5 Tips to Get the Most Out of a Wine Tasting

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Note: Today's wine column is by Erin Allport of Wine on the Way.

It's always amazing to see the different types of personalities that come out at wine tastings. I have been on both sides of the table, the person pouring the wine and the person tasting the wine and having the 360-degree vision on this one, I have some simple things that you can do when attending wine tastings to make sure that you get the most out of the event and the money you spent to attend it.

1. Take care of yourself before the event – eat a snack and drink a couple of glasses of water before you go. This is the most important rule. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people get completely drunk - on accident - at wine events. Wine events give you "tastes," which is an illusion that you are not consuming a lot of alcohol. Every "taste" is typically one ounce of wine (spirits are the same, beer they give you a little more), if you do the math, tasting every wine at an event with 100 wines equals 100 ounces of wine, there are approximately 24-25 ounces of wine in a bottle so effectively, you will have drunk four bottles of wine. Not sure about the rest of you out there but four bottles of wine consumed in a three hour period is too much for any person of any size.

 

2. Have a Plan – ask yourself, "What am I at this event to do?" Socialize? Network? Hang out with friends? On a date? Find new and exciting wines?
There is a term we use in the wine industry called palate fatigue. Palate fatigue is when you have been tasting multiple wines and after a while they all just start tasting the same. If you want to break outside of the usual Cabernet and Pinot Noir, try the interesting wines first. Then once you have found some new wines you love, go back to the old faves. If you're there to socialize, network, if you're on a date, or there to hang with friends, go back to #1 — no one wants to be around a person who has lost their composure. Once again, take care of yourself and pace yourself.

3. Use Your Manners – I know I sound like I am talking to my children with that statement, however, it always amazes me to see how people treat not only each other at wine events but also the people who are pouring the wine. Just so you know, typically the people pouring the wines at these events are not employees of the event. They are the distributors or the importers of the wines that have donated their time and product. Sure, they are getting the marketing and exposure out of the event but they are not there to be treated poorly. Their motivation is to promote their wines so the next time you are at a wine shop or looking at a wine list and see their wine, you will buy it. Be kind, be interested and most importantly be polite.

4. Don't walk up to a table and ask "Do you have Cabernet?" This was one of the most frustrating things for me at wine tastings when I worked for Rioja (where Tempranillo is the varietal of this region). Since this is a marketing opportunity, most distributors/importers will bring something that is new or a wine that isn't as popular. So it's likely that you won't find as many of the more popular varietals at a wine tasting. Instead, tell the person pouring the wine, "I really like Cabernets, do you have something that is a more full-bodied style". This way, you are more likely to try a wine that you will enjoy.
Here's' a list of the popular wines & their styles:

  • Cabernet – full bodied
  • Pinot Noir – light bodied & smooth
  • Zinfandel – medium body with some spice
  • Merlot – medium bodied with dark fruits
  • Chardonnay –
  • Pinot Grigio – bright, crisp white wine
  • Riesling – sweeter style
  • Sauvignon Blanc – dry white with hints of citrus and herbs

5. Hold your wine glass straight. Wine doesn't need to be poured at an angle like a beer, it's much easier to get the wine into the glass without spilling if it's straight. Also, it has happened where the wine will swoosh out of the glass and onto the person pouring the wine (me)!

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