Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What You Can Learn at an In-Store Wine Tasting

It’s Saturday afternoon at your local supermarket and you discover that there is an in-store wine tasting.  Do you walk on past?  (Too many people lined up for “free drinks.”)  Do you stop and try a couple, just for fun?  Or, do you decide to take a few minutes and see if you can learn something from this serendipitous event?

I’ve poured wine at a lot of in-store tastings, and it’s true, you get a few people just wanting to ‘run the bar.’  But you also get those who really want to learn more about the wines, and even some who want to know what they can pair with it for dinner that night.

Of course, one of the reasons that person is standing behind the sample bar is to convince you to purchase a bottle of the displayed wines.  But it’s also a great chance for you to learn something more about wine in general, and the proffered wines in particular. You might even find one or two to take home.

If you want to increase your knowledge about wine – never pass up an in-store tasting.  With that said, when you ask questions, be prepared for the demonstrator to tell you they don’t have a clue about the wines they are pouring.  It’s sad but true, some presenters have been hired to be a pretty or handsome face behind the sample bar.  If that’s what you encounter, by all means try the wines; just be prepared to do some research on your own if you want to know more.

To start, you can always read the bottle label and see if the wine matches the description given.  Just don’t be too hasty to judge a wine completely based on the label description. Those plastic demo cups are NOT helping you to establish a tasting profile.

If you encounter someone who does know something about the wines, or an actual winery representative, take advantage of the situation and learn what you can. 

If the in-store tasting is featuring one brand of wine, you may find that the person pouring is from that winery.  Here is the person to tell you all about their wines.  They will know some pretty amazing facts, and they can tell you what to serve with it that will make it sing. 

This is also a great opportunity to learn more about the winery.  You'll sample only a few of their wines at an in-store demo.  If you like those, chances are you would like others that they offer.  Maybe its time to plan a trip out to the winery and do a real tasting.

If the in-store tasting offers several wines made from the same grape – get ready for a whirlwind lesson in wine.  Comparing five Merlots crafted by different wineries can be amazing!  In these short few minutes, you can learn how oak affects a wine's taste compared next to one that is not oaked.  You may notice the difference in winemakers’ styles, and discover characteristics you do or do not like when compared to others.  Different regions and terrior can become evident when several of the same types of wines are tasted together.

If you find that you like the wine, but didn’t fall in love with it – give it another try.  At in-store tastings, keep in mind that the reds have not had a chance to breathe and the whites may be inadequately chilled. Take a bottle home, treat it right, and give it a chance to shine.

An in-store tasting is not the place to make a quick and final decision on a wine.  Think of it more like speed dating - its an opportunity to see if you make a connection, if you could spend some time with it, and if you want to take it home and become more involved…

~ Joy