5 Tips to Get the Most Out of a Wine Tasting

Written by Erin Allport on .

rioja club gather

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.

Tasting the Languedoc

Written by Erin Allport on .

Editor's note: The article is by guest columnist Erin Allport. Wine prices are from Wine on the Way.

daumas logo boutiqueI had the opportunity recently to have lunch with Samuel Guibert, winemaker and owner, of the French winery Mas de Daumas Gassac. I have been drinking the wines from Gassac for years and always enjoy them. The wines are affordable and the quality is very high so they are on my "go to" list for everyday drinking as well as bringing something fun and new to a friend's or dinner with family. Some of my most fun wine memories have involved the wines from Gassac. They just make you happy. The history of this winery is exciting and interesting. I also really love their website, it's very engaging and they actually re-wrote it in English instead of just "google translating" the page.

Sine Qua Non Retrospective at Luma on Park

Written by Erin Allport on .

SQN Krankl"Something that Cannot be done Without", is what Sine Qua Non has come to mean to its collectors and enthusiasts. It literally translates in Latin to "without which not." Recently, a group of collectors got together for a Sine Qua Non Retrospective. It took place in the cellar, downstairs at Luma on Park. The vintages spanned over a decade with 42 different bottlings. To call these wines rare is an understatement; they are so hard to find they are the mystical unicorn wines that no one can get their hands on. The production of the wines is extremely limited, their wines routinely receiving 98-100 point scores. The label art is different each year, designed by the winemaker/owner, Manfred Krankl. Krankl is considered a mad scientist of sorts, and the limited availability of his wines, along with the original art on the labels, have made it so the bottles themselves are just as valuable as the wine inside. In May, a bottle of the 1995 Queen of Hearts Rosé, sold on WineBid for $37,200. It is highly doubtful that the wine inside is any good anymore, even if the wine has been stored perfectly. Since only 25 cases of this wine were made, we may never know. By the way, if you sign up on the waiting list today, estimates are that you have a 20 year wait coming.

Erin's Top 10 Wine Resolutions for 2015

Written by Erin Allport on .

Raventos bottleInstead of making New Year's Resolutions that won't last more than a few weeks, I thought it would more fun and interesting to make my New Year's Resolutions about drinking more wine!

Here are my Top 10 2015 Wine Resloutions:

  1. Drink More Bubbles. Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Cava, Prosecco... Drinking bubbles does not have to be reserved for special occasions; it's a special occasion when you pop the top! Right now I am in love with the producer Raventos i Blanc. They've been making wine since 1497. Their great, great, great grandfather, invented the word Cava. The family has had a devotion to the indigenous grapes from their region in Spain ever since. Amazing quality, vintage wine from Conca de Anoia – a very special place, and a approachable price, gets these bottles on my resolution list.
  2. Turn a friend into a Wino! I think we all have that friend who "doesn't like wine." It is my belief that these friends just haven't tried the right wine for them. Start them out with a light, fruity wine like a quality Riesling or un-oaked Chardonnay for whites; or a light red like Pinot Noir or Gamay (Cru Beaujolais). Then, move them up in baby steps to the big style wines, like Cabernet, Malbec and Syrah.
  3. Go to wine tastings. Attending wine tastings is a great way to meet other wine lovers, and also great for those friends who are new to wine (see #2 above). Wine tastings typically present wines from many different regions or a focused theme. This gives you the opportunity to learn about new wines and "test drive the car before you buy it."
  4. Start a Monthly Tasting Group with Friends. Starting a monthly tasting group is a lot of fun. In the wine industry we like to "blind taste" the wines, usually picking a theme. For example... ask your friends to bring a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from a wine region in a brown paper bag. Number the bags as they arrive, and have everyone taste them and write down where they think the wine comes from. You can also add vintage guesses as well. 2012 Argentina? 2008 South Africa? 2010 Napa Valley? Once everyone has tasted the wines, reveal them and see who got the most correct. Then discuss regions and look up vintage reports and see what the weather conditions were like, comparing how different weather conditions and soils affect the Cabernet varietal. It's really wine geeky, but we love it!
  5. Drink Pink. I am NOT talking about White Zinfandel either (although Turley Wine Cellars did start making a dry White Zinfandel that is actually quite good). Dry rose wines can be exceptional, especially in the summer. When it is too hot for red wine, dry rose is a refreshing choice. Dry rose pairs well with just about any type of food. Dry rose can range from more fruity styles, with hints of fresh raspberries and strawberries, to more intense styles, with dark cherry flavors and full of body.
  6. Drink Real Wine. "Real Wine", is made by real, caring people and not marketing companies who are only interested in their bottom line. Be wary of wines with catchy, sometimes childish labels (remember Yellow Tail?). Initially it may seem like a fun wine, but in most cases, you should judge the book by its cover. Know who the producer is and the methods they use to make the wine. If no one at the store can tell you, find a good, well respected, local wine shop.
  7. Explore New Varietals. There are many different grape varietals of wine in the world. Some are better known, however, there are many wineries that have found varietals that were thought extinct. For example, Maturana in Rioja, and Sauvignon Gris in Chile were both found in the back rows of old vineyards, hidden for years. In addition, Tempranillo Blanco is Tempranillo that just mutated itself into a white grape. It is fun to explore these wines and taste something that has been untouched for ages or completely new.
  8. Visit a Wine Producing region. If you can't make it to the Pacific North West, France, Spain, or any other wine producing region, check out a local winery. Every state in the USA has at least one, and although the wines may not be as good as the traditional wine making regions, the beauty is you get to have a winery experience that is original.
  9. Join a Wine Club. Wine Clubs are a good way to try new wines as well. There are many out there, but the best will give you facts, information and a lot of diversity. Every month is a surprise, how fun is that?
  10. Support Local Wine Shops. The benefits of "Shopping Small" are much greater than shopping at the large, big box, chain stores. You will find knowledgeable employees, higher quality wines, made by caring people.

Shop Small for Best Wine

Written by Erin Allport on .

shop-small logoAfter Thanksgiving and the crazy shopping days that followed, including Small Business Saturday, it got me thinking about what it means to Shop Small with regards to the retail wine business. It's just fermented grape juice in a glass bottle, right? Wrong! All wines are not made equal. The wine regions and winemaking processes all vary so widely, which can be confusing. So this poses the question: How do you know which wines are well made and which aren't?

The Farm-to-Table food movement has exploded, and I think the same principles apply to wine. If you want to know what farm your steak or carrot came from, wouldn't you want to know who makes the wine you are going to drink? If you only eat seasonal organic produce, don't you want to know where the wine comes from and what farming practices they use?