Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Insider’s Guide To Wine Shop Tastings

When a wine shop or grocery store hosts a wine tasting, how can you tell if you’ll be wasting your time and money? After attending scores of winetastings we provide our tips to picking the best tastings.

Before You Take A Step

Even before you head to a tasting, you can get a solid indication of the quality to come. Most wine shops or grocery stores with outstanding wine departments will list their tastings online. You can find the information on their website.

A worthwhile wine tasting should have a theme or a focus. It might be exploring wines from Oregon. Perhaps it will be a particular grape variety, like Merlot. Sometimes a guest winemaker will attend and bring her or his line of wines.

This shows that the wine manager has put some forethought into arranging an interesting evening. By studying a list of wines to be featured, you can also get an idea if you will enjoy these wines. If you dig Moscato, you might not like a tasting focused on dry Cabernet Sauvignon.

Are You Sitting In The Frozen Food Aisle?

The setting is key to your enjoyment of a wine tasting. Ideally you’ll have tables and chairs and a bar area to congregate and sip your vino. Sitting in a stack chair or standing in the aisle of a grocery store makes it hard to appreciate a $50 bottle of Bordeaux.

The bottles of wine being featured should be prominently displayed so you can see what’s ahead. You can peruse the bottle to glean information about the region or winery. A nice touch is to have tasting notes about the wine or at least a list of the wines so you can write down your impressions.

No Plastic Cups, Please

A few years ago we visited a winery in Ohio that was known for producing some award-winning Pinot Noir. As we entered the tasting room, which was a humble affair, we were given tiny plastic cups to sample the wine. Wait, what? These were the tiny jobs that are sometimes used for communion.

How can you value your wine so little that you present it in a cheap, crappy piece of plastic? Sorry, at this point, you must leave.

Ideally you’ll have quality stemware. It enhances the experience and makes me more likely to pop for a pricey bottle of wine. At the least you should have clean glasses and the ability to rinse between tastes.

This Tasting Sponsored By The Nickel & Dime Winery

There is nothing more annoying than being gouged during a local tasting. Often the tastings are $15 to $20 per person. So, if I am going with my wife, that’s $30 right off the top. Prices can go much higher if it is a premium tasting, and that should be disclosed upfront.

Tastings should allow you to pay by the flight or by the individual sample. Also, if the host allows you and your guest to split a tasting, that is a bonus.

If I really like a wine, I will ask to “revisit” it. That means I’d like another pour and usually indicates I’m interested in buying a bottle. The host is shortsighted if they demand $3 or $4 for that taste, because they’ve just lost a $25 sale.

At minimum there should be some crackers to cleanse the palate between tastes. Some cheese or other appetizers can elevate the tasting. Depending on the appetizers, it can also elevate the price.
I’m looking for a decent value for the wine tasting, and if the price for two people starts adding up to $40, $50 or more, then I’d be better off buying a nice bottle and staying home.

Free Range Wine Tasting

When attending a wine tasting, look for variety. A quality tasting will have a range of wines including whites, reds and perhaps rosé, sparkling or dessert wines.

It’s nice to have representation of both dry and sweeter wines. I’m partial to drier wines, but chances are someone in the crowd will want something sweet. There should be something for everyone.

The mix should also include a variance in the price range. Have some affordable gems, but there should be a wine with an aspirational price tag too.

I Didn’t See That Coming

The best tastings I’ve attended have included an unexpected twist. It might be the special bottle brought by a wine rep that is emerges at the end of the tasting. It could be a wine from an exotic country.

Perhaps it is a wine from a grape no one has heard of.
The nicest surprise of all is a bonus wine that the host pours for the guest. We all enjoy great wine – especially if a complimentary glass is  being poured for us at the end of a long day!

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