Q: So, 165 wines in one sitting? Just exactly how is that done? I mean, who props you up and rolls you from tasting station to tasting station?
A: Well, it's not like that. I mean, yes, you DO go from station to station, and each station might have 6-12 wines represented and open for tasting. But, you DON'T drink them, you TASTE them. Therein lies the difference, my friend... AND, even when you TASTE, you don't swallow. I know, I know - Gore didn't inhale - yada, yada, yada. It's all about asking yourself some questions: Why am I here - business, or pleasure? What do I hope to gain from this tasting event - expansion of my palate, or free wine? What sort of impression do I want to make - industry professional, or wine-tourist? (I was taught this last one by my friend and former boss, Tabitha Crocker, and I try to remember it whenever I step into a room to sample or evaluate wine.)
I have attended some two hour wine tastings where, literally, 300 wines were open for you to sample. Of course you can't event attempt to sample all of them. Swallowing a one-ounce pour from each would be the equivalent of drinking 13 and a half bottles of wine. You'd be dead of alcohol poisoning! Seriously, it's just not done. Here are some suggestions if you're fortunate enough to attend a large tasting event:
When you enter an open table tasting like that, you are given a program listing the wines to be poured. In a perfect world you would scan the list, look for wines that meet your needs that day, and head to those tables. Again, asking yourself some questions:
Work: If I am looking to supplement something in my set at work, am I looking for value wines or premium wines? Red, or white? Pinot Noir, or Cabernet? Chardonnay, or Sauvignon Blanc? Imported or domestic?
Personal: Yes, it's okay to admit you're there for personal reasons! If I am trying to expand my palate, I look at the list and head toward tables representing regions and wines that I want to become more familiar with - Loire Valley Chenin Blanc and Chinon, Spain for some Priorat, New Zealand Pinot Noir...
So, you've checked out the list of wine being poured, you've marked or noted what is of interest to you, narrowing it down from 300 to maybe 25, or 30 - Good for you!! Head to those tables and the tasting begins:
Wait Your Turn: There is always a line, hold your glass by the stem and wait until you're facing the pourer.
Be Nice: Tell them you'd like to sample the _________. (Be nice, they are giving you free wine, so smile, say please, and thank you.) Then hold your glass out and they'll pour a one-ounce sample.
See, Sniff, Sample
Sniff: Now do the little "sniffy-sniff" (ala Gary Vaynerchuk) and see if anything smells familiar, if not - well, then do you LIKE the aroma, or not?
Every table will have a dump/spit bucket there, and yes - people DO use them. Don't get so disturbed... You'll get another sip, after all - an ounce is pretty big! If you try the first sip and don't like the sample poured, DUMP IT OUT.
Do not drink it... Life's too short, the tasting is too long, and there are too many good wines to actually swallow something you don't like. Just take your glass and pour the sample into the dump bucket on the table, say thank you to the pourer and walk away, or ask for a sample from the next bottle. You won't hurt their feelings - that's what the dump buckets are there for.
So, now you're tasting like a pro, aren't you proud of yourself?