The thought of attending a wine-tasting festival can often be intimidating for first-time attendees or for those who do not consider themselves very experienced in the world of wine drinking. And, oh, that is such a gut-wrenching shame because these horizon-broadening events can be so much fun and exactly the place to learn about new wines with just a minimal investment of the ticket price.
So, here are a few helpful tips for wine festival attendees:
- Arrive early.
Time can pass very quickly at a large wine tasting, so give yourself plenty of time to relax and enjoy the event at your leisure.
- Plan ahead.
If you know the wine (and possibly food) vendors that will be offering samples of their products, make a list of the ones in which you are most interested so that you don't miss them in the fervor and excitement.
- Don't worry about your wallet.
Once inside the door, the winemakers, distributors, and vineyard representatives are there to help you, to serve you, and to inform you; so you should not be bombarded with any kind of high-pressure sales pitch. (As a matter of fact, sales at wine festivals are often prohibited by law). You are not expected to do anything besides taste the wines that interest you and ask any questions that you may have.
- Be adventurous!
We asked one winemaker what he considered to be the biggest mistake that people make at a wine-tasting event, and his response was that they tend to gravitate toward wines they know instead of branching out to try new ones.
- Taste wines and foods in a light-to-heavy order.
For a more specific tasting experience, try light wines and lighter fare first; then rotate back around for stronger reds and heavier food. And don't forget the dessert wines!
- Sip and discard if you wish.
Small buckets are provided on most tables to be used for the disposing of excess wine from your glass should you decide not to drink it all. It's a common practice and not considered offensive to do so.
- Cleanse your palate and/or your glass.
Pitchers of water are also available and useful when tasting two dissimilar beverages one after another. For instance, you don't want a little pool of strong red wine lingering in the bottom of your glass when you're moving on to taste a delicate white wine. So just pour a little water in your glass, swirl, discard into the bucket, and you're good to go.
- Have seconds.
If you come across a particular wine that you really love, ask for another pour if you like. It's perfectly acceptable.
- Take notes.
Jot down the names and details of your favorite wines (or get information cards from distributors if available) so that you can purchase the product later if you wish. Since there tend to be so many great wines to taste, it is wise to take a moment to describe in writing what exactly it was you liked, so that you will be able to recall it later.
- Go to the head of the class.
One note about seminars: People love to talk about wine at gatherings like this, and they can get pretty chatty. So don't feel hesitant to sit near the front of the classroom if you really want to hear the expert speakers without being distracted.
- Dress up.
The more upscale wine-tasting events tend to be quite dressy. Although some men do occasionally wear jeans and blazers, generally business casual dress and suits are more appropriate. Women tend to wear dress pants, suits, slinky dresses, or even cocktail outfits that could be considered conservative nightclub chic.
- Keep your hands free.
Take a purse with a shoulder strap or just tuck essentials into your pockets and leave the purse at home altogether. It can get a little tricky trying to wrangle a plate, glass, napkin, and utensil while simultaneously leaving a second hand free to use for eating.
- Pace yourself.
There is A LOT of wine at these events as well as sometimes beer and spirits, and it's very easy to talk and taste and swap stories and taste and laugh ... and before you know it ... wow, somebody needs to find the snack table or drink a glass of water. Let's see ... two-ounce pours, times four wines a station, times more and more stations, times ... oh, that's how many glasses of wine? So be careful.
- Take a shuttle.
Check nearby public transportation options, or have phone numbers on hand for local taxi cab services. To reiterate, there's a lot of wine at these events!
So there you have it. Now you're ready to sip, swirl, and savor to your heart's delight.