different. The very different mineral content of the water in places like Burton, Dublin and Pilsen, determines their very different types of beer. Or it did! Today the water composition is adjusted by the brewing specialists and you can make most types of beer anywhere. The meeting ended with a lively discussion followed by a finger buffet and mulled fruit juice. Professor Maltman was presented with a nice bottle of chianti. You can taste the soils of Tuscany in this wine!