After having attending a few big wine tasting events, I have picked up some techniques to help make the experience one that to remember – literally. Big wine tastings can be really exciting from the sheer number of wines and other spirits there may be available to taste. If you are not careful, you can end up with a bit of a buzz, which may be fun, but will also affect your ability to properly taste and experience the wines you want to get to know better. With the big Boston Expo coming up this weekend (January 22-23), it is important to remember some key tips before you get there to make the experience more enjoyable for you.
Even with a full day of tasting, it will be difficult to get through every wine in the place, and if you did get through them all, you would likely have a hard time remembering them all. One of the best things to do when you get to the wine tasting is to scope out the venue map which often has most of the wines at the event listed on it. You can use this map to guide you to the wines you most want to try at each table – to give you a plan for the day. Steer clear of the sweet dessert wines at the beginning of the event. They usually make you crave more sweet wine and make the other wines you try taste less appealing over time. Also try to go for the white wines first – and then make your way through light reds (i.e. Pinot Noir) and then onto heavy reds (Cabernet Sauvignon). This gets tricky as you progress through the event, but can allow you to experience the range of all the wines at the event.
Other key tips, some of which seem obvious, are as follows:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the event – I usually carry a bottle of water around with me in a bag. This is important to make sure you stay focused and don’t get too tired. Water can act as a palate cleanser for when crackers are not available, and will make tasting the wines more enjoyable overall.
- Eat intermittently throughout the day – Most wine tastings will have food stands spread throughout, and I try to eat a few little bites every hour or so. This will keep you full and keep the buzz at a minimum. I also try to eat a high-carbohydrate meal before the event to make sure I have a full stomach before I get there.
- Pour or spit when needed – I know this sounds gross – but most wine tastings have pour bowls which can be used to spit wines you try. I pour wines I am not so crazy about; thereby allowing me to savor and enjoy the ones I want, while keeping my buzz at bay. Spitting in the wine world is totally allowed, and is in fact one of the more conventional tasting methods when paired with a good swish.
- Swish your wine – There are many schools of thought on how to swish, but I prefer to aerate the wine in my mouth using an inward slurp. When you slurp, let the wine coat your whole tongue and get the various flavor centers activated. This will allow you to taste several different components in a wine, and can really open up some nice flavor.
- Take notes – Always carry a pen and pad when tasting wines. Some tastings will give you something to write on, which is a huge plus, so you can scribble your thoughts right after each taste. At the end of the event – when your taste buds are totally overwhelmed and you can’t remember which wines you really like – you can refer back to your notes. This is the best technique to remembering wines you like when you want to go back and buy them, or just understand what your favorites were. There are a lot of technology tools you can use as well, such as phone apps and even notes pages which can allow you to have easy access to your notes whenever you need them.
- Use a designated driver – If you are traveling to a wine event from a destination, be safe above all. Consider using a designated driver, a cab, public transportation, or other tools to get you back home in one piece. A few hours of drinking, even with a spit or a pour plan, can lead to impaired driving. If you have to drive, consider taking a meal break after the event, eat a nice meal, and then re-evaluate your state. Nothing is worth getting behind the wheel impaired.
This is a lot of information, but it should help make your next big wine tasting experience a success. Happy tasting to everyone headed to the wine expo or other events this week!