Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How to Enjoy a Public Wine Tasting

With the arrival of summer, comes a surplus of public wine tasting events throughout the country. Wine tastings are available at wine festivals, wine shops, grocery stores, even convenience stores, and at wine classes.  All of these venues can offer an excellent chance for you to try new or different wines, and to explore wines you are not familiar with.

Wine tasting events are designed to allow the wine lover a chance to try several types of wines at the same time and compare.  They also offer you a chance to discuss the wines with fellow tasters, garner opinions, and learn as you go.  These events are not for the pretentious. Wine drinkers from beginners, to intermediates, to advanced, enjoy these gatherings and love to share information.

You might go to a Cabernet tasting at a local wine shop and get to try four or five excellent Cabs in a seated environment with other wine lovers.  The presenter should be able to answer your questions and steer you toward something you will like.

Grocery stores may offer a flight of wines, ranging from dry to sweet, along with cheeses from their deli that will pair well with each wine.  These are enjoyed at a tasting table with the products available right there for purchase.

Wine festivals abound!  There's Vintage Indiana, the Music and Merlot Festival, the New Orleans French Quarter Wine Festival...  Usually the name will indicate what types of wine you can expect to find. Before heading out, decide what kind of information you want to gain from attending the event. Are you looking to learn more about a certain grape, a type of wine, a wine region, or just looking forward to an outing with friends?  All are great reasons to attend, just clarify to yourself what you hope to gain and make the most of the event.

But before you go there are a few things to keep in mind when attending an event, based on my experience in front of and behind the tasting counter; we'll call these Joy's Ten Suggestions for Attending a Wine Tasting Event.

1)  Eat before you go. Yes, there may be food pairings offered, but these are only samples, and the purpose is not for you to make a meal out of them.  These tiny ‘appetizers’ are there to help you with pairing ideas, and to help your body absorb the alcohol so you can enjoy the event without getting drunk.

2)  No heavy aromas.  In other words, if you really want to taste the wines – no smoking, no heavy perfumes or after-shave lotions.  Don’t wear, or do anything that will affect your sense of smell and taste. And yes, this includes chewing gum, going heavy on the garlic, or chewing tobacco!  (And he wondered why all of the wines tasted like mint….!)

3)  Plan what you’ll wear.  If it’s an outside event, wear something cool and comfortable.  No heels - think about it..., No black – too hot.  No white – unless you don’t mind getting wine stains on it.  (I know, you’re very careful, but the guy tasting next to you, ummm…not so much.)

4)  Keep hydrated.  Wine shop tastings will usually have water available.  If you’re attending a wine festival, carry your own.  Don’t expect the booth to provide it for you.  The water they have on hand is for rinsing glasses.  Grocery tasting?  Grab a bottle at the register.  While you may not feel that you’re getting dehydrated, play it safe by drinking a glass of water for every glass of wine consumed.

5)  Move away from the table after you’ve received your pour.  There is usually a line of people waiting behind you. Please be considerate and get out of the line of action.  You can always get back in line for another sample or to ask a question.  Basic guidelines:  Don’t hog the table and don’t cut in line.  Wine lovers are affable people – as long as you don’t keep them from their wine unnecessarily ; )

6)  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but please make them relevant to the wine and not just chitchat.  This is your opportunity to speak with the wine maker, wine shop manager, or (hopefully) someone who knows something about the wines they are pouring.  Have a question about the wine you just tried?  Get in line and ask.  The pourer may have an answer, a suggestion, or an idea that gives you more ways to enjoy the wine.

7)  Take advantage of the tasting notes offered.  Read the wine’s description and then taste.  Can you find the same flavors described?  Or do you taste something different?  Note on the sheet or in a designated notebook what you experience.  Later, you can discuss your findings with friends who also tried the wine, or remind yourself why you bought three cases of it.

8)  Ask if any ‘specials’ are being offered at the tasting.  Many times wine shops and grocery stores will offer special prices on the wines you’ve tried.  At wine festivals, 6 bottle and case (12 bottle) discounts may apply, along with a percentage off of one-bottle purchases.  It never hurts to ask and you may find yourself with some great bargains.

9)  Go prepared to purchase by taking your own wine carrier bags.  You may have decided that you would only buy 6 wines –but once you get there and start tasting, six can change to 12 or 24 very quickly.  At a large event, empty wine boxes can be hard to find because everyone needs one to carry their purchases.  Be prepared and you won’t have to wait for a carryall.

10) Remember the 3E’s!  These are the musts for any wine tasting event – Explore, Experience, and Enjoy!

Even if you don’t live near a large grocery, wine shop, or wine festival location, you can still enjoy a wine tasting.  Attend a Twitter Tasting and take part in the questions and comments as you sip and savor along with other participants, worldwide.

The weekend is coming – now get out there and

~ Joy