I’m always amazed at the volume of people willing to pay well over $100 to get into wine events under the notion that they’ll somehow get the chance to properly sample tons of wine – the primary problem is, however, that these events do not cater to helping one develop a good palate for what’s being poured because of many factors. Here are a few guidelines I use if I choose to go to an event like the upcoming Taste WA:
1. Make a mental note to yourself that it’s perfectly acceptable to NOT try every wine being poured.
The reality is that your palate (or anyone else for that matter) gets a beat-down like Mike Tyson on crack at an ear-biting contest whenever you subject it to too much stimulus from more than a dozen or so glasses of wine.
Before you go to the event, get a list of the participating wineries and select (randomly if you want to be adventurous) only a handful to try out during the few hours you’ll be at the event. This way, you get to try out new wines without overwhelming you and your palate.
2. Do make it a point to have some food:
Either sneak some food in (if you’re on a budget) – *cough* I know some folks who will sneak in a pocketful of blue cheese in plastic wrap – or get food from whomever is serving food at the event. You need to do this to be able to coat your palate between glass pours; if you don’t, you’ll find that your ability to pick up on the varying flavors of wine will quickly diminish within the first hour or so.
3. If you do the “sneak” thing:
Here a few examples of foods that should hold up okay in the confines of a loose jacket pocket or backpack etc.:
• Dried Fruit
• Blue Cheese
• Jerky snacks
Bottom line is that you need the sort of sugars and fats these foods being to the table to make sure your overall tasting experience is good and one to remember.
4. Write things down:
If you don’t have an excellent memory, then bring some sort of notepad and pen to jot down your thoughts on each wine and make it a point to take those notes with you next time you’re out at the store, looking for wine.
Outside of tasting notes about wine, I’ll also make notes about the people pouring the wine, such as:
• Were they cool?
• Did they strike me snobs?
• Did they seem passionate about the wines they poured?
I will purposely avoid buying wine from folks who inappropriately represent their products and the wine industry. It’s a food product; it should be fun and never snobby.
5. Ask as many questions as time allows for:
This is one you’ll need to feel out the situation for. If you you’re at a rather empty table and have some time with the folks pouring, you should ask them questions about the wine, the people behind it etc. Take time to get to know them – many of whom are good, honest folks who love what they do.
If the table is busy, remember, there are others there who also want some time tasting the wine and to chat a bit – be courteous about this. Come back when things “die down” and talk to the folks at that time.
6. Please Spit:
I can’t begin to tell you how many people I run across who either don’t know about spitting or say things like “why would I want to waste the alcohol”? Those spit buckets are there for a reason folks.
For starters, you should be spitting due to the obvious reasons of what too much alcohol intake can do – nobody should ever drive back from an event like this without doing a lot of spitting.
Secondly, if you consume too much, you can easily misjudge the tastes after awhile – why do you think many people start pouring the cheap crap after a few bottles with friends? Because after awhile, it all tastes the same, that’s why.
Lastly, the spit bucket is NOT for rinsing your glass out! I was helping with a pour back in the summer of 07 and there was some lady who came up and rinsed her glass out using the wine in the spit bucket! Ewww – I didn’t have the heart to tell her what she had just done.
7. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes:
Aside from coming across as a wine snob (shudder the thought), wearing those formal clothes and shoes will do nothing for your overall comfort. I always go casual – jeans, good shoes – you know, the kind of stuff you’d wear on a daily basis (just promise us, you’ll shower).
8. Drink water – don’t rinse with it:
There’s nothing wrong at all to ask the person pouring your taste to have a little “rinse action’ with the wine they’re about to pour. Rinsing with water will only add water into your taste and while I’m sure the local water supply is safe for human consumption, I don’t want it in my glass.
I would, however, highly recommend to everyone to pack in a bottle or two of some good h2o – remember, alcohol dehydrates the body of water – you need to keep yourself well hydrated.